From Environmentalalex’s personal cargo

Nature As…

“Civilization has so cluttered this elemental man-earth relationship with the gadgets and middlemen that awareness of it is growing dim.” Aldo Leopold

This is about our perceptions on nature and how they differ from others perceptions. There are 9 views on which ‘landscape’ is explained, understood and described through unique lenses of perception. In landscape as nature, the reading insinuated the beckoning of man to restore the beauty and bounty of nature and the natural landscape. To tear down the settlements in order to view the wild and lush natural landscape. This love and longing for wilderness has, since its peak during eighteenth century Romanticism, been gaining more awareness. To view nature as perfection is then to view mankind and his accomplishments in comparison to that perfection.
The 9 different explorations guide the reader into analyzing their own sense and view of nature while observing the others. I identified with almost all of them in some form or another, as I think that our relationship and understanding can be more than just linear and hold more than one perception. Just as right, it can be contradictory. Viewing landscape as a problem is something that I have been identifying more with since I am at school. We are trying to learn how to fix, improve, design or change nature. In the reading it said nature is a “mirror of ills of our society and cries out for drastic change.” I really identify with this statement. I feel as though I need to improve and change a ‘broken’ system; to control and take charge of nature and humans path towards nature. I have a more extremist view when I am working a lot and studying a lot and find that I am not able to enjoy time in nature that often. It is a cry from inside of me that beacons me to do something for and with nature. This paper will focus more on urban farming and land use and will take a philosophical and historical approach. I was very influenced by the reading, which led me to explore these topics. I wanted to further identify how I viewed landscape and what is important for me in a modern/urban/suburban landscape.

Nature acts as a bearer of wild things to humans. As Denry David Thoreau once wrote, which I will paraphrase here, man should have one foot in civilization and another foot in nature/the wild. The term Biophelia, a psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is alive and living, is vital for a healthy human psyche. We live in a capitalist society. We live separate from nature. If we want a more holistic, healthy and integrated life in nature, we need to change our society, evolve and develop and ecological awareness/conscience. Reconnecting humans to nature is a larger process and demands a more holistic view point. Just adding green landscapes, roof landscapes and urban agriculture is not going to solve all the problems, although those are great starts. There is a movement going on called Natural Capitalism. These view, value system and philosophy is based on our human experience, and the way we do things and interact. It is meant to heighten aforementioned issues as well as advance us upwards in an involvement with nature. Capitalism is based on a type of stealing, is alienating from the world and natural processes. The point of natural capitalism is to bring awareness and to develop an ecological conscience. Their solution is to:

  1. Reinvest in natural capital,
  2. Become more efficient and reduce waste,
  3. Model our methods on Biomimicry and biological systems,
  4. Switch from a goods based economy and view to a service based one. Our capitalist society, as Marx puts it, causes objectification and alienation from each other.

In our society, property is given to you if you can afford it - not if you can better it and respect it. John Locke, who had an influence on our founding fathers, wrote, what is know as, natural rights. One of which is property, or land. He stated that the government would allow people to settle on land. If after about a year, they have bettered that land, cultivated it or harvested off of it, planted on it or kept it up, that they were entitled to that property. Or as the reading stated this act as: man domesticating the Earth. Thus creating a landscape from a blend of nature and man. People then felt pride and a connectedness to their land.

Locke and Jefferson thought the ideal democracy was one composed of small farmers. Lockes view on property was developed with the small farmer in mind. Jefferson adds to this view that farming life produces people who are self reliant and independent.

One reason why we live in a perishing environment is that we each don’t feel ownership and have pride in our physical landscape. Many leaders of our country also view landscape as wealth. Maybe in some respects the individual does have pride, but a majority do not have the awareness of a deeper relationship to a system, a holistic view and an ecological consciousness. You can plainly see that in our society with one word, consumption. Western history is imbued with a ‘dominion ethic’ towards nature; otherwise stated as a dominant view of animals and nature, and is widely assumed as the dominion of exploitation. By ecological consciousness, termed by Michael Pollan, and virtue theorist, termed by Aldo Leopold, means that we should be aiming towards a certain type of character as a type of self-transformation.

By adopting an urban farming and true organic view and way of farming, we beat alienation. We should include natural living and farming spaces in our environments, especially to be applied into urban contexts. What do I mean? Ever sense the Haber-Bosch process (pesticides), it changed the way of life on earth is conducted in regards to growing food. Food is no longer dependent on sun and soil, it is not dependent on oil. Farms are no longer modeled on nature, they are modeled on industrial systems. We need to change our orientation to industrial society.

There are two main criticisms of our current food systems which are:

  1. Ecological unsustainability, and
  2. Alienation.

Very similar to Marx’s humanist critique: industrialization alienates us from each other and from the land. Alternative forms of food production and distribution are a type of self-transformation. We have a view of seeing farming as a way to make a profit rather than a way to change the world and ourselves. Which will in turn; empower the people to positively transform our land and our relationship to that land.

Marx thought industrialization/technology/machinery could be used as a tool on the path to a better life; Thoreau thought these things often detracted from the best of life. They both thought the problem with modernity was alienation, thus their analysis and source of the problem were different. Thoreau’s was to embrace a close connection with nature, to live simply, to build a cabin and go live in the woods. Individual lifestyle choices are the source of the problem, as are they the solution to the problem. Thoreau’s view was very individualistic. Marx thought the freedom you have as an individual is very limited. If the system is unhealthy, the person/s will become unhealthy too. For me, this statement is both depressing and optimistic. I believe it should be viewed as an opportunity for empowerment to ‘tear the system down’ and to envision, build and demand a healthier system.

There is more than one way to define efficiency and environmentalism. On an industrial farm, your plants need fertilizer, which you go out and buy and dump on them. That’s not a closed loop. Industrialized products cost more than what you pay at the checkout counter; there are hidden costs. It’s the difference between biological (holistic) efficiency to industrial (linear) efficiency.

We try to order and understand the behavior of nature, doing so through economics and modeling-which have no relation to any state of nature. Designing ‘green’ landscapes and viewing the ‘landscape’ as more than a chance for profit, especially when related to farming and consumption, we can view it more holistically. Let’s change the way we view and treat nature and ourselves.

Go out and prepare and eat a meal in full consciousness of what was involved.

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Originally published at spacecollective.org.

Program Manager @ Google. I write stories around: Design, Community, Product, Sustainability, Philosophy, Work, Career.

Program Manager @ Google. I write stories around: Design, Community, Product, Sustainability, Philosophy, Work, Career.