2. Nature and Humans

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In many cultures, we do not realise that as humans, we are part of nature. It seems strange to equate ourselves with nature because for centuries, we have been brought up with the idea that we are separate from nature. We believe that we are not barbaric like the beasts and we have a (learnt) sense of superiority over them. This seems to be rather absurd the more we think about it. Can we hear as well as elephants do? Can we run as fast as cheetahs do? Can jump as high as grasshoppers can, relative to their size and height? Can we see as far as eagles can? Quickly, we see how flawed such comparisons between humans and animals are in an attempt to decide the superior species. We each have our own set of superior skills based upon our most important needs. We may be superior to some animals in certain areas but they certainly easily outdo us in others. How, then, did we come to the conclusion that we are separate and superior to animals?

We now live in a human-created environment. Now, this is not any less a part of nature than a bird’s nest or an anthill! Think about it this way: ants build places in which to live and work; humans build places in which to live and work. When we look at it this way, it is easy to see how similar we are to animals; how we are truly a part of nature. However, the industrial revolution has led us to see nature as a mere resource from which we draw to make our lives better. The focus here is on us; it is a selfish attitude. We have successfully developed machines and technologies to make nature work for us. That is when we think ourselves to be superior to nature. If you think about it, that notion does not make any sense. How can nature (us) be superior to nature (the rest of the natural world)? It would only make sense if we saw ourselves as separate from nature.

Long ago, our ancestors understood their place in this world – and some people still do. Being in direct contact with nature allows you to realise how vast this world is and how truly insignificant the human species can be, as many people who go on trips into the wilderness can attest to. When you are out there in the wilderness alone and defenceless against potential dangers in the form of predators and bad weather, it is easy to realise how foolish it is to think of oneself as superior to nature. Even just being out in the vast ocean and reflecting on all the creatures that could be teeming in the waters below is sufficient for us to realise how small we truly are.

Our machines and technologies afford us the illusion of greatness. If we should run out of the energy that gives “life” to our machines, what would we be? Foolish, the man who believes himself king over nature – can he command the winds or the tides to change? We have seen so many lives extinguished by natural disasters all over the world! We were not gifted with special senses but we were gifted with a superior mind. We can create, we can plan, we can devise solutions to complex problems and we have ambition. It is with this that our human race has thrived. Yet, it is because of our great success as a population that is leading to our downfall. It isn’t that we are too capable – we are simply too greedy. It may seem strange but is possible for greed to not be a bad thing. Imagine a hyena that comes across a carcass. If not for greed, it would only take what it needed for that meal. This would mean that if it does not find food in the next few days (which is common in the wild), it might be hungrier than if it had been greedy and eaten more than it needed or even dragged the carcass somewhere to hide it and then come back to it when it wanted to. The problem with humans and greed is that there are so many of us squeezed on a bit of land that has even less resources. On top of that, all of us are greedy. Those who can get their hands on more become greedier still; for those who have no problems getting resources, this greed is a bottomless pit. For those who have little or no access to resources, the only reason their greed is curbed is because of the very lack of resources!

Taking these back to the situation of poaching, we see how our attitude of nature being a resource from which we draw for our sake is obvious. It is as if we see the forests as catchments in which animals have been placed for us to take our pick, as if it were going to the supermarket and picking out our desired vegetables for the day’s dinner. It isn’t that we are cruel or heartless, although you could say that we are “thoughtless” – we simply don’t think about it and realise that what we are doing can have such devastating impacts. “So what if a few species of animals go extinct?” Some people might think, but if you knew anything about nature, you would know that everything is connected in some way. The extinction of a certain species could lead to the decline in population of its predator or the population explosion of its prey. The delicate balance on which the whole world sits would be tipped and it just might send everything into disarray. When that happens, who is to say that humans would survive it? There have been extinction spasms throughout the history of the Earth. We may see ourselves as superior or even invincible against the forces of nature but in the grand scheme of things, we are just another species. If our actions tip the balance enough so that the odds are against mankind, there is no doubt that nature would try and right this balance by taking the problem out. That means that if we do not do anything about our reckless behaviours now, we would just be another species struck out of existence.

We talk about saving the Earth but what we really mean is saving the Earth as we have known it, and saving our race. The Earth will be here to stay, as it has through all these years. If we wish for our race, an infant species at that, to continue thriving upon this Earth, we have to realise soon our role and what we can do to maximise the benefits of all the parties involved in this whole “community”, if you may, we call nature.