Our attitude towards nature has not always been one filled with rifts. Nature was once thought of as a whole by humans, something to be of, not separate from. Through the organic progression of development and evolution of the human species, a true sense of oneness was left in the dust of the first wheels, lost in the fields of domesticated animals, and pushed aside by the invention of the plow.
The mentality that what we had was insufficient pushed us forward to new ends and was the downfall of the health and safety of the world around us and the human species as well. There came a time when moving with the herds of animals that gave us food was no longer good enough, so people caught them alive and domesticated them. Once the way to harvest plants was to go foraging for them, but that ended with the allure of the easy harvest of intentionally planted vegetables, and so began the agricultural revolution.
What drove this revolution was feeling, the feeling of dissatisfaction. The pure feeling of dissatisfaction is so powerful that it bent our minds to see ourselves as separate from all things. A person who is dissatisfied will continuously seek out the gratification of satisfaction, a full stomach, an uplifting social encounter, and so on, but a person who finds themselves to be in a satisfying state of mind will do nothing. Why would they? They are satisfied. And so as humans evolved, they wanted more food. They felt hungry, so they developed ways to make more food faster so that they could feed the many children they were having, while simultaneously fighting to find a sense of contentment.
The driving force of dissatisfaction and a search for contentment was not the only motivator for the distancing of humans from nature. In fact, the loss of a feeling of true singularity with the Earth, or nature, was not the end of a sense of deep connection. The loss of connection came in the form of religion, in the idea that we were created by a higher being and put on Earth so that we could use all of its resources to our liking, that our sole purpose was to make it to heaven, alienating ourselves from this spaceship Earth. The false truth of knowing so deeply in ourselves that we were different, more powerful than the animals that walked, flew, swam around us, was the beginning to an end.
Nature, in the grand, all-encompassing sense of the word, needs balance to be healthy, to thrive. I lay no claims to know what the true natural state of things is, or how our world should naturally progress, but I do think there lacks a sense of oneness, a feeling of contentment, an understanding of our place. As someone who considers themselves an advocate for environmental rights and a believer that change could save the Earth as we know it (if only everyone cooperated), I can’t help but long for that balance to return.
I’ve based my education around environmental stewardship and lived in a place where the majority of my neighbors are farmers who grow organic foods with the hopes of impacting the earth they till for the better. I use as little plastic as possible, protest fracking, and bike as often as I can.
A negative future is discussed often in my circles. People seem to have an affinity with it, and after years of hoping that humanity as a whole could change its ways and break the perpetuation of thoughtlessness and disrespect, I’ve grown to realize how unrealistic this dream truly is. To me, it feels as if there isn’t much hope in turning back on our mistakes as a species. It truly seems sometimes as if we were a parasite, a virus, spreading unhindered into every crease of our planet. In this way, I’ve lost a sense of balance that feels crucial to longevity, not just for the Earth but for humans as well.
These ideas of balance and discontent are intimately linked with our separateness from nature. Because the truth of it all is that we are indeed a part of nature, not separate from, or higher than, but deep in the organic swirling cesspool of life, movement, and change. And like the second law of thermodynamics states, we must move from the order we have created towards chaos, however that may be.
Although the question simply states: “What happens when we see ourselves as separate from or as a part of nature?”, the question that fights past that in my mind is to the tune of: “What will happen to humanity?”. It feels clear to me that over the centuries we have considered nature an object to be conquered. So what of humanity?
On the trajectory we are traveling right now, even scientists don’t argue anymore the fact that yes, we are going to kill ourselves. But there are optimists, and people who believe, which is a beautiful thing. Whatever path humanity chooses when it arrives at the fork in the road, rest assured it will be the natural one.