Can Humans Exist Without Nature?

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Humans and nature have been intricately linked since the very beginning of time. They precariously balance their roles to maintain homeostasis in the ecosystem. The ties to nature have evolved over the centuries. Nature worship is an ancient tradition that was practised in many parts of the world. This took place either through the worship of animals or various elements of nature such as fire, wind, water, etc. Hindus regard the Tulsi plant as sacred and it is often a part of their rituals. Jainism prohibits the consumption of root vegetables as it is believed that uprooting a vegetable growing into the ground is akin to killing the entire plant. Indigenous African religions believed in the concept of Deus otiosus or hidden God, which implies that the higher gods have delegated their powers on Earth to the forces of nature.

           The humans of today, however, do not share the same idealistic beliefs as their ancestors. What started as a symbiotic relationship has gradually evolved into an inequitable one. We have corrupted the landscape and poached invaluable resources. Natural selection has been tampered with and humans are single-handedly responsible for the mass extinction of megafauna globally.  

As our research in Science advances, so does our dismissive attitude towards nature. Unfortunately, she has no choice but to bear the brunt of our decisions. Climate change has ravaged huge chunks of our planet and unless urgent remedial measures are undertaken, we stand to lose it all.

Humans have to accept that they are as connected to nature as they are to their physical bodies and souls. There have been various studies conducted to explain the interrelation between the two entities.

Evolutionary biology

It involves the genetic adaptations in our system due to our evolving relationship with nature. A few examples would be- 

  • Physiological adaptation to an agricultural diet compared to our original Paleolithic diet.
  • Increased lactose tolerance with the rising consumption of animal milk. 
  • Increase in the incidence of asthma/ hay fever associated with a decrease in microbial exposure (The hygiene hypothesis).

Social economics

A notable proportion of the population depends on nature for their livelihood and sustenance. It includes agriculture, forest produce, fisheries, and more. 

Health

  • Physical health– Nature is believed to possess a therapeutic role in recovery. Hospitals tend to place convalescent patients in rooms with scenic views as it can hasten recovery and alleviate physical pain. Daily exposure to natural sunlight has proven to improve neurological and circadian rhythms.
  • Mental health– The annual hill station holiday we take has a biological rationale behind it. Humans have an intrinsic connection with nature. We tend to prefer natural surroundings as it lowers our stress levels while improving cognition.
  • Social health– Neighbourhood spaces like parks and playgrounds provide a common place to gather, exchange ideas and give a sense of inclusion in a community. 

Without nature, humans as we know will cease to exist. We are pacing towards a world where artificial intelligence will make bionic ‘super humans’ a reality. Humans untouched by genetic engineering will be reduced to a near-extinct species. Perhaps for these new breeds, nature might not hold much value. But the humans of today need her for their survival. Cities like New York and Tokyo which are self-proclaimed concrete jungles have reported higher levels of stress and anxiety among their residents. The disconnect with nature could have played a probable role in this. 

To recapitulate, an existence without nature seems like a bleak one. Even if we could survive long periods of time away, we wouldn’t be able to subsist entirely without it. Could you imagine waking up at daybreak without the blithe chitter of the birds? Or taking an evening walk without the amber leaves of fall adorning your path? In a world where nothing stays the same for long, perhaps it is best if we leave some things untouched.

Featured Image Source: Image by anncapictures from Pixabay
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About the author

Ritika Shetty is a medical student based in Mumbai. She is a voracious reader with a strong dislike for dog-eared book pages. In her free time, she prefers to go on long walks and binge-watch legal thrillers.

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