Nature: the inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing, a creative and controlling force in the universe, an inner force or the sum of such forces in an individual, a kind or class usually distinguished by fundamental or essential characteristics , the physical constitution or drives of an organism, a spontaneous attitude, the external world in its entirety, humankind’s original or natural condition, the genetically controlled qualities of an organism.
What about humans themselves, are they part of nature? Most of us would conclude sooner or later that humans are part of nature. This exception was a secular man who explained that humans are above nature because we are on one of the top layers of the food chain. “We eat the salmon. That to me seems Probably … if you want to admit it or not, it is an act of a higher creature feeling that it has the right to eat the salmon.”
The rest of us gave various reasons why humans are part of nature. Most mentioned was our dependence on natural resources like water and oxygen. Others called humans part of nature because we form a part in the “chain of being”. “We are made up out of all the elements that are found in nature.” Some religious respondents
regarded humans as nature because its creation needs the involvement of a “higher power”. In the words of a Muslim woman: “Humans are a creation of God, they are a natural being.” Two Buddhists clarify that it took the bringing together of many causes to create both nature and humans: “The consequence of so many things together so that we have human beings (…). The ground and the mountain and the trees … There are many
causes to make the ground there, the water there and the trees growing.” Although a large majority concluded that humans are part of nature, many of the later responses on this subject showed their doubts about the naturalness of humans. First, some respondents got confused by the human ability to think. “We have the brains,” we can use our wisdom” and “are self-conscious.” According to some this makes us diﬀerent from the rest of nature: “Obviously we are in position to change things more than every other species, so we are diﬀerent, we are part of it but we have more responsibility, because of our brain.” Only a few respondents of those who earlier called humans part of nature put the rational capacities of humans above the abilities of the rest of nature: “So I think at a certain point I think human is above nature.”
Second, many respondents let the naturalness of humans depend on their behavior. If humans “don’t pollute”, “treat it properly” and “don’t make it unbalanced”, then they are nature or more natural. “Humans can be part of nature. If we consider ourselves one with the earth if we respect it well enough, then I consider us part of nature.” The respondents often give illustrations of more natural people like tribes in the Amazon or the Native
Americans in Canada. At this point the interviewer confronted these respondents with the implication of their thoughts. Is one person more part of nature than the other? Based upon their actions? Yet, all these respondents disagreed; “You can’t say that some people are a part of nature and some aren’t. (…) We are all people and we all do something wrong.”
A third doubt on the naturalness of humans became clear when half of the respondents talked about a fundamental process of disconnection between humans and nature. Especially for the Native respondents this is an important issue: Sometimes, you don’t think about how we are connected, we become removed from it, we don’t have to think about it, we go to the grocery store and buy our food and we don’t see the bugs and animals that had a hard time because of what we are doing. We are not doing it ourselves; somebody else does it for us.
Many respondents add that this alienation from nature has emerged over time. All Natives, many Buddhists, and some Muslims mentioned that humans could see God or spirits in nature as long as they have the right eyes. “Wherever you see, the God is everywhere, if you know how to see.” They elaborated on the topic by saying that we forgot how to see. We got further alienated from the original spirit and spiritual contact with nature due to the development of the human intellect. The Buddhists primarily emphasized the lost connection with our own original spirit. The Natives stressed the lost connection with the spirits in nature: To us we are told to listen to the water, the fire and we believe that trees can give us messages and that one time a long time ago the animals could all speak to us and we would be spiritually healthy enough to understand. So we are not as healthy as we used to be a long time ago.
More on Environmental Psychology Design Product, Home and Work; based on Higher Power The Nature.
AJ R Chun PhD
Fresno Psychology Examiner