How are the relationships between humans and nature important for moving towards sustainability? This essay aims to address and explain how the relationships between humans and nature are important for moving towards sustainability. The terms nature and sustainability will be defined and discussed, followed by the arguments. My arguments include humans being the main, most intelligent organism on earth, meaning they, in a way, have the power to control nature and implementing strategies to achieve sustainability, including renewable energy sources, conservation, recycling and deforestation management. Nature can be defined as the physical environment that has not been man-made and not been affected by humans in an unsustainable way. It can be argued that humans, their consumption and everything associated with humans is also a part of nature, as we are animals created on this planet and we have developed the planet with our relatively high levels of intelligence. However, in my opinion, due to the globally recognised problems now created as a result of our development actions and interactions with the environment, nature should be reserved for sustainable organisms and their environment, that do not cause lasting, significant harm. Even if, for example, an invasive species causes temporary harm to the environment or another species, nature will balance itself out in the end, however humans have developed to be highly intelligent, relative to other organism on our planet and therefore, in a sense control the planet, resulting in certain natural balancing out to not occur or not have any effect. Nature can be viewed differently depending on different disciplines, such as economics, environmental science or social science. Different social classes of people may also have different views of nature. For example the rich may view nature as something pleasant to look at or recreation, while it may be a vital resource and home to the poor, who depend on it for food and shelter. Nature can also be defined and described through several biophysical attributes including wood, sunlight, rocks, vegetation and water (Sternberg, 2009). Nature can even be viewed as having a healing effect (Sternberg, 2009). Furthermore, nature could also be viewed as being negative, as dirty or unhygienic and it would be especially negative to people who have phobias of certain animals, for example snakes, spiders or bugs (Cronon, 1995). Such people are likely to have an anthrocentric value rather than an ecocentric value (Cronon, 1995). Sustainability can have various definitions according to the discipline we are focusing on. This can be from an environmental, a social, or from an economic point of view. There are also three main different approaches to sustainability; one being the three pillar approach, including social, economic and environmental factors, and each of these factors being interdependent on each other equally in the concept of total sustainability. Another is the nested rings model, which includes the same three factors but stating that the economy is dependent on society and both are dependent on the environment. The final one is the blurred boundary model, including only two subdivisions linked to each other: human activity and well-being and the environment (Bender et al, 2011, 41). I prefer the three pillars approach of separating three factors and investigating sustainability in relation to each. This is because I find it essential to recognize that sustainability is a key part of each of these three very important factors and that each factor may view the definition of sustainability differently, but at the same time each is interdependent on each other equally in the concept of complete sustainability. A solid, general definition for sustainability is living in such a way as to not undermine the quality of life for the next generation (van de Kerk and Manuel, 2008, cited in Bender et al, 2011, 39). This is because it is a simple yet clear definition that can apply as a general basis definition to any kind of sustainability (environmental, social and even economic, even though it does not go into much economic detail). The above definitions are perhaps sided towards an environmental and social point of view. The definition can be different for an economist and may focus on natural, human and built capital and their sustainability. It would mean these natural, built or human resources do not get used up indefinitely and are able to be reused with a sufficient and efficient level. Anti-Malthusians have stated that if a resource was getting scarce then technology would allow for a substitute resource to be implemented or improved technology would allow for increased harvesting of a resource (which is also the economist’s view of the sustainability of natural resources) (Boserup, cited in Codrington, 2010). Environmental sustainability can be defined as ‘an ecosystems ability to maintain its own vitality over long periods’ (Goerner et al., 2009, cited in Bender et al, 2011, 39). Economic sustainability may be defined as ‘consumption that can continue indefinitely without degrading the capital stocks, including natural, physical, human and intellectual capital’ (Costanza, 1991, cited in Bender et al, 2011, 39), or simply as ‘maintenance of capital’ (Goodland and Daly, 1996, cited in Bender et al, 2011, 39). Finally, social sustainability can be defined as ‘the continued satisfaction of basic human needs – food, water, shelter – as well as higher –level social and cultural necessities such as security, freedom, education, employment and recreation’ (Brown et al., 1987, cited in Bender et al, 2011, 39). Further definitions of sustainability may include the acknowledgement that ‘elements must come in and also leave’ (Bender et al, 2011, 33) in a sustainable system. There are also concepts of weak and strong sustainability, which depend on the theory regarding the substitutability of the resources in danger of running out. Strong sustainability would result in an easy, readily available, efficient solution of substitution with another resource, however weak sustainability would mean this substitution of resources is not as secure and reliable (Hediger, 1997; Devkota, 2005). The concept of sustainability today is highly contested and its success is debated. It is asked if certain actions thought to be sustainable are actually truly sustainable or if they are actually worse for the environment than its previous alternative. For example if it would actually be more energy efficient and environmentally friendly if one were to stop using plastic bags or plastic cups, and instead use another material such as paper or metal. Humans are the main, most intelligent and most controlling organism on earth. This means they have control over their actions and to an extent, what happens to the earth’s environment and all the other organisms also living on our planet; in a way, they have control over nature. This is key to living sustainable lives and making sure our actions do not harm our planet. We have to take responsibility of our actions and make sure we, as a human race, do not get greedy with the resources we consume. We have to make sure we do