On this occasion, I’m writing about an issue which is very important to me and constitutive of sustainability sciences: the fundamental bond between Man and his nurturing Mother Nature which sadly tends to sink into obscurity latterly.
A Fatal Decoupling
Even though nowadays most people do not have a distinct feel for the nature, our common home, and can merely get enthusiastic about great technological advances, like television, internet, smartphones/-watches/-homes and more, we should not forget about the archaic and close connectedness between humans and nature; without nature there wouldn’t even be the possibility of any great technological advances!
Our Common Habitat and Source of Life
Mankind is dependent on nature as it provides us with the most basic foundations of life: food, water, air, shelter and more. We subsist on the organic substances Mother Nature produces through natural processes out of anorganic ones. So the flora plays a major role in this connection and thus also in this blog entry. The woods served the primordial man not only with nourishment, but also with fuel to heat and construction material to build homes with. Additionally, it provided our ancestors with shelter from enemies and the blind forces of nature.
From the Wooden Cradle to the Wooden Coffin
In fact, in order to fully understand the actual importance of trees and forests for mankind, we do not even have to go back in time very far; our grandparents could say that trees and their wood accompanied them throughout their whole life, from the womb to the tomb. Man built houses with wood and manufactured the interior furnishing, the dishware, tools, means of transportation and primitive weapons with it – just to name a few things! Until the beginning of the 19th century, wood was literally the only source of heat and heat energy.
Back to the Future
Today, metals, chemical synthetics and ceramics replace wood in many cases – often for economical reasons; yet its contemporary relevance and consumption are not declining, but rather increasing worldwide, rapidly. How ironic, huh? Anually, millions of tons of paper and books which document and spread scientific and cultural insights and values owe their origin to the fallen trees of our forests. However, the red-hot trend of digitalizing most written media is surely a silver lining on the horizon, but – as so often – new solutions breed new problems; the virtual era should be embraced and treated with the upmost caution.
Understanding the Systemic Interrelations
Throughout the last century, humanity has begun to realize that the actual importance of woodland does not solely lie in the potential wood harvest or natural capital. We are seeing more and more the systemic and ecological value and mode of functioning of green spaces and the flora in general. Today, we know about the relevance of forests and trees for a functional water management and their effectiveness against soil erosion; we also perceive their impact on the purity and cleanliness of (big city) atmospheres. To cut it short: we conceive the existential necessity of green parks and wooded areas for humankind’s health.
An Aesthetic Approach
In addition to that, we should not discount the aesthetic value of woodland and awesome trees; they are essential for our relaxation, wellbeing and mental recovery from our short-living everyday life. Whenever I feel sickeningly stressed from mundanity or tired from living in this grey ocean aka my hometown Bochum, I just drop anything, take my belt bag featuring a pocket-sized camera, notebook (an analogous one, beware!), pen and Swiss army knife in order to seek sanctuary in the wild. I really enjoy some outdoor action like mountaineering or wandering, but relaxing under a majestic tree and jotting down some thoughts and photographing wild animals and landscapes is just as relieving!
Bringing it all together
Facing the ecological challenges of the twenty-first century – such as global warming, water scarcity, overshoot, air pollution and toxic smog clouds, etc. – we must rethink our stance on the interplay between mankind and nature: our impact on it and its impact on us.
We really need to keep one thing in mind: man needs nature to survive, but to nature, we’re expendable. The earth keeps rotating, with or without us. We have to acknowledge our dependence on nature and also respect its regenerative capacities and conceive the inseperable ties between us and our planetary habitat. This ecological awareness is most constitutive of sustainable development. To sustain the aesthetics and integrity of our blue planet and the standard of life for both ourselves and our descendants, we need a shift from blindly living on nature’s “capital” back to consciously living on its “interest” with farsightedness and respect.
Remember, we’re just temporary guests on this planet; yet we act like we own it. We live like parasitic germs; we destroy our host with shortsightedness and greed. Global warming reminds me of that reactive physiological defense mechanism you experience whenever you struggle with a nasty little infection in order to get rid of it: aka fever.
Shouldn’t we acknowledge our dependent position and start living with some respect for our cosmic host, before it sweats us out, and while we are at it also show some genuine gratitude for the ride we got for free in this world – like good guests do?
What’s your stance on the relationship between us and our planetary home? Feel free to drop a line and leave your opinion in the comment section. As always, I’m looking forward to reading your feedback!
Take care, friends of the sun.