What happens when we see ourselves as separate from or as a part of nature?
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What happens when we see ourselves as separate from or as a part of nature?

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We evolved within the community of life, and yet we humans often consider ourselves separate from nature. Are we unique? Is this distinction helpful? How do our ways of thinking of ourselves in relation to other life influence the identities we carry and actions we take? We invite you to share your reflections as we explore the relationship between humans and nature. Read a story, tell your own.


This series is a partnership with students from Loyola University Chicago's Institute of Environmental Sustainability.


Image credit: Catherine Truscott.

  • Maddie with Invasive Water Lilies (North Carolina, 2008). Maddie swims in the pond on her family's land in rural North Carolina. Her parents built their off-grid home using trees from the land. Much of their food comes from their garden or is gathered from the nearby woods. Maddie's father, Nathan, is the director of Buffalo Cove Outdoor Education Center, a wilderness camp located in the foothills of the Southern Appalachians dedicated to helping children discover and connect with the natural world.
  • Rachel Mud Bathing (Virginia, 2009). Rachel immerses herself in the communal mud pit at the Twin Oaks Communities Conference in Louisa, Virginia. People from around the world come to the conference to talk about ecovillages, cooperative housing, and how to live closer to nature.
  • Kate in an EEG Study of Cognition in the Wild (Utah, 2015). Researchers at the University of Utah, working under Dr. David Strayer, are conducting studies measuring cognition in nature. The EEG cap and facial electrodes record brain activity as participants are exposed to different natural environments.
  • Esme Swimming, Parkroyal on Pickering (Singapore, 2014). The Parkroyal on Pickering contains over 15,000 square meters of greenery, amounting to twice its land area. In Singapore, 100 percent of the population is urban. The Singapore Green Plan promotes conservation of the nation’s natural resources and the use of green technology to conserve the environment. “Wild” nature is being reincorporated into the city.
  • Troy Holding a Guinea Fowl Chick (New York, 2014). Rikers Island is New York City’s main jail complex. There are three organic gardens, run by the Horticultural Society of New York, where prisoners tend flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Riots, lockdowns, beatings, and solitary confinement occur in the nearby buildings.
  • Kurt Guarding Logs for Export to China (Guyana, 2016). Guyana, a country on South America’s North Atlantic coast, has one of the largest unspoiled rainforests in the world. Norway is funding Guyana to protect and maintain the rainforest. China is developing infrastructure in Guyana and offering to buy trees that are cut and minerals that are mined.
  • Wildfire (California, 2015). In the United States each year, more than seventy-three thousand wildfires burn approximately seven million acres of land. The number has been rising. To prevent wildfires, the US Forest Service performs controlled burns between fire seasons, when the land is wet enough that fires don't go out of control. The Forest Service budget for controlled burns is 1 percent of the amount spent fighting wildfires.
  • Alicia Clearing Land for Farming (California, 2012).
  • New Crop Varieties for Extreme Weather (New York, 2013). New varieties of grapes, peppers, and raspberries are grown and tested under high-voltage lamps at the Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York. Scientists race to create climate-change-resilient agriculture. By crossbreeding domesticated crops with their wild ancestors, researchers propagate super-hardy strains that can withstand droughts, heat waves, and freezes. As erratic weather patterns intensify, farmers need crops that can cope with such stresses.
  • Elk at the Game and Fish Department (Wyoming, 2010). In order to catch people hunting off-season, rangers at the Wyoming Game and Fish Department office in Pinedale bring an elk taxidermy into the wild and wait for someone to shoot it.
  • Uwe Measuring the Velocity of a Glacier (Alaska, 2016). Every summer since 1946, members of the Juneau Icefield Research Program have traversed the Juneau Icefield, contributing to the oldest continual study of a glacier in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Kenzie inside a Melting Glacier (Alaska, 2016). If climate-warming trends continue, the Juneau Icefield is expected to completely disappear by 2200. Globally, glaciers cover about 10 percent of the Earth’s surface and store about 75 percent of the world’s freshwater.
  • Lava Boat Tour (Hawaii, 2017). Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii has been erupting continuously since 1983. Tourists from around the world rent seats on lava boat tours, despite the risk of flaming debris falling on them.
  • House Construction after a Lava Flow (Hawaii, 2016).

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