Reciprocity Between Humans and Nature
At this point in our extremely westernized society, I believe we are very disconnected from nature. Unless we truly take time to change the way we speak about nature and the wilderness and act in accordance to how we speak we will never be able to respect and understand that we are a part of it. Even though I am someone who deeply appreciates and passionately protects nature, I still walk outside my door, look at the grass in my front yard and do not see it as another living breathing being. However if I, along with the rest of the human race could change the outlook of something as simple as their front yard, seeing it as a living being and how it contributes to the oxygen we inhale each day, I believe that the relationship we have towards nature would change in a positive way. As sad as it is to say, and trust me I like to think that anything is possible, I am not sure it is realistic to believe that we can ever return fully to having reciprocity between humans and nature. It would take not only personal change within each individual, but also change on a governmental and societal level, ultimately creating need for huge systemic change world wide.
Upon being asked the question “what happens when we see ourselves separate from nature?” I began to reflect on my own relationship with nature over the past 18 years of my life. What I have observed from my own childhood is that in my younger years I spent hours outside with the plants, trees and animals naturally treating them with respect and kindness. Not only that, but there is also a magical energy you receive when you are connected to nature. We are wired to live off the sustenance of the earths abundance, all beings inhaling and exhaling air, as if we were breathing life into one another. As I have grown older, been introduced to technology and media as well as more into the busy westernized society, I have forgotten the feeling of that connection in so many ways. Thankfully I live in a community and family and have an education that has pushed and encouraged me to once again reconnect with nature during these very important developmental adolescent years. And slowly I feel as though I am reaching a point in my life where I am able to be one with the wilderness once I again. Unfortunately a lot of the our current society does not have the opportunity to experience connectedness with nature. This could be for a number of reasons, from lack of resources, different sets of values or simply not knowing the possibility and beauty of such a connection.
When we don’t see our individual selves as a part of nature, and when we start to think of us as being the superior being on this planet we become egotistical and selfish, often resulting in negative relationships with the natural world. As humans, when we separate ourselves from something we immediately begin to not care for it or uphold the importance of it in our lives. You can see this happening in the world everyday. As we continue to chop down thousands of trees, ruin the natural habitats of animals and species who have lived in harmony for hundreds of years. As we keep producing materials that will never biodegrade or return to the earth. As we poison our waters with plastics and chemicals, as we flatten our hills and valleys to put roads and highways, and bull doze meadows to find room for more humans and more waste, somehow people are completely blind to the fact that they are destroying living beings. The natural world is not a collection of objects, but instead a gigantic ecosystem full of billions of living organisms. As humans we are just one of those organisms. I would like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt to say that they don’t know they are ruining the planet for future generations, but really they are just so disconnected from the earth that they cannot feel the pain of the destruction they are a part of.
In the English language we call all natural things “its” thus we think of those natural things as objects instead of living beings. This immediately separates us from nature, putting the human race on a pedestal as superior. We become superior because our language towards the natural world is objectifying and therefore shapes our relationship with it. When this happens we only think about ourselves and disregard what is best for nature or what it needs to keep thriving. Sometimes it gets to the point where the human race seems to forget living nature even exists, let alone that we are part of it. If that happens then there is most definitely no awareness or thoughtfulness around taking care of the earth and giving back to it in an equal amount of what we take.
I myself still struggle with fully realizing that I am a part of nature. I lose contact with the wilderness through my constant routined life, technology overload and the modern human lifestyle. Even though I get side tracked and distracted I still have an awareness of that feeling, of being one with the natural world. As I walk through the valley, on an early April morning, I can still see my breath and the sun is just peaking over the hill tops. I feel the crunch of frosted tipped grass stems under my feet, the air is crisp on my cheeks and the moment is completely serene. These moments make me feel that I am one step closer to my roots, where I am a part of nature.
It seems as though at this point, it is not a reality to go back to the days where native people had a reciprocal relationship with the earth. However, if each individual can feel connected at various moments with the wilderness around them, they can start to realize that their thoughts and the way they interact with the earth is extremely important to the continuing existence of humans and nature on this planet. Hopefully people will realize that just like their relationships with parents, lovers, friends and family; the relationship they have with the wilderness and natural world is just as important. Although we may not be able to return to a complete relationship of reciprocity we can still change our current state of integration with the earth. And just as the wilderness breaths life into us through its many gifts, we need to remember to breath life into it with just as much care and respect.