not waste vital resources, only use what we really need and do not damage the environment whilst doing so. Furthermore, without nature, humans would not be able to survive as we would have no resources whatsoever to live on. It is therefore very important that we have a good relationship with nature and do not damage it. Easter Island is a prime example of how the mismanagement and unsustainable use of resources can result in the collapse of an environment and as a result a society. Early colonisation of the island lead to a large population being present on the relatively small island, which lead to the depletion of the islands natural resources, which in turn resulted in famine (Hunt, 2006). It is important for humans to implement strategies for sustainability. Such strategies have recently started to become a reality and are currently still being developed further to be more efficient and affordable. Renewable energy sources are an example of such a strategy (Kothamasu, 2012). These include various methods of collecting energy without using up vital resources, such as solar power, wind power, hydroelectric power, tidal power, wave power, biomass and nuclear power (the last of which can be argued not to be sustainable due to the accident risks involved) (Carney, 2011). Even all the other sources can be argued not to be sustainable, as building and setting them up requires energy and may cause pollution. For example to build and set up a wind turbine uses energy and resources. Further methods include environmentally friendly buildings and homes, which could implement some renewable energy sources, such as solar panels on the roofs. These developments could also incorporate flora and biodiversity, such as gardens on roof tops or simply in the back yard. Environmental conservation, meaning not polluting it and protecting the species present in terms of their health, well-being and the environment they live in is another strategy that can be used to achieve sustainability. Nature reserves should be set up, which are protected areas by law. Recycling is also a strategy and recycling of materials and resources, means that they can be reused and therefore they do not go to waste and will not be depleted (Richmond, 2009). A further way of practicing sustainability is living with nature instead of in or even against it. For example environmentally friendly buildings can be built elevated on stilts in flood plains, which will allow the river to flood normally and all the natural processes can therefore occur normally and healthily, and at the same time the buildings will not be directly affected by the floodwater. Finally, decreased deforestation and increased afforestation are also methods for achieving sustainability. Afforestation is the planting of trees and this, in time, together with decreased deforestation, in such a way as to not result in more trees being cut down than are planted or grow naturally, will help recover the world’s forests. This will also bring other benefits such as improved air quality and natural beauty. It was argued that unsustainable deforestation was one of the causes of the collapse of Easter Island (Hunt, 2006). In conclusion, the relationships between humans and nature are important for moving towards sustainability because humans are the main, most intelligent and most controlling organism on earth, meaning they have control over their actions and what happens to the earth’s environment and all the other organisms also living on our planet. Humans have the power to implement strategies to achieve sustainability, including renewable energy sources, conservation, recycling and deforestation management. Reference List Bender, H., Judith, K. and Beilin, R. (2011) ‘Sustainability – A Model For The Future’ in Reshaping Environments: Theory and Practice in a Complex World, edited by Bender, H., Melbourne University Press, Melbourne Carney, S. (2011) ‘Europe Split on Nuclear Power Debate’, The Wall Street Journal, 17 March Codrington, S. (2010) Planet Geography (6th edition), Solid Star Press, Australia Cronon, W. (1995) ‘The trouble with wilderness: or, getting back the wrong nature’ in Uncommon ground: toward reinventing nature, edited by Cronon, W., W.W. Norton and Co, New York Devkota, S. (2005) ‘Is Strong Sustainability Operational? An Example from Nepal’ in Sustainable Development, vol. 13, pp. 297-310 Hediger, W. (1997) ‘Towards an Ecological Economics of Sustainable Development’ in Sustainable Development, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 101-109 Hunt, T.L. (2006) ‘Rethinking the Fall of Easter Island’ in American Scientist 94, pp. 412-419 Kothamasu, R. (2012) ‘Big Prospects for Small Wind Turbines’, Renewable Energy World, 28 February Richmond, R. (2009) ‘Action Needed: The Case for Recycling’, Natural News, 1 August Sternberg, E. (2009) Healing Places, First Harvard University Press, Boston
In Emerson’s Nature, the relationship between man and his environment is one of great importance. Though written in a time before global warming and over-harvesting was a problem, Emerson writes very wise words that reflect the idea that man and nature depend on each other. First off, Emerson states that finding a certain peace with nature is essential to finding delight in the natural world. Man and nature need to find a harmony. This brings me back to the last post I wrote where I stated that the wilderness was a place where a person faces themselves and has to fight and be at peace; for when left to their own accord it is up to man to decided whether he be evil or not.
Yet in counterargument that the spirit is reflected by nature…Emerson later states: “Nature always wears the colors of the spirit”(29). Now here the words can be taken in the same way and related back to the fact that in wilderness a man must decided whether he is truly evil or not. However, it can also be seen as a larger picture as one imagines man’s effect on the environment instead of the environment on man. Take, for example, man’s pollution of the air and their impact on global warming. The world warms and the environment begins to wane. The waves get nastier, the waters more endless, the days hotter and dryer, the wind harsher; all are changes for the worse and lead to calamities. So if nature wears the colors of the spirit, that means that men are evil.
According to Emerson it is only a nature-lover who is not evil for it is they who can “see” nature. It is children that can “see” the sun that shines and enjoy it with innocence. Emerson is clearly defining what he thinks of mankind as a whole and his view on men and their nature. He is showing that being in the wilderness is more tranquil than living in a village–therefore it can be inferred that Emerson does not have a high view of society.
Society has progressed but it has damaged nature along the way. Likewise, nature has begun to damage society in the recent years. Emerson, preceding these huge problems, foresaw the deep connection between man and the environment and that they must create harmony in order to be live happy and tranquil lives. Yet not one man, but all men must do this. For when man and nature become one, we will, as Emerson believes, transcend.