Nature–The Original? Or Product?

We all look at nature as something in its original state. State and national parks are key examples for us. I say ‘for us’ as it depends on how it is perceived. My nature philosophers have actually accused the wildernesses we have today as merely ‘products’ or culture and/or society. Why? Because we have shaped it.

The parks we have to set aside the wildernesses we have, technically haven’t been untouched. In the early times of America, the wilderness that was finally starting to become something of recreation became a place of elites to go and carve their way into the ‘nature’ they wished to see. Since then, we have flooded these ‘sanctuaries’ with trails, roads, cable cars, ski resorts, camping venues and so much more. We tell ourselves that they are ‘saved from society’ as we look at it being safe from the biggest and obvious parts of dangers–loggers, businesses etc. But, we don’t look at the tiny things that threaten the wilderness to be a ‘pure wilderness’ and that is, our culture.

Our culture has indeed made going out and getting in touch with our ‘wild’ sides that we all have. It has allowed from the smallest of children, to the disabled, to the elderly to access it. We have guides, GPSs, and so much more to encourage people to visit their local wildernesses. But, look at it from the nature’s point of view. Everything it creates and the adaptations it has had to do for itself has our hands all over the evidence. The trails are now ‘maintained’ instead of letting nature create its own trails by paths of animals. The open lands, kept open and flat due to large camping traffic. We have portable bathrooms, we have parking lots, RV parking, and so much more.

The next time you want to go out into the wilderness, try to think of the impact you have on it. Look at my last blog and try to slow down this transformation of our wildernesses turning into a product of society.

Really try to find a pure wilderness.

Leaving No Trace

Leaving No Trace

I decided to take a more direct route with this week’s post, and concentrate on not necessarily urging people to let wilderness be, but to responsibly interact with nature itself. Above is a link to a very good informational page about ‘leaving no trace behind.’ One of the main reasons why we are losing a lot of the wilderness we have today is due to the irresponsible acts we do in the wilderness. Many of these are not intentional, but are done by mis/uninformed everyday people, that do not know the results of their actions. The wilderness does indeed needs to manage not just the wilderness itself, but also the humans that interact with it. Yes, it is true for more people to enjoy and respect the wilderness, we must make it available not only for the highly experienced or nature extremists, but also for the every day-to-day ‘Joes’ that wish to relax with their friends and family. Making it available for more, however, should not mean making nature have to bend it’s will or be made readily available at the expense of its health.

To do this, we must all remember we all have the same amount of responsibilities to be made reliable for to make sure the wilderness can stay healthy and be physically able to support us as we enjoy it. I don’t want to explain too much of the context of the website, as I would rather people explore it and learn more about it in detail, but I do want to highlight a few of their main points.

Most of the rules generally found on the website (and in many other nature guiding resources) follow the big idea of ‘leaving no ecological footprints behind.’ Naturally, we can’t make it look perfectly as it had before we had gotten there, but there are many steps we can take to minimize what impact we have on the nature around us:

  • Plan Ahead! The more you plan ahead, the better you can be prepared for anything that can happen. Always prepare for the worst.
  • Rely on more durable grounds during travel and camping. This means, staying on trails, sticking to camp areas where other have been already or specifically marked areas. (Note: If you do go off trail, stick to walking on rocks, boulders, and hard-packed dirt/ground.)
  • Take out whatever waste you brought it. Don’t rely on burning the trash as this can be harmful for the  air in the area, and the burnt remains could be potentially hazardous. Bring ALL trash you make out with you.
  • Leave what you find. Try not to change the wilderness around you as much as possible. Don’t hack down branches, cut into trees, take out foliage or anything of the sort. This could be a potential habitat for a creature or food for another.
  • Minimize campfire. Follow the local regulations and stick to burning only wood/paper. Try not to use any sort of liquid fire starter if possible. Use only the wood you bring in or can see obviously lying on the ground–don’t cut down more of the trees or branches.
  • Respect the wildlife. Just as you shouldn’t change the physical woods around you in the wilderness, don’t do anything to disrupt their habitat. Be quiet or mindfully aware of your noise, not feeding animals or chasing them, disturbing their nests or resting areas, and be in FULL CONTROL of your pets AT ALL TIMES. Your pets are domesticated and don’t know how to interact with wild animals.
  • But above all, have fun and be safe.

Connecting To Your Inner Nature

My class did an interesting, but simple experiment dealing with nature. We were all told to escape for a short time to some form of nature without any outside connections (cellphone, laptop, etc.,) and in another place in an urban setting and record what we felt, saw, heard, and contrast/compare the two. The results were interesting, but somewhat expected to say the least. Many really felt ‘at home’ with the nature setting, and felt antsy in the other–even the ones that are most comfortable with the city. People in the nature setting felt at ease, could think better, empty themselves of worries while in the urban setting they were overloaded, overwhelmed by the chaos of overbearing commotion of the city.

In connection with my past blog posts, I spoke about the struggle between ‘nature’ and ‘wilderness’ and after this past experiment I’ve come to a conclusion. When we are forced to go out the nature setting, we mostly see it was a wilderness because we weren’t purposely planning to go into it as we were forced to–we didn’t go when we were comfortable. However, if we go when we choose to and with the intention of it, we see it as nature. The reason why I feel more people were feeling the difference o the two settings and felt more at ease with the nature setting was because we all have an inner nature that we crave. We all need to connect with this and feed it and when we find ourselves in a comfortable nature setting, and go back into the urban areas, we feel the difference and it feels like something is missing. In all our hustle and bustle of the modern age we need to connect with this this ‘cleanse’ ourselves and reconnect with this essential part of us.

