“There is something wrong with a society that spends so much money, as well as countless hours of human effort – to make the least dregs of processed information available to everyone everywhere and yet does little or nothing to help us explore the world for ourselves”
-Edward Reed, The Necessity of Experience
© Tom Gable
How is it that so few people seem to appreciate nature these days? Moreover, how do people get to the point where they can no longer appreciate the simple things such as nature and the outdoors? I believe it comes down to two reasons, both of which show the dull state of our society. The first is perhaps the worse of the two. It is this : As time continues, more and more technological advances occur, placing gadgets and machines in the commoner’s hand. All these innovations then create a sense of fulfillment to the owner who will now fill his time by using these inventions. It is not the technology that destroys the appreciation of nature, it is the mindset of the owner (I want to emphasize that I have no issue with technology, in fact I think it is really great. I do think the mindset our culture has with regards to technology is flawed and thus I will describe how I believe this destroys the appreciation of the natural world). The owner believes, whether aware of it or not, that happiness and joy will be found in such technology. However, as the time continuum proceeds the owner loses interest in his once state-of-the-art gadget. Now it is only the most recent technology he aspires to owning, and he/she will find a way to get it.
Once the individual does, the same pattern and cycle will occur, enjoying the most recent gadget then becoming tired of it and wanting the newest. Thus, showing the shift in the mindset of individuals in our current society and those hundreds of years ago. The ‘technological man’ no longer view the outdoors as a place of relaxation and happiness, instead technology fills that niche. Furthermore, the technological man no longer sees an important symbiosis between himself and nature. Enjoying nature and the outdoors is viewed as someone’s interest, just a hobby as would be sewing, woodworking or traveling. It is not seen as a place for all, but for a select few who make a conscious effort to enjoy it. Hundreds of years ago man had no choice but to be in relationship with nature. There were no factories, supermarkets or grocery stores. Man’s livelihood depended on the land they lived. Times certainly have changed and I am not sure many now would say their livelihood is dependent on the land that surrounds them.
Nonetheless, I should not deviate from describing the cyclical nature of the ‘technological man’ and how such a nature has in itself destroyed appreciation for nature. As aforementioned, the cycle consists of purchasing, using and is then followed by boredom, which leads to wanting the newest, up-to-date innovative piece of technology. This leads me to the second reason nature has been overlooked, under-appreciated and partially forgotten. The ‘technological man’ posesses traits that seem to apply to the majority of individuals, and their outlook on nature (in large part due to our consumerist society). When one of these individuals enters nature, they find it fascinating, even intriguing. It’s as if they had never been in a forest and heard the birds, or noticed the wildflowers. Yet, the initial euphoria of the nature quickly dissipates as the person believes they have seen all there is to see. Therein lies the problem, nature is not a checklist of plants and animals to see. It seems that in the same way the ‘technological man’ loses interest in his latest purchase, so does the individual who sits in the forest. If nature has nothing new to offer, then the citizen feels that their time is wasted sitting there. The intangible qualities of the outdoors are not felt because boredom sets in before any lasting appreciation can occur.
Its unfortunate because an appreciation of nature is not only good for the individual but for society as a whole. How much different would the world be if every person desired to live harmoniously in or with nature? I am not suggesting a radical form of environmentalism or tree-hugging just a simple, daily love of being outside. Perhaps it is the edge of a farm fence where small songbirds call and butterflies land on the various wildflowers. Perhaps a forest in the winter when everything appears dead except for a brave chickadee who is searching for food in the snow. Maybe, a sage brush valley with ground squirrels and Brewer’s sparrows enjoying the sun. Regardless of the scenery or landscape, even this new found appreciation could spread to others and perhaps one day be the sentiment shared by the majority. Such change is unlikely, however I believe to my core it would only serve to benefit the individual emotionally, mentally and spiritually, and on a much larger scale society as well.