“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” -John Muir
The first question raised in this blog prompt asked about the existence of a deep connection between humans and nature. Do I think this connection exists? Absolutely. In the most fundamental sense we are nature; a wonderfully complex species designed with the capacity for compassion, choice, reason.. the list goes on. In our beginnings, as nomads and gathers, and even in early agriculture, this connection and reliance on nature was essential. This connection with nature was, at one point, our source of life, and without it, we would have not survived. So in that sense, yes, we are deeply, inextricably linked to nature. However, as Aldo Leopold so gracefully put it, we are currently in a society that acts largely as conquerer of the land-community, as apposed to a plain member and citizen. It is this mentality that has stripped us from recognizing the importance of our deep ties to the natural world. I believe that we have obtained the ability to block out our connection with nature and pretend it doesn’t exist, because we have advanced to a point where this direct connection is not needed in order to survive; for many, it’s a luxury. I guess I jumped from the first question to the last, which was do we turn this connection off, and that we do.
What is more troubling than our apparent disconnect with the natural world, it our internal disconnect with our own body’s mechanisms. So many people, myself included, are unaware of how their bodies are so reactionary to what we expose them to. Food, weather, sounds, all of our senses are continually active and yet we seem to live on autopilot. I grew up like most do, munching on cheese puffs (which I’m not knocking, they’re delicious) and lunchables and a plethora of other heavily processed foods. It wasn’t until moving to college that I began shifting my diet towards unprocessed foods. Upon doing this I was able to pay attention to how my body, and my mind, reacted, really for the first time in my life. This is a simple example but the point I’m trying to make is that it’s truly amazing how blind we are to the signals our body relays. If we can’t understand what is going on inside ourselves, how are we supposed to further this connection to the natural world? Religion?
Unfortunately, while I believe that applying a religious lens to environmental issues can serve as a powerful tool for creating an environmental ethic, I do not believe it serves as the basis for our connection to nature, at least not in the western world. That’s not to say the two do not cross paths many times, as we see in buddhism and native american religious practices. I believe because we, as a species, lack a universal religion, then we can not attribute religion as the sole factor which ties us to nature. Seriously though, what do I know?