Are We a Part of Nature?
The American Heritage Dictionary defines nature in a number of ways, including: (1) The world of living things and the outdoors: the beauties of nature. (2) A primitive state of existence, untouched and uninfluenced by civilization or artificiality. There appears to be a conflict between these definitions. If nature is the world of living things and is a primitive state of existence, untouched and uninfluenced by civilization, then what is mankind? Are we a part of nature or is nature that which is untouched and uninfluenced by man? I think for most of us, things that are natural are things that exist and are sustained without the assistance of man. When advertisers tell us that the ingredients in their new drink are completely natural, they are implying that the product was not made in a lab, is not man-made. When seeds grow into plants, a lion kills and eats a deer, a shooting star streaks across the night sky, we define these as natural events, untouched and uninfluenced by mankind. Nature, as a whole, is self-sustaining, though some natural events can be very destructive. The ice age, which destroyed life on earth as it was at the time, was very destructive, though life itself did survive. One thing that seems to set mankind apart from all other aspects of nature is our ability to choose. We can be self-sustaining or we can choose to be self-destructive. Since we were born with that ability to choose, does that mean that man's ability to choose is a part of universal nature? If the nature of mankind is a part of universal nature, then the self-sustainability of nature is a choice, not a given. Mankind can choose to put too many toxins in our soil, robbing it of its natural ability to grow plants. Mankind can choose to pollute our rivers and lakes making them incapable of sustaining aquatic life. Mankind can choose to be a destructive force on nature, a preserver of nature, or even a partner to nature. When scientists alter the genetics within seeds in order to produce bigger fruit, it could be said we are partnering with nature, though many are not convinced that meddling with genetics is healthy or wise. When farmers use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in order to help make their crops grow bigger and faster they are actually doing an injustice to the nature of the soil, as over time the soil loses its ability to grow anything. At times mankind believes they can do nature better than nature. Stupidity at best, arrogance at worst.