The thing about nature is that it, in comparison to its definition, is always changing. Additionally, nature means something else to everyone. Some people view nature as a window into freedom, while some people see nature as a scary entity that should not be tampered with. Some think that nature is a source of material while some think that it should be protected at all costs. Though there are altered views on nature across the globe, the fluctuating definition can be tamed towards a single definition by using differing opinions from refutable sources.
Sources like that include, but are not limited to, naturalistic writers who have devoted their life to either nature or nature writing. A few of these writers are William Cronon, Chief Seattle, Rick Bass, and Jon Krakauer. Through these authors differing views on nature seen in their individual works of literature, a definition of nature, how it must be treated and maintained, and why it matters can be drawn.
Rick Bass, a journalist for the Sierra Magazine wrote a piece of literature in 2001 titled “Why I Hunt” (Dorbin.) In his opening statement to his writing, he discusses one of the multitudes of reasons why he likes to hunt being all the reaping gained from nature over the year, so his family can survive the winter (Bass 133.) Bass goes on to state his individual definition of nature stating, “What heaven is this into which we’ve fallen?” (Bass 134.) Bass views nature as a greater work of art from a higher power designed to give life to humanity alike. William J. Cronon is a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who wrote a piece titled “The Trouble with Wilderness” (Dorbin.)
Cronon tells his reader it is time to rethink the definition of Wilderness. He discusses that when nature is viewed by society what they see is the reflection of what they want and desire, not what wilderness realistically means (Cronon 12.) He takes a stance telling the reader that wilderness is not the contributor to societies problems but instead it is society’s view on wilderness. Cronon then goes on to discuss how beautiful nature and wilderness is and how its pleasing traits would continue without the growth of humanity (Cronon 12.) Jon Krakauer takes a slightly different stance on the definition of nature. Krakauer is a contributing editor for a magazine named Outline who also wrote the book “Into the Wild,” a detailed account of a man named Christopher McCandless’s harsh fate into the Alaskan wilderness (Dorbin.)
Krakauer wrote an essay which explains his journey climbing Devil’s Thumb called ”The Devil’s Thumb.” In his essay he explains how he gets there and how he survives. He discusses his solo trip and his attempts to hitchhike in cars to get to the summit of the peak. Additionally, he goes into how he must have food delivered by a plane, so he can survive another day of climbing (Krakauer 267.)
After an individual reads his essay, they probably would think that he succeeded in his mission. However, Krakauer does not believe he finished his mission. This is because he never reached the highest peak, instead the shorter peak by only a few feet (Krakauer 276.) This leaves his audience thinking that Krakauer believes nature is something that only certain individuals can compete with, while leaving the impression that nature is not an entity that should be altered or agitated.
While there are differing views as seen previously in this essay, nature’s definition deserves more credit than its informal dictionary definition. Nature is a force that should not be tampered, altered, or disgraced. Nature is a haven for those who take care of it. Nature is a giver of life to those who treat it right and nurture it. Ultimately, nature is something that should not be manipulated, however, if nature is treated right, it will treat society kindly. Although, for humanity to start treating nature right, the proper habits need to be adopted so an ethical relationship can be made.
In the modern world which society resides, it is difficult to think that habitual changes can be made. There are many environmentalist groups that attempt to alter the habits of humanity, however they have made little to no progress. There are millions of metric tons of plastic floating in the ocean, abundant amounts of methane and ozone in the atmosphere, freighting rising sea levels, ample deforestation rates, and even pollution in space, just to name a few.
These habits that are practiced must be changed, nature simply cannot continue to swallow the waste which we produce. The initial step humanity must take is to educate themselves. This can be done through individual research, implemented education in school systems, or making others aware of the issues at hand to encourage people to want to make changes. Individual research and education can include reading stories and reflection essays about people’s healthy interpretation of nature.
A writer of this nature includes Chief Seattle, a Native American Chief of the Suquamish Indian tribe located in the Northwest corridor of the United States, more specifically in Washington state (Dobrin.) The piece of literature published in Sidney I. Dobrin’s composition by Chief Seattle is a collection of both words written and spoken by Chief Seattle, himself (Dobrin.) In the work The Words of Chief Seattle he discusses how humanity is related to nature. Stating “The rivers are our brothers; they quench our thirst. The rivers carry our canoes and feed our children” (Seattle 99.)
This statement leads into deeper words said by Chief Seattle, “This we know: The Earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the Earth. All things are connected. We may be brothers after all. We shall see” (Seattle 99.) These statements carry a deeper significance which Chief Seattle was trying to note. Everything on Earth is connected and society must realize this. Humanity must teach their children the correct way to take care of the Earth, their children must teach the next generation, and so on and fourth. the Chief Seattle emphasizes the teaching of proper treatment of nature to the young, since they are the future of the world.
Chief Seattle then ties humanities current treatment of nature to a greater power stating “One thing we know which the white man may one day discover: our God is the same God. You may not thing that now that you own Him as you wish to own our land; but you cannot. This Earth is precious to Him, and to harm the Earth is to heap contempt on its creator” (Seattle 99.) This statement should speak deeply with humanity, especially the religious. Unless a proper, ethical relationship is made with the Earth through means of teaching the young who will eventually run governmental and societal entities, then humanity will continue to mistreat the Earth, more specifically, their creators.
Chief Seattle’s suggestions to revising humanities treatment of nature cut deep into the habits of society. However, people must understand why nature matters if the world ever wants to see a change in the way the Earth is treated. Obviously, the health of the world is important, however people do not understand the depth of the damage done. It is difficult for a single person to travel five miles in any direction and not see a trace of trash. It does not matter where they are, they will inevitably see trash. And even if they did not, they are still breathing in the sickly polluted air. The health of nature matters, there is not a “back-up” planet humans can escape to in the event of making Earth too toxic to live. Therefore, Earth must be taken care of. It is humanities home and who likes living in a trashed home?