The elusive definition of nature

I always find it peculiar when people say “I need to get out in nature.” This common wording that many Americans use propagates the false belief that human beings are separate from Nature. I find it interesting that those who use this wording are often passionate about the planet, and yet, they may not fully understand the relationship humans have with Nature. Of course, no one really understands that relationship; it is far too complex. But although we may not understand our place in Nature, we do know that there is one.
In Steven Shaviro’s “Twenty-Two Theses on Nature,” he argues that “Human beings and their productions are not separate from Nature; they are just as much, or as little, “natural” as everything else” (216). Throughout his article, Sharviro creates a dialog in an attempt to quantify and define Nature. Shaviro defines Nature as “metastable.” Nature’s metastability is disrupted by individualization, which is the creation of an individual from less individualistic parts. Shapiro argues that “The most minute imbalance, or the most fleeting encounter, can be enough to set things into motion. And there is generally more to the effect than there is to the cause” (218). What Shapiro is arguing here is a type of butterfly effect scenario, where one event, so matter the scale, sets infinite events into motion. This chain of events is unfathomable to predict by the limited human mind.
Humans have had huge impacts on our environments. Yet, I am careful to say that we have had the largest impact out of any species. Fungi, for example, live under every step we take outside. It is unfathomable the amount of mycelium that traverses the forest floor. Without fungi, a forest cannot exist. Mycelium passes nutrients and information to every plant, which is crucial for the survival of saplings who are shaded by their elders. Perhaps we could say that humans have had the largest negative impact on Nature. However, there are fungi, like the parasitic Honey Mushroom, which can destroy a forest in less than a decade. However, it is possible that the destruction of the forest by a fungus is beneficial can start new growth.

The difference with humans is our anthropocentric view; the earth was made for us and, therefore, we can exploit it as much as needed. Changing our understanding of Nature and our place in it is crucial to combat climate change. Shaviro’s article explains the complexities of Nature, including the energies and information exchanged that create this complexity. Nature is impossible for humans to fathom because it is infinite, but also not at the same time; it does not have an infinite amount of trees for us to cut. To conclude, Shaviro offers up a definition of Nature, yet I do not know if I agree with it. However, I do not know how I would define Nature myself, other than perhaps having the omnipotence and vast infinity that Christians view their God to have.

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