The age of reimagining nature
Beavers build dams and humans cities, but only one of them is considered nature’s great engineer. Birds have accepted cities to be a part of the natural landscape, so why don’t we see it like that? Flipping this mindset could change, well, everything.
︎︎︎HILLA PELTOLA / CLIMATE
ROOT OF THE PROBLEMIt’s a common misconception that humans have derailed themselves from nature. We tend to think that natural is good and pure, whereabouts human-made, artificial things are bad. This kind of thinking forgets that humans are, and always have been, part of the ecosystem of this planet, that we’re products of nature with millions of years of evolution behind us. So why are human-made things not considered natural then?
Humans are a unique, highly conscious species on this planet. We’ve always had a need to find meaning, and one of the ways to make sense of the world has come in the form of belief systems. Take Christianity, which proposes that God created man in His image; there’s no denying this has been a big influencer for our so-called separation from nature. Throughout history, this mindset gave rise to anthropocentrism: a belief that humans are the most important entity in the universe. This mindset molded the cultures in Europe and spread to the world through colonialism. We saw ourselves above the natural order of things and wilderness was something to be tamed and scared off. Though religions don’t dictate our lives predominantly anymore, the heritage still lingers on strongly in our everyday lives and we’ve become conditioned to see ourselves detached from nature.
PARADOXWe never actually became denatured. We just entered an adolescent phase in our evolution, and in our egocentric arrogance defined ourselves out of it. We started exploring with our new found skills and freedom provided by our own intelligence.Paradoxically, our technology kept on evolving but our way of thinking didn’t, and we started creating things out of context.
Take plastic for example. There’s nothing wrong with it, the materials are derived from natural sources and it’s working just as it is designed: durable, cheap and keeping our foods fresh. But since we didn’t consider ourselves and our creations part of the natural world, this led to massive mismanagement. If we would have created plastic in the context of the planet’s ecosystem, results would have been different. It’s not human characteristics that are damaging to nature, it is our culture that has conditioned us to environmental degradation.
NATURAL ORDER OF THINGSFor reasons unknown, the natural creativity that is bigger than any of us has intended us to evolve this way. Nature is the most complicated high-tech entity that has ever existed and will continue to exist, maybe it got impatient with slow natural selection and decided to speed things up. But evolution has always been messy and chaotic and even the smartest entity does make mistakes, just think about the huge number of extinct plants and animals. Who is to say we’re not going to be one of them? There have been 5 mass extinctions already on this planet and humans are currently speeding up the sixth one by burning millions of years worth of living organisms as fossil fuels. Nature is ever-present and, with or without us, our planet will keep on evolving.
“ It’s not human characteristics that are damaging to nature, it is our culture that has conditioned us to environmental degradation.”
COMING OF AGELuckily, as a species, we’re maturing and learning from our mistakes. Previously, we had very little understanding of how the living world worked but that has changed now. The same exponential, technological growth that has been fundamental to the destruction of this planet is the same tool that has come to help us understand nature and find new, stronger solutions. We might be capable of massive damage, but we’re also capable of creating great abundance. It’s a human trait to be focused on the negative flip side. Without our ability to envision and dream, we would have never aspired to capture naturally occurring energy or genetically engineer our food to be more nutrient.
While our smartphones, TVs, and laptops seem to be faraway from natural creations, they’re powered by the same electricity that occurs in thunderstorms and is also a way for trees to communicate with each other. The same trees, who have created a network for communication looking not so different from our Internet. We think technology is the biggest competitor for nature, but nature is innate and it has intuitively come into our designs.
STEPPING INTO A NEW ERAIf we look beyond the turmoil that is happening on our planet, we will notice that a new level conscious awareness is rising. Access to information has challenged our out-dated notions and when something becomes visible, it’s no longer acceptable. More than ever before, we are aware of our own existence. By changing the mindset and understanding that everything we do is a part of the natural world, we create a new sense of responsibility and a design process that supports sustainable growth: everything will be automatically circular. We would become more in tune with our surroundings and every creation would have a place in this world.
We can even incorporate this into our daily lives. So wherever you are reading this, stop for a moment, look around you and think about this new definition of a natural world. Are you starting to feel the difference?