I’ve talked many times here about nature, our relationship with it and all that it offers. Beyond our more obvious physical dependence upon it for resources such as air, water, warmth, light, and food; there’s also the other, psychological, sustenance it provides by way of beauty, wonder, and reassuring metaphors around renewing life (see Notes One). But I’m aware such musings can seem anachronistic.
There’s obviously immense splendour to the natural world; as well as many other qualities like humour, poignancy, danger, or scientific value. All these ways that nature can pop up within modern life, whether as light relief from the strain of how we’re living or alongside growing concern around the risks attached to that lifestyle in terms of natural resources and environmental impacts.
And maybe those broad simplifications of modern ‘interest’ in nature hint at our altered relationship to this world around us? At how we’re now looking to this as a backdrop, a commodity, a venue for social or sporting pursuits, an aspect of carefully-curated personal style. Is the world around us simply ‘a setting’ or something we pull into frame as a prop within our lives? Or is that a slightly detached way of viewing it?
Looking to the past, communities generally lived in very close harmony with the natural world: patterns of work, cultural traditions, food and clothing often stemming from the resources of any given place and time. People would structure their lives around the seasons and their harvests, making use of all that was available and paying close attention to the signs and relationships within nature.
Even fairly recently we seem to have had a much closer connection with our environment; often working closely with it and knowing the names, timings, and details of the lives of its plants and animals. There seems to have been this close observation of interest, admiration, wonder, respect, and gratitude for both the beauty and opportunity nature affords us.
Not to say that’s entirely disappeared, but it certainly seems to have faded out or be doing so fairly dramatically. The sense in which we often now live in essentially urban environments, without the immediate proximity of industries such as farming, seems to be giving rise to generations of people with very little by way of that living relationship and understanding of the natural environment.
Rather than existing within nature, ordering our lifestyles and celebrations around it, acting in respectful cooperation with it and seeing it as an indispensable resource for our continued enjoyment of life, our attitudes now seem so casual and distant. Presumably this relationship needs to be mutual? A sense of tending, preserving, enriching that which gives us what we need?
So much has changed in the last hundred years or so, and perhaps “this” is the least of it; but I don’t see how we can logically justify such detachment from our environment when we are almost completely dependent upon it. Reducing nature to frivolous self-service or casual disregard is surely pretty questionable?
Notes and References:
Note 1: Intrinsic value of nature
Note 1: Why are we like this about the weather?
Note 1: Nature speaks in many ways, do we listen?
Note 1: “Ecological Intelligence”
Note 1: Gardening as therapy, the dark
Note 1: Aesthetic value of nature
Note 1: Living the dream