Nature As Adversary



“We turn our backs on nature; we are ashamed of beauty. Our wretched tragedies have a smell of the office clinging to them, and the blood that trickles from them is the color of printer’s ink.”                                                             -Albert Camus, Helen’s Exile


More and more, nature is treated as an adversary. “We turn our backs on nature.” Let’s identify the virtues we cultivate when we say the following:
• It’s cold, turn on the heat.
• It’s hot, turn on the AC.
• It’s raining, better bring an umbrella, wear a raincoat.
• It’s windy outside, bring in your toys.
• Wear your gloves, so you don’t get dirty.
• Wear your jacket, or you’ll catch a cold.
• Wear sunscreen, or you’ll get wrinkles….or cancer.
• Wear your boots, or your feet will get muddy.
• Wipe your feet before you come in the house.
• Wash your hands after playing outside.
• Wash that apple before you eat it.
• Wear a life jacket, or you could drown.
• Sever weather alert.
• Tornado Warning.
Nature deserves our respect and demands that we apply common sense, but we are now alienating ourselves from nature. If we are serious about “saving the planet”, then we need to be in the eco-friendly position that motivates mantras like “recycle, reduce, re-use”. But we are not moving in this direction. Humans are spending less and less time outdoors, and when we do, our actions, words, observations, and attitudes are increasingly defensive, even hostile.

With our children in particular, we are unintentionally teaching them that nature is the enemy, which we contradict by telling them to “save the planet” when they grow up.

This alienation from nature runs deep. At the most basic structural level – geometrically – our species is divorcing itself from nature. Where I sit at my keyboard right now, I look around and see only man made things. In our homes, our beds, our cars, our workplaces (for most of us) we have created a highly unnatural environment. It’s man made, sure, but is what we create with our tools and printer’s ink really more beautiful than a maple tree, or a cloud, or the jagged surface of a lake?

The geometry of man-made structures is Euclidean, dominated by rectangles in particular, whereas the geometry of nature (and everything ecological and organic) is fractal.

My particular concern is the fact that our young children and babies are completely embedded in a man-made environment, and what affect this has on them. Look around you right now. What do you see in your home? Nearly 100% un-natural objects – electronics, furniture, appliances, carpeting – even the doors, windows, and walls that encapsulate us – everything, except for that one house plant, is unnatural. And for the kids and babies? Plastic bottles, hard cubic blocks, stuffed animals, plastic toys, strollers, plastic this, plastic that……all are man-made.

We are further divorcing ourselves from our natural environment in our schools and careers by glorifying and rewarding “thought” over what is actually coming through our senses, “this”. Our senses connect us with nature; but in our society, little if any value is assigned to a person’s heightened sense of vision, or touch, or hearing, or smell, or taste.

The scientific method has ushered in an unprecedented explosion of man-made creation, which may not be a bad thing in itself. However, it is being used to displace nature; and even more problematic is that sound science is becoming rare. The original practice of the scientific method is based primarily on observations. We are distancing ourselves from nature and from our senses. In modern scientific practice, the observations themselves are becoming secondary to the interpretations, articulations, uses, agendas, articles; in short, to the thoughts about the observations.

While we focus on the concerns (increasingly constructed through abstract thought as opposed to direct observation) of our species, we are cutting our vital link with the rest of life. As a consequence we are producing more and more “bad” science.

In order to break free of this alienation……from nature, from our senses, and from “good” science, we cannot continue along this path.

“You cannot solve problems using the same thinking that caused these problems.” –Albert Einstein

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