If We Push Nature from all Sides We’ll Only Run into Ourselves

“We must think of nature without…exempting ourselves from it, and also without remaking it into our own image.” Thesis 2.

Humans have almost always thought of ourselves as separate from nature. Nature was always something we explored or adventured in – it was almost synonymous with the word “wilderness.” I still say to my friends, “oh, I haven’t seen enough of nature recently! I need to get out into the forest!” However, if we continue to think of ourselves as separate from nature, there isn’t really going to be a way to fix how we are affecting it. We have to treat humans and nature as connected in one system so that we can really see how our lifestyle impacts the world we live in (and on). By separating it, I believe we are distancing ourselves from so-called “Nature” and the environment itself. If we claim not to be a part of nature, then we think we really don’t have a responsibility to clean up our act.

“However far we go in space, we will never find an edge or boundary.” Thesis 4

I really liked this quote, because I feel like the author was trying to tell the reader that we are treating the Earth like outer space. We keep pushing and pushing our boundaries into what we consider “nature” and we aren’t considering that eventually we will meet ourselves on the other side. Space is infinite, and we have endless places left to explore. Humans are well aware that Earth is a finite resource, and yet we still act like we have all the time in the world to make a change in our attitude. It starts with stopping the mental separation of nature and humans. I really enjoyed this reading and I thought the format of 22 Thesis was a very interesting way to get a point across.

Flow of energy = flow of information?

Nature to me should not be thought of as this great and beautiful thing. The fact that we are capitalizing it and essentially romanticizing it is in my opinion, naïve. Nature is not something to be thought of as separate. Everything on the earth is “Nature,” and there is not a distinct part of this world that is impervious to the forces of it. This being said, I do agree with the thesis when it says “Human beings are a part of Nature, but Nature is not human.” This statement means that we are as much a part of nature as the trees and bugs and wind. We think we are above the forces of nature and that we can take control of it, but it is obvious that this mentality has only put us in a worse position. Nature is unpredictable, as “it can not be reduced to any calculus of probabilities.”

I agree that the flow of energy is an essential process. However, the flow of information was one that stumped me for a little bit. At first I was very skeptical, as information is something I associate with the brain, and consciousness. Thesis 16 gives an example of a tree drawing water from its roots and reacting to an insect eating its leaves. To me, it doesn’t seem to match up in a biological standpoint, as those processes work in a cyclic manner, and it has nothing to do with awareness or information – the tree has no brain, it is not aware that insects are eating its leaves. All of these processes are cause and effect. But, a tree could not choose one day to not draw up water to its roots, unless there was a chemical process that blocked it for some reason. Information processing to me assumes choice. The tree will automatically shed its leaves during the winter if it is deciduous. If it doesn’t, it is the cause of a genetic mutation, not because the tree chose not to.

After reading on to Thesis 17 however, I started to think about it differently, as it mentions that information requires ‘sentience’ which means being ‘able to perceive or feel things,’ instead of consciousness. I agree that sentience would lead to information processing, but I don’t know how sentient much of the natural world is, other than animals of course. If they are able to ‘feel’ things, what kind of reaction would that mean chemically? Personally I think ‘feel’ is the wrong word. They have forces acting upon them, sure, but that is different than the organism ‘feeling or perceiving’ the force.

Whether trees can feel things or not, it is an interesting topic to bring up and it makes me realize how lucky humans are to be able to process information. It is what has brought us to our current level of domination. While that level has brought down some unfortunate negative anthropogenic effects on the earth, perhaps our higher processing power can be the vital savior to our all encompassing, radically open, ever beautiful “Nature.”

Is Nature out of our grasp?

Humans are naturally curious from the time we were toddlers to when we become adults. We tend to want to know more in order to understand our surroundings to exploit for our own advantages. For instances, since the advent of agriculture, humans have been manipulating plants to be more nutritious and high yielding through artificial selection and more recently genetic modification. Through technological advances, people have bettered the lives of others using nature as both a resource pool and catalysis for innovations. However, we also overexploit Mother Nature because we sometimes think of ourselves as against nature. As thesis 1 states, “it makes no sense to oppose nature to culture” as we depend on nature itself for our successes. How can we be against nature when human inventions such medicines are derived from plants in nature and flight was achieved by observing birds? By that logic, destroying nature slows our rate of technological advances.

 

I also find that thesis 3’s quote about how “Nature itself is always in movement” which is very true to me. Nature will always move on without humans as it had when humans did not exist. The concept of nature conservation is conserving nature so that it is habitable for us, not that it will be destroyed for all life. Life in nature will always appear in some form just as how it appeared out of simple chemicals through abiogenesis during the Planet’s infancy. In that sense, we do not control nature as it is something that defines us and our culture. We do not build dikes and earthquake to quell nature, but rather to live with nature. Like the article says, “we must think of Nature without any residual anthropocentrism” because nature does not care if we’re in the way.

 

Lastly, I believe that thesis 7’s quote “Our task today is, similarly, to conceive of Nature in ways that are grounded in, but are not reducible to, the best contemporary science” really speaks to me as a STEM student. In many ways, many of us tend to think that the math and sciences are inherent truths, but they are realistically the closest understanding of the universe at the time. “The best contemporary science” is one that evolves like an organism because there is so much information that gets supported and unsupported every day. The best mathematical models, such as ones for fluid flow in pipes, all have a degree of uncertainty because it is our best estimate. In other words, as much as we try to understand nature, we can only get closer but never achieve a “Theory of everything.”

