Ed. Note: We are happy to share this reader response, which is part of a series developed by environmental science students at Loyola University Chicago from the course Environmental Sustainability.
When it comes down to it, humans are part of the animal kingdom. We are classified as mammals and we reside on planet Earth. We are, whether we actively think about it or not, part of nature. Not many of us spend time thinking about it daily but we are a part of nature as much as the trees, bugs, and animals around us are. As humans, we are more intelligent than the rest of the animal kingdom and that’s why we have dominated the world. While the majority of the animal kingdom has physical strength, our strength is our brains. Intelligent as we are we still make incredibly unintelligent decisions. We know that some of these decisions bad but we place more importance on personal gratification than we do on planetary health, which in the long run is going to affect our personal gratification.
When I think of nature I think of lush green trees, sprawling green fields, and the scent of soil. No electricity, no sirens or car horns, no bright lights. I don’t think of nature as a part of my own world. When I do think about nature, I realize how little I come into contact with it living in a big city. Thinking of nature and me as one; I begin to feel small. I begin to feel weak compared to the vast majority of other creatures out there that physically live in the wild. Then I start to remember all the things I love about nature. How it humbles me and reminds me of how insignificant our everyday worries are compared to the ecological worries our planet faces. About how the scent of the rain smells and how the warmth of sunshine on my skin relaxes me. Or how the quiet sound of crickets chirping at night can ease an anxious mind. I think that pulling ourselves out of the singular mindset that we as humans are separate from other beings (and nature) is something that will help us place more of an importance on the actions we make. If we start thinking of ourselves and nature as equals, then we will be able to stop looking down on nature, start treating it with more respect and place more importance and emphasis on actions that hurt the environment.
Considering ourselves separate from nature is negative because it allows us to think that we are above nature. These thoughts perpetuate actions that impact the environment negatively. Being aware of how much energy we use or where our food comes from are things many people don’t think about. Most people don’t think about where their water gets cleaned when they turn on the tap or if their recycling really gets recycled when they throw it out. I know I’m not unique in this thought, yet I wonder if people who grow their own food or have an immediate source of water that isn’t from a tab/bottle think more consciously about where their food and water come from. I would imagine they do because they are more in tune with nature than your average person is. Living in cities inherently distance us from nature but with that logic, the solution is just to live in a rural area. I disagree, I think we can find a happy medium between the two. A way to live in a city, a place the most opposite of nature, and a way to still be IN nature.
Beginning to think of ourselves as part of nature will only be more beneficial to ourselves in the future. Keeping in mind that each of us individually makes an impact on nature every single day is something that could help everyone be more aware of their actions. Did you try and be eco-friendly today? Is there something you could have done that would leave less of an impact on this Earth? Questions like these are small things that we can each ask ourselves every day to reduce the impact humans have on nature. Being separated from nature offers no benefit, so why look at ourselves as anything beside it?
Thinking of ourselves as a part of nature nurtures conversation about what that question means. It confuses people and then generates even more talk about it. The more people talk about it, the more likely that people are going to be aware of what they are doing and how it is affecting nature. Once that starts to happen we’ve started making a change and then we can focus more on making big leaps and bounds pertaining to the environment as opposed to making small changes that everyone will follow.
Being a part of nature can help us be more appreciative of what nature can give us. If all humans are more connected to nature, then hopefully we can start to make more choices that better our planet rather than harming it. Choices that a single person can make, that will not only make them feel like they are doing something to help the environment but actually be helping the environment. When each person thinks about themselves in relation to nature and how they can do something to change nature for the better, is when we as a planet will start moving forward. We can’t keep having a few people make big decisions, we need to have individuals partake in tasks that anyone can do, to really see a change.