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Nature Isn’t What It Used To Be

Where does food come from?

Image source: www.naturetalksnews.blogspot.com

Human relationships with nature are vastly different now to what they were even a generation ago.

We have moved from a utilitarian relationship to romantic attachment to the new world of electronic detachment.

Today, many people live in a world that is technologically advanced yet environmentally severed.

Where once people spent more than half their life outdoors, today so many of us are glued – from breakfast to bedtime – to an increasing myriad of screens. Today, nature is mediated, modified, and managed out of people’s lives.

For example, publicly and privately many people no longer acknowledge (or in some cases understand) the origins of food. We eat it, but we don’t necessarily know where it comes from. Indeed, some people struggle to tell the difference between food that is animal, vegetable, local, imported, processed or preserved. We are increasingly detached from the source of our physical sustenance. It’s as if we’ve forgotten that nature – literally – feeds us.

In talking about young people’s relationship with nature in his book “Last Child in the Woods”, author Richard Louv describes the perception that “food is from Venus and farming is from Mars”. I recently encountered this perception first-hand through a six year old who confidently told me that “Food comes from the supermarket. It grows in the ‘frigernator.”

In addition to the growing detachment from our food sources, human relationships with nature are increasingly akin to a work of science fiction. The line between machine, human and other animals is disappearing. Cyborg technology encroaches on human life, animals are mutated through genetic engineering experiments. Bald mice grow human ears and dance the cha cha with the press of a button. We exist in an age when the potential for blending machines, humans and other animals emerges through stories in the media every week, if not every day.

Nature – it seems – is not what it used to be.

And that’s just the start of it. Nature is “so close and yet so far”, existing on the other side of proliferated media that saturates us with images of creatures experienced in the absence of direct engagement with natural habitats. We substitute the real environment with artificial worlds. For some reason, people accept this as “just the way things are”. As if a picture of a redwood on Google Images is the same as seeing it for real. As if a Wild Planet documentary on TV is an adequate substitute for hiking in the bush and listening to the birds and feeling the wildness abound around you.

It’s as if we stand on the brink of what Richard Louv refers to as a “new frontier”.

The question is whether this new frontier is a place we really wish to pursue in its potential as a site of total severance from the natural world.

nature tree main

Image source: www.theatlantic.com

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