Close your eyes and think about nature. Or don’t close your eyes, considering you can’t read with your eyes closed. Okay, so just think about nature then—nothing in specific, just nature. Try to indulge all of your senses. Take note of the smells, sights, and sounds.
Perhaps you imagined standing next to a babbling brook or walking through the depths of the forest. You could’ve been surrounded by trees and the smell of a recent rain. Maybe you even saw a deer or some other critter romping around beside you.
Perhaps you imagined laying out in the sand on a beach, and maybe you felt the warmth of the sun beating down on you from above.
But I can almost guarantee that no images with people crossed your mind.
You probably did not imagine throngs of people out in the woods with you or apartment buildings dotting your serene beach scene. And that is not uncommon—we rarely think of ourselves as a part of nature anymore. But humans actually are a part of nature. We can never fully separate ourselves from it, no matter how hard we try.
If you think about it, despite our best attempts to isolate ourselves from nature by hiding behind the walls of our houses and sequestering ourselves in compact cities, we cannot escape the fact that nature trickles into every crevice it can. Even the smallest weed peeping through your otherwise completely developed backyard is nature. Life has a clever way of creeping in like that.
Even as technology continues to advance, people will always have a relationship with nature. Our food comes from nature, as do our medicines, shelters, and clothes. Think of aloe vera, the natural burn cream. By the early 2000s, 70 percent of new drugs on the American market were derived directly from nature. Any clothes you have that are made of cotton, silk, or wool are all derived from plants or animals. Likewise, many building materials are also derived from natural resources, such as wood, cob, and adobe.
Thinking that humans are estranged from nature, or that nature only exists in pure wilderness, leads to an anthropogenic mindset, where we continually exploit natural resources for our benefit without making any efforts to restore what we are taking. If, in your mind, you and nature are not connected at all, why would it matter that you are harming it? Why would it matter that we keep drilling for fossil fuels if it will never affect us?
In reality, we are a part of these natural systems and therefore cannot separate the impacts of our actions from nature itself. Let’s not forget that under all of our fancy clothes and societal norms, humans are animals, and we are still contributing to the food webs and nutrient cycles that we learned about in our middle school science classes.
When we exclude ourselves from nature it is easy to not consider making the ‘environmental choice’—whether that choice involves being energy conscious in our homes or making an effort to buy local produce. In re-imagining our involvement in nature, or just realizing how truly interconnected we are with it, we can begin to understand how harmfully humans have treated nature, and we will start to realize our obligation to mend that relationship.
Nature is not some far-out concept—it’s not something that can only be seen in the national parks far, far away from Boston College. Carelessly littering or continuing to superfluously buy unsustainable items is affecting not only the forest, beach, or whatever natural scene you imagined just a moment ago, but it is also directly affecting the ground you walk on every day as you head to class. It is directly affecting you through the food you eat. Remember, we reap what we sow, so harming nature is only going to end up harming people in the long run.
Thankfully, because nature is so omnipresent, it is easy to connect and rekindle the relationship that will lead us toward a sustainable future. Nature is close to you, always. Nature is the bunnies in the Mods. It’s the pine trees in BC’s Pine Tree Preserve. It’s the Chestnut Hill Reservoir and all the geese who monopolize the track.
You are a natural being (I hope, AI is getting weird). Don’t exclude yourself from being a part of nature. Go engage with it, envelop yourself in the real human experience, the one where humans and nature fairly share their existence on this planet we both call home.