Why do we have this concept, Nature? What purpose does this word serve?
Too often, it is used to describe the world outside of us, yet not a part of us; the place where we live, yet not what we are. It is used juxtapositionally with industry, culture, and humanity. It functionally exists as one half of the Cartesian dualistic dichotomy, invariably with us, and forms of our lifestyles, on the other side.
Within this word and its worldview, we are perpetually held at arms-length from the very source of our power, livelihood, abundance, nourishment, and relations. We are separated, torn asunder, divorced, removed, yet also elevated as supreme, glorified as the pinnacle of existence, entitled to exploit its riches.
In such a dance, the exploiter and the exploited can never be joined as equals, as mutual givers, as partners in shared work and goals, or as allies on the same side of the imaginal line rather than on opposite sides. Western modernist worldview forever pits us against Nature by its very definition so that within it, we are doomed to waging perpetual war against Nature. Our societies, industries, and institutions support and perpetuate this view and war, ensuring its longevity and vitality.
Though the Romantic era fought back against the bleak era of rising industrialism and capitalism and its soul-killing propensities, it was lead by aristocratic urbanites who were more in love with their idealized version of nature which they could paint, write, and philosophize about than they were with the actual living world and its living persons, human and otherwise. Saving the ideal was ultimately more important than forging respectful and mutually-beneficial relations with the other-than-human persons among whom they lived. No real social change was attempted, and so the division and the war raged on.
To cross the line and ally with Nature, we must re-engineer our attitudes and infrastructures which have long stood on the opposite side. When human persons live equitably, respectfully, and for mutual benefit with all the other-than-human persons surrounding us, we ally with Nature. When human cultures honor the personhood of other-than-human persons and harmonize with the life-support systems where they live, we ally with Nature. When human industries seek to meet human needs through caring for the land, caring for all persons, creating just enough, and sharing surpluses freely where needed, we ally with Nature. When our institutions uphold the value of all persons and their gits, and work to preserve and perpetuate the land’s life-supporting systems for the benefit of all persons, now and into the future, we ally with Nature.
When we ally with Nature, we understand that Nature encompasses all that is, including ourselves and our cultures, as it does other-than-human persons and their cultures, as well. We understand that Nature is what provides life for all persons, and that to stand separate from Nature is to be separated from what nourishes our very lives, which is no thing to be waging war against. When we ally with Nature, we appreciate how our reflective and engineering abilities are gifts which allow us to think on and design lifeways which protect Nature’s life-support systems, and understand that to destroy them is wrong because it threatens the livelihood of all the other-than-human persons depending upon those systems. They are our relations, brothers, sisters, and cousins of the land, who support our lives through their gifts. We in turn owe them our gifts for the benefit of their lives.
When we walk with relations instead of resources, and in life-support systems instead of environments, we ally with Nature. Once allied, we are fully and consciously encompassed and included, related and responsible. The otherness dissolves, and ‘Nature’ as a concept evaporates and disappears.
We finally become the human persons of the Living World.