Hans Fink, in ‘Nature Through Western Eyes’, talks about different views of nature. Let me share them with you:
Nature is that which is not culture, it’s the things that are untouched by humans, the uncultivated land. It relates, in a way, to the neolithic pioneer farmer who fenced in parts of nature and cultivated it. Nature is all that he hasn’t touched.
It might be hard to find any nature anymore when using this perspective.
The Rural and the Green
Nature is the thing that is outside the big cities and the farm land which would be culture according to the previous view is now part of the green land where we spend summers, leisure time and trot along nature trails. This view of nature seems to be a child of industrialisation – we romanticise that which we left behind.
Nature is everything that is ‘not us’, the things that are out there, and there is a duty for us to take care of nature, nature views become normative, we are stewards and custodians. This view of nature can be linked to conservation movements and the aim is to not affect nature too much.
Nature is that which obeys the laws of nature as opposed to the metaphysical things. One day, we will have understood things well enough that everything can be put in this category. This view of nature has traits of enlightenment, is what we would normally call scientific and sees nature as inanimate.
Nature is the non-divine and the non-demonic. It is the creation made by a creator, and is everything that is not magical. It is that which can be seen. Humans have a special role in this understanding of nature, because we have been created in Gods image, or hold certain mediator functions.
Nature is all of the above, but nature is also all of the other things. You cannot have anything without it being nature – if it exists, it is nature. We often think that our relationship with nature is broken, but it is not possible, we are in nature and nature is in us. Instead, it is likely that it is our thoughts that play tricks on us when we think we can escape nature, be above it, or apart from it. Nature is holistic and talking about non-nature is really quite absurd.
Hans Fink says that while everything is nature, that does not mean that what we do with it is without consequence. Quite the opposite. But once a choice is made, that choice is ‘natural’, because from that moment on, it exists, as a fact and by virtue of existing and being real, it is part of ‘it all’, it’s now nature.