Throughout time humans have been making their life comfortable and safe by using nature. Centuries ago, ancient people were gathering berries, fishing in the rivers and seas, killing animals for sustenance. Then man invented the ax to cut down trees to build a house. Later, he sat on an animal to move faster and used it as help to work the land. In more recent periods, humans built skyscrapers and complicated machines that can drive and fly in any direction. People still use animals for the same purposes, but they have entered a new role as leisurely household pets. In some countries, animals are used for testing drugs, cosmetics, and other experiments. When humans go for a hike, they burn woods and leave plastic behind them. Whilst wealthy men eat black and red caviar, fishermen put nets in the seas and oceans, causing the extinction of some species eternally to satisfy their demands. The increase of human control over nature and species has had a negative impact on the balance in ecosystems and caused the dying out of countless types of animals.
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People are concerned about their needs and do not think about the ecosystem’s sustainability and the consequences of their actions. Aldo Leopold, in “Thinking like a mountain” underlines an issue of humans’ influence on nature. By sharing his thoughts as a young man, Leopold (1949) claims that back then, he was sure that “fewer wolves meant more deer, and no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise” (p. 130). However, the chains existing in ecosystems and the order created by nature are interrupted by a man thinking beneficially for himself. Leopold proves that by an example of a cowman fighting wolves to protect the tribe; however, no cowman has ever thought that the wolves are trimming the herd for the balance in nature.
The environment is a fragile system where everything is interconnected. While humans are afraid of wolves killing the deer, the mountain is suffering from the deer, destroying it. Aldo Leopold invokes humans to stop interrupting the natural flow of life. Most of the population still are convinced that they are the golden center of the world, yet it is the other way round. Humans are a tiny part of the Universe, and they must care for and nourish the surroundings they live in.
The modern man is the one putting the negative impact on nature, and humans should learn to take benefits from it with gratitude and love. The text “Returning the gift” by Robin Wall Kimmerer explores the modern relationship between mankind and nature by using concepts from modern economic theory to ancient Potawatomi stories. The first topic the author covers is the reciprocal relationship that has been lost between modern humans and nature. Nowadays, human society is more focused on the individual rather than the surroundings. Humans are willing to sacrifice ecosystems and greedily harvest natural resources for personal needs (Kimmerer, 2014). The author implies that humans need to strive for a similar relationship with nature as the Native Americans had before the colonization.
Robin Wall also involves the topic of gratitude in the sense that humans are more concerned with the gift rather than the giver. To survive and thrive, humanity is reliant on the living organism around us. The food on our table, the air we breathe, and clothes that make us warm all come as a gift from other species, either direct or indirect. We should therefore strive to preserve as many as possible of these species and be grateful for their existence.
Humans need to pay more attention to what the earth is saying. Today, we see the rapid extinction of many species and whole ecosystems. As one species disappears, it creates a butterfly effect for the extermination of many more. If humans continue down the same path, our species will soon be living in solitude. With the devastation of so many ecosystems, the author indicates that we no longer can read the signs mother nature is sending us, and the outcome can be detrimental.
If human influence on nature keeps developing the same scenario, people will struggle to survive. Leanne Simpson, in the text “Our treaty with the hoof nation,” raises the topic of human reliance on species and nature, talking about the Nishnaabeg community. With the disappearance of the deer, moose, and caribou, people felt hungry, worried, and sad. When they realized they had been wasting the meat of the Hoof Clan and treating the species with disrespect, they started negotiating for getting the animals back. Simpson brings up an essential topic of human dependency on species and their attitude to them. With no respect and a wish to take more than needed, none of the individuals can keep living. People should learn how to share land without interfering with other nations (Simpson, 2013). Thinking about nature and species as equals, caring about the future generations is a key to the right relationship with the environment.
Even though in reality, nature cannot talk to people, like in the story. Nevertheless, humans should learn to hear their voices and understand the limits of taking from their surroundings. Getting advantages from flora and fauna must be accompanied by giving back. Helping rare species survive, maintaining natural conditions for the animals will keep the balance in the chain and give people all the beneficial factors they need.
In ancient times humans treated nature with honor and respect, considering that they are a small part of a big system. With the constant development of technologies and increase in the speed of life, people forgot about this respect. The modern industrial revolution has created a gap between humans and the earth. There is nothing wrong with progress when it does no harm to the place the population lives in. With love, caring, and respect for flora and fauna, individuals, can reach a new level of relationship with the environment preventing the extinction of species and reaching the balance.
Kimmerer, R. W. (2014). Returning the gift. Minding Nature.
Leopold, A. (1949). Thinking like a mountain. Oxford University Press.
Simpson, L. (2013). Our treaty with the hoof nation. The Gift is In the Making: Anishinaabeg Stories. Highwater Press.