Human Being and Nature. Part 1.
Humans should live in close contact with nature as they are part of it. Considering the biological sciences, they belong to the animal world. They are mammals, just as many wild species and domestic animals. It is obvious, yet so shocking, isn’t it?
Although it is common knowledge, for humans fascinated by the achievements of contemporary civilization it is hard to accept.
Nowadays, we know that humans exceed certain limits in contact with nature, which can lead to very serious consequences for our planet. It turns out that the human is not only the most perfect but also the most dangerous creature of our planet.
I’m not sure what others think of it, but for me, the awareness of a dramatic state of our planet is a crushing experience.
Thanks to our civilization, we used to live in comfortable conditions. But humans haven’t considered the cost, which nature has been paying for the progress of civilization for many centuries now. Humans subordinated the world of nature to themselves completely. I am afraid that nature’s opinion is different, isn’t it?
Nature in Philosophy
Considering climate changes, we can say that our planet ends obedience to humans. The civilization progress turned out to be a human monologue, while it should’ve been a dialogue with Nature.
We discuss nature by the great “N”. What does it mean? Nature is not only an opposition to culture but also a set of rules and a perfect independent system.
In Roman Ingarden’s time, current problems with nature were still complete science-fiction. But, Ingarden(1893-1970), Polish philosopher, dedicated the first chapter of Mała Książeczka o człowieku [ The Little Book About Human] to this problem. It is a short text, untypical for this philosopher who specialized in extensive works. The Little Book About Human was published in 1972, it means 2 years after Ingarden’s death. It was translated from German by Adam Węgrzycki Ingarden’s work O odpowiedzialności i jej podstawach ontycznych [About Responsibility And Its Ontic Basas].
Reading Ingarden’s text about nature, we can notice how much our world has been changing for 50 years. We observe intensive climate changes, which can make life on our planet impossible. Unfortunately, according to Stephen Hawking, this century could be even the last one in human history.
Nature as a Fixed Value
Nature has had a tendency to slow down and tender evolutionary changes. In opposition, violent and quick revolutionary changes were a domain of the human.
If one changes in the style of nature, we can talk about development. But when nature takes the human style of changes, we have a catastrophe. In this context, the contemporary human is like a biblical sinner – only innovation of one’s attitude can be a remedy.
Meaning of Nature
The first matter worth explaining here is the term ‘nature’. How does Ingarden see nature? According to Ingarden: Nature exists much longer than human nature does not change itself despite the human activity, and is more stable, than en existence of the human species (Ingarden, 1987, p. 11). Nature is stable and unchangeable. Ingarden did not suppose that humans can destroy nature. In fact, in the XX century, the process of degradation was advanced enough. The level of water pollution was high. Many species of animals had extinct already, such as bird Doda, or aurochs. But at that time, the climate changes were still unnoticeable. Since the 50s, the balance between cooling and warming was changing intensively. In the 1980s, the report of an ozone hole appeared. It was spectacular evidence of destructive human activity.
Beauty of Nature
According to Ingarden, humans are fragile and weak in confrontation with nature. He distinguished three situations when one is confronted with a majesty of nature. The first situation is a trip to the mountains. It is an occasion for meditation of extraordinary beauty of nature. The closeness of nature creates a perfect moment to relax.
The fascination with nature can have a variety of forms. In our time, some people limit to substitutes of nature in their world, such as an image of nature motives or listening to a record of birds singing. It is an interpretation of nature, but it is not direct contact with the natural world.
Another opportunity for ‘contact’ with nature is nature documentaries. Thanks to advanced techniques, one can watch the life of animals such as a whale or a tiger. Wildlife films explain animal behavior. It is important for a human who loves to understand the secrets of the world, isn’t it? It is only another illusion of contact with the natural world though, which moves one away from it. A deeper understanding of the environment does not guarantee to create a stronger bond with it. Unfortunately, it could even be the opposite. When one understands the natural world, one puts oneself above it, in the position of a conqueror.
Direct Contact with Nature
According to Ingarden, direct contact with nature is the most beneficial one. The philosopher talks about a mountain trip. Because of the character of this trip, direct contact with nature is the clearest. But any environment could bring similar experiences.
It is worth asking at this moment: What is direct contact with nature? It is not only following the tourist trail but also lying in the meadow or beach. Contact with nature is the sound of the sea waves or touch of fresh grass. The crucial meaning is the experience of being a part of the natural world or even being one of the animals on earth. Does it sound like heresy for human culture?
The second situation is a confrontation with the elements of nature. In Ingarden’s opinion, for example, during the storm at the sea, one understands how dangerous nature could be. In this sense, the natural world is power. Whether we would see nature today in the same way?
The development of civilization leads to a situation when everything is under control. Almost every corner of the earth has been penetrated. But it is only an illusion of one’s awareness.
Nature as a Threat
One can reach the places once inaccessible. One has much more advanced techniques of communication than in the past. Despite that, nature is still threatening to humans. In the epoch of such fast technological improvements, we forget about the power of nature. Seemingly trivial situations can lead to tragedy. In our time, one thinks that in every dangerous situation one can call for help and soon be saved by the rescue team. Real-life is not so easy. In practice, one is sometimes just as helpless as in the previous centuries. Maybe even more than before, because of the arrogant confidence of our time.
Wild Animal as Touch of Nature
The separate category of raging nature is confronting a wild animal, especially dangerous animals, such as a bear or lion, which are stronger and faster than humans. In this situation, it is worth knowing how to behave. This unique in our time knowledge of wildlife can be priceless in this case. Only in this way can one minimize the consequences of this confrontation. Shows as Bear Grylls or „Wonder” series bring awareness of these skills in our time.
Probably, the most spectacular example of devastation of the natural environment by humans is the Chernobyl disaster. But optimistic is that 30 years after this tragic event, the natural world was regenerating in this area. It is another face of the power of nature.
Illness as a Symptom of Nature
The third situation is a confrontation with a serious sickness. When someone‘s relative or friend is struggling, the human feels hopeless. By health problems, one can see how inexorable laws of nature could be.
In this case, nature is not a source of beauty but a consistent, automatic, and terrifying power. Even if this illness is not mortal, it can cause serious disability and change the quality of life forever. Sometimes, a network of symptoms can lead to different, potentially unpredictable consequences. For example, flu can turn into pneumonia or even heart infection.
Today, many dangerous diseases, perilous in the past, are now eliminated. Examples could be Heine-Medine disease. Resignation from vaccinations causes mutations of germs medicine resistant, as influenza bacterins.
Medicines Contra Nature
Last time it turned out that the medicine could be the same dangerous and unhealthy as infections for humans. Pharmaceuticals are strong chemical substances that can cause many side effects. They don’t only kill germs but also are the tissues of an organism of the sick person. For this reason, people increasingly resign from traditional medicine. They choose herbal remedies and a more healthy lifestyle instead. So nature is as risky for human health as civilization. Also, some diseases are the effect of chemical and biological weapons production. Another reason for human health problems is environmental pollution in our days.
We can tell that our civilization is as dangerous and unpredictable as nature. It is a very sad but concurrently true conclusion. So, contemporary humans not only struggle with nature but also with oneself.
R. Ingarden (1987). Mała Książeczka o człowieku [ The Little Book About Human], Kraków: Wyd. Literackie.