Is nature God?

Nature is all-encompassing. It is both our physical world and the vast emptiness of space that surrounds it as well as the reactions that result from every action. No matter whether it is a thermostat who “feels” a change in temperature or the stone falling from a cliff that “feels” the pull of gravity, nature is within everything. Sounds familiar, right?

 

While reading this entire article, I kept thinking about how similar the author’s views were with common religious ideas. According to religion, God is everywhere, whether the physical world or the imagination. God is even “with us” in every action we perform, in every stone that falls, and I guess using the same logic, in every thermostat that “feels” a temperature change. During the second half of the article when the author started discussing nature as information, I couldn’t help but feel like there were some underlying religious messages that he was trying to sneak in.

In terms of my own opinion, I don’t know if I like thinking about nature as the “force” controlling my every action. I prefer to think of nature as the physical and the experience, but not as a “force” that influences. It’s hard to put this kind of conceptual, almost philosophical, idea in words, but none-the-less the idea that nature is both everything and energy is an interesting idea.

Separate From Or A Part Of?

When considering the exquisite intricacy of every piece of nature, it can be difficult to imagine that you may be a part of that too. That the delicate hand that traced the veins on a leaf made the creases on your palm. The question of whether or not humans are a part of nature has been greatly debated in the past. Writing on the Center for Humans & Nature website, a man called Vucetch proposes that “we are one and the same. In fact,” he says, “humans and nature are so intimately connected that acting as if we are separate and abusing nature is tantamount to abusing ourselves.” Yet today, so few people will admit that the natural world is as interconnected as it is. This is demonstrated in our abuse of animals, in deforestation, in the combustion of fossil fuels that pollute our skies. But it is so necessary to understand, as the first thesis of the Twenty-Two Theses of Nature states, that “human beings and their productions are not separate from Nature; they are just as much, or as little, ‘natural’ as everything else.” This understanding is fundamental to protecting the world that we live in as it is in an ecological crisis.

The Twenty-Two Theses of Nature encompass the idea that nature is all-encompassing and therefore one and the same with the human race. It is a foolish and selfish idea to say that nature is centered upon human beings or anything human. I enjoyed the ideas presented in some of the later theses concerning the difference between information and perception. It’s interesting to think that information exists primarily in our brains and in the way we communicate things to each other. An individual piece of nature has in itself so much information but it itself is not information. Therefore, it is important to note that what we understand about nature and the planet lies almost entirely in our minds—a bear hunting only understands and cares about catching its next meal, whereas we have the opportunity to see the future of the world and therefore help it. If we realize and accept that we ourselves are a part of nature, maybe we can turn our selfish mindsets toward aiding it instead of being against it.

Let Nature Guide You

“The greatest danger to our future is apathy.” -Jane Goodall

The natural world is such a beautiful, magical thing.  To think that we are not a part of it or that we did not come from these more “natural” beginnings is to deny that we are not organisms of Earth. We have created, the concrete jungles and other artificial landscapes, is not nature. We as a species are a product of natural phenomenons, but its manipulation and destruction is not natural.

We have completely removed ourselves from the checks and balance system that you would see in the heart of the Amazon, for example.  If a prey species saw an increase in their population size, then their predator species would also see an increase. No one species becomes too dominant in all habitats. There are still competition and resource limitation to adhere by, but to us Homo sapiens those limits do not exist, apparently.  Some of us do not even give nature or the consequences of our actions a second thought.

With that being said, there are those of us that do often think of nature and its processes. There are the scientists and naturalists working to understand how it all works and what defines it, and of course  there are  those who care because it is what keeps this planet healthy and what kept it function for millions of years before us. There are also some that do put too much thought and theory into what nature is and what is the reasoning for it existence aside from a scientific/biological reason.  For me, there is often an unnecessary search for a deeper meaning.  Some people get too caught up in trying to anthropogenize natural processes, as if was created around us. As we evolved, it evolved to meet our needs. We are trying to find the most complex way to describe some of the simpler phenomenons it seems.

We just need to take a step back to appreciate and observe what nature is and what it does for us and the planet. We do not need to over complicate what already exists, but we also need to acknowledge that is there and living.

It’s human nature to think we are unnatural

The 22 theses of nature revolve around the concept of how human beings perceive themselves as a product of the natural world. Some teachings believe humans are separate from nature since our conscious thinking and ability is far above anything else. Logically, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard than any other creatures due to our influence and impact around the globe. I side with the author, however, who declares that humans are a part of nature. We are bound by the same natural laws and carry the same physical limits a natural being would have. Humans are certainly unique and have a special origin, but they belong on this Earth just as much as the grass beneath them. That doesn’t mean people should act entitled to the environment and abuse it however they see fit. Overall, people should act with conservationist mindsets, using the environment as a tool for survival and well-being, while at the same time respecting its longevity. I don’t think people should feel guilty that we have taken ownership of the planet as a species; only that we have been very irresponsible in taking care of our “kingdom”.

The second half of the paper discusses the idea of thinking of natural life as information or energy. It is a very interesting debate, especially as we advance further and further with our scientific knowledge. While science has certainly taught people immense truth, I still believe there is much we do not, and may never understand. This “energy”, as the author names it, represents the miraculous odds life had to overcome to even be possible. It is hard to believe the stars aligned perfectly, merely on accident, so things could be the way they are today. So as society continues to advance in its technological strength, it is important to keep a sense of humility when uncovering the mysteries of our amazing universe.