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.
If we consider ourselves as “separate from nature”, that would make humans separate from everything that surrounds us. As humans become more disconnected from nature, it leads to more catastrophic events. We’ve developed a habit of taking from nature—taking resources and time. If this streak continues, will nature be anymore?
We are connected to nature in every way and need to see ourselves as a part of it. If we start to see ourselves as separate, nature will become overtaken by the over empowering, “almighty” human race. Years after years, we have taken over land, resources, bodies of water, and just recently, we have begun to realize how separated we have truly become from nature. The separation simply starts by not physically seeing nature while we walk through it. Buildings, technology, phones, headphones have all occupied and obstructed our view as we are outside. We experience nature differently or don’t experience it at all, because our eyes are blocked by materials and our ears are blocked by headphones and loud music. This creates a lack of connection; therefore, people don’t care about nature and lack an understanding of the consequences of their actions.
People become unaware of what nature needs. For example, did you know that nature needs natural disturbances? There has been a fallacious claim stating that they are bad for the environment; a common example being that “fires are dangerous.” What many may not understand is that these disturbances are essential for helping the ecosystems and for restoration. Take Yellowstone National Park, the benefit of that huge and lengthy fire was increased biodiversity across the entire park. It is important to be aware of disturbances that are naturally caused and not anthropogenic disturbances. Disturbances caused by humans are interrupting nature’s natural cycle, and they also have the ability to get out of control because of our climate change.
I find it utterly unbelievable the number of times I have seen litter being dropped out of someone’s car as if their thought process is that it will just “disappear.” Many people have developed a selfish attitude, unknowingly, when it comes to their actions and the Earth. It is an unfortunate common thought that dropping your garbage on the ground and out of your site is okay. Litter from the ground can end up in waterways and eventually in the ocean affecting marine life. It can also degrade areas around you killing plants and animals. Making people aware of where that trash will eventually end up will hopefully shift this selfish common thought.
Nature doesn’t only include plants areas of land, but wildlife as well. Humans have asserted their dominance of animals as well, with factory farms and even zoos. It is unnatural to have hundreds of chickens crammed in a small space waiting to be killed as much as it is unnatural to have a lion outside in the cold Chicago weather. The way animals are taken away from their home for solely human purposes is where the line of separation is drawn.
There have been steps towards removing this line as conservation grows. The need for conservation has become more apparent because of the number of species going extinct. Of course, this rate of extinction is also human-caused, but these are the steps toward slowing down that rate. I have been fortunate enough to visit the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, Africa where they have black rhino conservation. The entire safari life is a beautiful picture of where humans can meet nature at an equal point. It is us humans acknowledging that we are entering the animal territory, and respecting it so we do not cause a disturbance.
Finding a balance with the Earth is a way we can become connected to nature again. We have become such a dominant species by simply being in our own minds and not acknowledging and appreciating what is around us. Major steps have been taken to restore and clean up our past mistakes, but it is up to the future generation to carry on the thought that humans are indeed apart of nature. Teaching the new generation from a young age about nature and what it does, getting involved by planting gardens, and generally creating awareness is crucial. This will allow us to be able to understand how nature works; therefore, be able to notice what needs to be done in order for it to function properly.