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Humans are a Part of Nature, Not Apart from Nature

Every other living beings, especially human beings depend on Nature. We should not exclude nature from us.

By i.c Golina

The central importance to the nature of my relationship to non-human world begun in a remote and isolated village in Papua New Guinea. This meant that I grew up surrounded by the non-human world. Living close to natural environment was not only part of my daily life but my dependence on the biodiversity (food, access to land, water or rivers) and other nature-related activities was profoundly important to me. On daily basis, I was taken to many different locations to work in the gardens, go hunting, fishing and diving in the rivers for food. I was not only taught of all these skills but I was also encouraged to learn, observe and understand different and specific aspects of nature such as; changing of the seasons or weather patterns, water, sky and plants in traditional sense. One of the fundamental importance of learning was taking care of the natural environment. This was the only way, I learnt to explore and understand the nature of the non-human world. I was totally amazed by the way how the people in the village worked together with the nature and understand their patterns and seasons of the non-human world.

My favourite place that I enjoyed most growing up in the village was going down to the rivers. The rivers were the places I remember them most and were very special to me. The rivers not only played a significant part in my life as a child growing up but these were the places where I learnt most of my nature-related activities such as diving in the rivers for fish, learning how to swim and playing games in the rivers. I would explore the rivers swimming up and down the river streams diving for fish. I would roam and run freely in the forest with other children on daily basis. The free flowing rivers in their natural state were so pristine, peaceful and surrounded by the undisturbed environment – the trees and various plants. These nature-related activities brought excitement, enjoyment and fun moments to me. These were my favourite activities that I experienced with nature. I not only had fun but I enjoyed the surrounding natural environment where I felt so close and connected to the natural world. I had great respect for the nature and these were the experiences that I had which reflect on the importance of my relationship with the non-human world. Whether, I was swimming in the rivers or doing other nature-related activities gave me a sense of well-being, excitement and closeness with nature. Exploration and discovery were some of the key features of my relationship with the non-human world. It underpins my sense of belonging, culture, spiritual beliefs and social life system. Also, at the  same time, it provided me with a closer relationship with the natural world and understanding the relationship between the non-human world and human.

As time went on, the changes in the natural environment in the village begun to emerge. This was the beginning of human disturbance to the the natural world. The rivers or creeks once pristine, undisturbed and surrounded in their natural state were dried up and diversion of river patterns changed or became non-existence. This changes in the non-human world was evident. There was vast destruction of trees and grassland because of human activity. As a result of this, it undeniably had negative impact on human well-being, both socially and economically. On my return to the village over the years, I have witnessed that the lifestyle of the people have dramatically displaced.

Historically, modernity played a big part in well-being of humanity but at a destructive cost. These changes significantly brought many positive achievements and major contributions to humanity but also came along with many problematic consequences. The disturbance towards the natural environment through human activity linked to the modern way of thinking. These values and beliefs of modernity is a problem and we need to think of new ways that is sustainable and need to adopt a non-anthropocentric approach.  In applying modern methods of technological development or science and rational thinking to all human activities, everything will continually improve to all humankind. These values and beliefs of modern thinking or promise of modernity became problematic. It does not have any evidence that everyone’s life is improving.

These modern way of thinking not only had a great impact on the natural world but also impacted on me personally that I once enjoyed and depended on the biodiversity and other nature-related activities have declined in greater scale.  For thousands of years, many of the indigenous around the world’s connection to non-human, contribute considerably to sustainability.

In my personal experience, the disturbance and environmental changes of the natural world shows, it had a strong impact on the non-human world and well-being of the humans. Also, at the same time, it profoundly imbalances on the ecosystem. The combination of both the living and non-living species are made up of ecosystem and each part plays an important role in its function and interactions among all the species. Therefore, we need to recognise and understand that we humans are integral part of the complex web ecosystem and have a role in the system or having a intrinsic value. Humans and non-humans are connected and therefore need to respect its natural environment. Everything is interconnected and serious consequences can occur when separated. Human mankind need to understand that everything is connected to everything else where connectedness is strongly highlighted rather than separation and interdependence is emphasised rather than independence. The human experience is not separated from the natural world in sense that human and non-human world are interconnected and interdependent.

It is evident, that my connection with the non-human world was disturbed and it contributed to the degradation of the natural environment. The species (human and non-human) that depend on it were totally destroyed or declined. We cannot fix one problem in isolation because they are all connected. In order for us to keep the environment sustainable, we must recognise and understand the connection that all parts of the ecosystem is equally valuable. In learning from this, we can develop a sense of understanding of how non-human world can be treated and at the same time ask ourselves the very important question of ecological justice.

From anthropocentrism perspective, human beings are seen as superior and above in the natural world. Our modern thinking lead towards dualistic thinking, separating human and nature. This new ways of thinking means having dominant control, manipulating over the nature for our own benefit or human well-being and not seen as intra-related but seen as a separate resource. Human beings are seen and considered to be higher, superior and seen as rights over non-human entities, which perceived to have no intrinsic value.

These values and beliefs of modernity is the problem and need to think of new ways. It is evident that the concept of anthropocentrism have contributed to this phenomena – Environmental destruction and ignoring the importance of the non-human role in the ecosystem.

It is evident, that the nature of current ecological crisis is a problem and is faced globally. Human activity is the main contributing factor to this crisis. Yes, there is a crisis and we are the cause. The current ecological crisis are the results of human activity, whether through destruction of forest, land clearing for urban developments or mining and many more. From my personal experience, the non-existence of river system, decline in wildlife and other species and slow growth trees are results of ecological crisis. The key factors contributing to ecological crisis is primarily with economics, use of technology and with the values and beliefs that inform them.

This biographical experience has provided me with great insight of understanding myself particularly, in my connection and how I view with the natural world. Also, understanding my connection towards the natural environment and ecological justice with the inclusion of non-human world. 

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