Ed. Note: We are happy to share this reader response, which is part of a series developed by environmental science students at Loyola University Chicago from the course Environmental Sustainability.
Once we separate ourselves from nature a number of issues arise. We’ve begun to see ourselves as more than animals in an ecosystem, but as autonomous machines, acting and doing all in accordance with productivity and perfection. Community, an integral part of any society, is dissolved through isolation and individualism promoted through technology and social media. To be separate from nature is to go against earth cycles and animal habits. In contrast, when we see ourselves as a part of our planetary system we begin to follow similar patterns as our ancestors and become integrated with our various ecosystems, understanding it and striving to preserve it.
Being a part of nature is being a part of a community, interacting and learning social behaviors that our ancestors developed to survive. Innately we still have this drive and continue to search for these relationships with others. In our current society that favors communication through technology, we no longer focus on these critical interactions. As a result, people are feeling as though they are missing these connections with others and it leads us to feel isolated and depressed. Social media is marketed to promote and showcase one’s life. This often leads to competition amongst friend groups and self-criticism if they aren’t doing this or that. Social media also creates unrealistic expectations of people that we compare ourselves to. If we fall short of this ideal, we begin to feel sad and disconnected once again. Communities exist to provide support and structure to groups of people. We learn critical skills and life lesson with the varied peoples we find in them and become more than just an individual but a whole. Communities exist in all facets of nature be it bacteria or a pod of whales. Humans evolved with this similar group structure. When we start to lose our sense of community, we become dissolved from nature.
In our hyper-consumer and capitalist society, the person becomes no longer a person, but human capital, a commodity. All that we do now is to guarantee a secure future financially. We enroll our children in a special school to put them in the best academic shape to compete with fellow students. We purchase homes in neighborhoods where we hope the value of it will increase with time. We break our backs and brains to work 40 hour weeks with no benefits. Our lives are no longer dictated by the quality more so the quantity of cash and assets we have. We suffer because of it. We lose sleep to meet deadlines, spend less time with family and friends for work, restrict our diets, kick our asses for a diploma to show our worth There is a disconnection between the natural world and the monetary one we are forced to follow. Humans have never been so out of tune with nature. We are suffering because of this and trying to fit an impossible expectation. Who knew humans would become capital? Being apart from nature is being a human commodity and losing what it means to be a free animal.
To be one with nature and live along its guidelines is to be human. Or more correctly, Homo sapiens, a species of many. If we could start to see ourselves as a part of the ecosystem opposed to above it as individuals we can start to understand how it is we fit into it. We as a whole can begin to realize the damage that we’ve done and collectively work to change it. Change by moving towards renewable energies, changing the existing infrastructure, dispelling inequality and setting borders based on biomes opposed to fabricated states. We can’t focus on these things when we are desperately trying to get by and are too exhausted and depressed. There are a lot of issues that we have to overcome to revert back to the natural state. A state of community and balance within nature. If all we can do right now is sleep for 8 hours and call our friends and family on the phone. Then it will be the beginning of understanding and the yearning for a life apart of nature.