So I made a link to a way we can achieve this: Yoga. Why? If you look through the article, it says it allows you to focus, to let go of worries and just relax and ‘cleanse’ yourself of the baggage of today’s fast life. We can get that same feeling we get in nature, and reconnect with that spiritual inner nature we have, the roots of who we are as human beings. I think we can all benefit from looking into it, or even giving yourself 15 minutes a day to just sit and relax and think about nature and who we are as beings.

Preservation–A good idea for the present nature?

Conservation vs. Preservation (Scott Moats, Preservationist). (1:02 long video)

Extremely interesting argument is that of preservation vs. conservation. What exactly are the two? Preservation in its basic sense is an area untouched, unaffected by humans, while conservation is that of an are ” human management to ensure that the natural systems maintain the state they enjoyed prior to human involvement.”

Scott Moats in the video describes a prairie that is now under conservation during a time of turmoil for Iowa in dealing with energy efficiently and what lands should be allowed to be used for it. In the video he did make a very valid point about why preservation is not always the best option, “This area, if it was preserved for instance, would be nothing but trees and weeds. That’s definitely not preserving biodiversity.” the animals and the new ecosystem would be destroyed as just leaving it unharmed would in fact destroy the present organisms living there and now adapted to its habitat. Leaving the area be would set that balance of the ecosystem into distraught chaos, risking the lives of many animals and becoming completely overrun by the plants, killing each other off as they haven’t reached the every-so-sensitive balance of an ecosystem. This in the end would ultimately be a much worse evil than that of humans turning to conservation and backing off it from humans destroying it, but rather, allow the humans to upkeep it to prevent this.

He also describes the loss the humans would have if they couldn’t touch the prairie, “…wise use of the resources, we’re managing for biodiversity and we still have a landscape that’s usable by people. We have cattle out here grazing. The recreational benefit is here for people to come out and visit. There’s aesthetic value here in the northern Hills where you can really see the topography and the openness of the prairie.” Instead of letting completely go to waste, he views it as “why not let humans also benefit from it in other ways than just taking as many resources as possible from it?”

The prairie he describes is in the same turmoil Yellowstone National Park was at its time, but in another perspectives. While Yellowstone park was a beautiful place and it was wanted to be put out of the reach of the gripping hands of greedy business people, it couldn’t be put to waste by being put aside or by being emptied of everything it has to offer. With conservation, it gives both the wilderness, and humans an equal win-win.

In my previous blog, I hinted at how we are all technically animals, that just have fine-honed our best characteristics and advantages to technically be that of above other species. But, these lands that we put aside completely as preserved areas, are also our habitats too–we may be best at adapting to very severe or sudden changes, as we can in the same day move to another country–but not having any chance to be able to be a part of these lands hurts us too.

Think of it as locking yourself up in a concrete city. Sure you are comfortable with your technology, running water, social networking, and microwaveable meals you bought at the downtown supermarket–but in the end, we all still crave in our small part of our natural  wilderness inside of us to go back to where we came from. We can’t keep ourselves away from the physical nature too long. Therefore, we can’t preserve all of the land that hasn’t been taken over completely by humans. Again, we must go back to the balancing the scales of both of our ecosystems to make it so that it is the best for humankind and our neighboring wilderness so we can all benefit.

Perceiving Wilderness

We here a lot of talk these days of the ‘wilderness’ and what exactly it is. We perceive it in many different ways, but truly, it is a word that is quoted by Roderick Nash to be “… a noun that acts like an adjective.” Many think of it to be the physical woods, the overgrown forest in our backyard, or maybe an unfamiliar place miles and miles away.

But really, I believe we think of the woods itself to be a wilderness because it is  unfamiliar to us as a society. To the Native Americans the woods was no wilderness to them, but rather the cities that began to build up and prosper, infringing their land. We see the woods or overgrown forestry, to be a wilderness because we fear it. For many, it is something we aren’t comfortable with as we did not grow up in it.

Why would we be uncomfortable with it? Wilderness broken now from its Latin origin of ‘wilde–wild’ and the ‘ness’ being the ‘state of being’. We can perceive then that ‘wilderness’ to be uncontrolled and in the state of being uncontrollable, something unfamiliar.

The photo on the left represents the wild of nature, exemplifying the contrast of the wilderness in technology form and the wild of the physical nature itself being uncontrolled. The motorcycle is viewed as a ‘controlled power’ and brings out the wild nature in us all in the thrill of the risk. However, it being a form of wilderness doesn’t scare these particular people as they are familair and comfortable with it, and don’t perceive it to be ‘wild.’ However, if they got lost in the woods, they may feel it to be the wilderness. Someone who grew up on the country side, deep in the woods that sees a motorcyle go by, may see it as a wild being, as they aren’t familiar with it–it isn’t in their comfort zone.

But Nash says we all have a ‘wild’ in us, we are all animals, and as we are born from the wild and nature, we so will return, as this motorcycle built from the elements of the nature, is brought back. We are all in a technology world and generation that we find familiar and within our comfort zone. Stepping out into another world, such as the  rough physical nature of the Earth may be scary and unfamiliar, but we can still go back. We all are animals–only with honed talents we have learned to control, just as we have learned to control the technology we have created, and therefore made ourselves more comfortable as we are used to it and have gotten used to the  control of being used to it.

So are are uncomfortable with the wilderness of nature? Or are we scared to realize  what we all still have inside of us?