Man Versus Nature
While man battles nature the consequences could be terrifying
Since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic politicians have described the fight against the virus in terms synonymous with warfare. The ‘silent enemy’ is a popular example alongside various throwbacks to World War Two and other great wars. The economic aftermath has been compared to post war reconstruction and ‘new deals’.
At DSP, one of the Letts Group projects, there is a powerful conceptual art installation called ‘Man Versus Nature’ which creates a dystopian, post apocalyptic world where man is literally upended by nature in a last ditch attempt to save this emaciated planet.
It is possible to weave a plausible narrative that man might have started a new war. Only this war does not, as yet, pit man against man, race versus race, creed against creed.
You could argue that world war three has begun, in some form, and that if we do not reverse it, this war could prove more devastating than anything we have seen before. We might be descending into a battle of man versus nature. Perhaps we are already experiencing some early skirmishes.
Whichever way you look at it man is battling nature whether we are doing it consciously or sub consciously and nature is fighting back. Indeed, the Coronavirus is a stark example of how nature might push back on us.
We know that the virus came from bats that released it onto other wild animals which were hunted in ancient forests. This is the latest in a series of pandemics we have been exposed to over the last few decades as nature's deepest forests are assaulted by small, dislodged farmers pushed to the outer fringes of otherwise untouched lands.
For a very long time we have observed that nature has an extraordinary ability to right itself. To survive. Let's not test that theory. Let's not become the enemy.
By encroaching into vital habitats man has unleashed germ warfare on himself. And these germs are extremely effective at attacking the human race. Around 800,000 victims have already fallen in the battle with Covid-19, but the final toll is likely to end up in the millions. This is more than devastating. As yet we have little understanding of the longer term injuries or future consequences.
97% of mammals left on earth are either humans or the livestock that we eat. The problem with man’s undisputed dominance of this planet is that we seem to believe that nature is abundant - in almost limitless supply. As a result we think that we can take whatever we want.
We have little concept of the ‘true cost’ of nature. From a pure accounting perspective nature is an asset. Like any asset it depreciates. And we have a rapidly depreciating asset. There is a school of economics which has developed a concept called natural capital which could help economists, bankers and accountants to think about nature in a very different way and account for it properly. This is worth exploring further.
We can fell as many trees as we want to make houses, barns, sheds, fences, roofs, furniture and more. But there is a cost. We can till our soil to the point where it is basically dead in the name of scaled up food production.
We can create gardens that are hacked back to please our over-tidy sense of order, with plantings and chemicals that are so unnatural that they destroy the garden’s soil, its wildlife and any natural plant life regeneration.
We have rendered our forests, farms and gardens to a point where they are akin to environmental waste lands.
Industrial and urban sprawl layers tarmac and concrete on top of soil which not only destroys the soils ability to absorb emissions but also ends up reflecting the sun's rays, further heating the atmosphere.
We are literally destroying the planet’s ability to support us, the food we require, the land we live on and the flora that we depend on for oxygen. If we continue this endless war with nature we will lose.
Many larger fruit farms in the US have reached the point where they have to import bees in hives to pollinate their bushes and trees. There are not enough natural bees left! This is way beyond an early warning signal for our potential demise.
The only question left unanswered is whether nature will make us extinct in an attempt to salvage what is left - or will we take nature down with us. Either way this is one world war we cannot win. It’s time to find another way.
Nature needs to be understood and appreciated again. It used to be our ally. A place to forage for sustenance, a place to retreat to in times of hardship. Mother nature used to mean so much to us. We need a grand, post Freudian reconnection with this other parent. We should relearn nature’s vital importance and its extraordinary power to heal us.
Nature-based wellbeing could become an important movement. One we should all embrace. We are pushing it across the Letts Group. It is a movement for individuals and companies to explore.
At the same time, nature-based solutions to the climate crisis could prove vital in dealing with a number of the symptoms of global heating. Rewilding, carbon farming and marine rehabilitation need to be rapidly scaled up.
And we should figure out how to make nature hip - at least for the next generation. Like millennials have personified the digital generation we should strive for generation Z to shape an environmental generation.
Nature could still become our ally, right now we are behaving like its enemy. Let's turn this one on its head before the art installation at DSP becomes our new reality.