Why I hate nature

naturescene

“Light as Air” by Joe Martin Photography via Creative Commons

I like to hike in the forest as much as anyone. I’ve been known to backpack, pick flowers, even eat granola on occasion. But make no mistake, I am not a nature lover. Sometimes I even hate nature because nature is out to kill me.

Nature is not all fuzzy kittens and rainbows (though it is those things too). Nature also includes hurricanes, this horrible parasite that burrows out from people’s skin, and a myriad of deadly viruses that no one quite understands. To quote one of my favorite fictional rants:

Nature is not kind; it is not good. Do you really think nature cares about any individual living thing?” 

“Nature is the force that propels bees to fly themselves to death just for the chance to mate with their queen. Nature is the anaconda that swallows a baby pig alive to be digested slowly and painfully over several days. Why is that necessary?”

“Sure, nature provides us with food and warmth, but it also makes volcanoes that burn forests, animals, and people alike; a tsunami that destroys everything in its path. Nature is both generous and destructive, beautiful and monstrous, but most of all nature is indifferent.”

That’s Grandpa Baumler speaking, the bad guy in my novel, The First. I should note here that Baumler isn’t exactly human. He goes on to argue that to save the world for his people, they must get rid of all the polluting humans. But he’s a bad guy, he’s got to take it over the top. Still, he has a point.

I hate the reductionist argument that pits ‘progress lovers’ vs. ‘nature lovers.’ No one could really love unaltered nature for itself; that would be insane. Do you love polio? How about arsenic? They’re all natural! Personally, I love vaccines, and even modern agriculture should get its due. Despite all its problems, it’s been key to feeding millions of people. I don’t love nature. I love nature that is adapted just enough to allow me (and humankind) live.

On the otherside, loving economic ‘progress’ with no constraints is equally insane. If we mess with nature too much, we poison the air, the water, or our own food supply, we’ll kill ourselves. (Of course, nature in the form of a giant asteroid or global infectious disease might kill us anyway, but really, do you want to force the issue?)

No matter what we do to the environment, short of blowing up the whole world, nature will survive, greatly changed, of course, but something will survive. And not just the inanimate part of nature but life too. It takes a lot to kill off all life. We can dump plastic into the oceans, make genetically modified everything, even throw a few massive nuclear bombs in the mix , and still something will survive, most likely in the form of cockroaches or bacteria. But humans won’t. Now that’s the point, and that’s what we should talk about when we talk about being an environmentalist.

We need to reign in pollution, not for nature’s sake but for our own sake. Because if we don’t, we won’t be part of the nature that survives. I know cockroaches are part of nature, but they’re awfully hard to love.

cockroachcc

Photo by Neil Turner via Creative Commons

What do you think? Am I crazy? How do you define environmentalism?

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6 Responses to Why I hate nature

  1. CL Mannarino says:

    I completely agree with you.

  2. Lorelei says:

    I must say that you do have a point, but there are lots of good things that are in nature that I appreciate and at the very start of humanity all there was, was nature. Nature has helped many times ,the universe is a part of nature, the meteorite that wiped out dinosaurs, that was nature, I don’t know about you but I like not having to live in fear of being stepped on. How about storms, rain how would we survive without water-we wouldn’t. How about the sky, light? Plants, animals, food? Also in this article you are just saying you don’t like what HUMANS do to nature, not anything too bad about the nature itself.

    • sarazaske says:

      Well, yes, it’s essentially a love/hate relationship. What I”m trying to get at here is the over-idealization of nature, which some on the right use to dismiss environmentalists as “tree huggers”. And then some on the left do seem to misunderstand what environmentalism really is. Nature is not a “good” in and of itself. It’s ambivalent. It kills us all the time, and often painfully. That’s the bad part. What we’re working for is preserving our place within nature, and that sometimes means battling it (such as with vaccines, or controlling our predators. There’s a reason we don’t allow wild bears and mountain lions to hunt in suburbia.) It also means preserving our air, water, and climate, so we and our grandchildren can continue to survive.

  3. Rong See says:

    I thought I was the only one who hate nature! Partly because it’s dirty and dangerous, and partly because I find it extremely difficult to walk on dry sand and mud (anything that’s slippery) without having a panic attack as I feel that I’m going to slip and fall at every step. I understand that everything in nature has an important role to play, I just don’t like participating in outdoor activities.

  4. That’s a pretty crazy statement to say, that “No one could really love unaltered nature for itself; that would be insane. Do you love polio? How about arsenic? They’re all natural!” You don’t get arsenic poisoning when you go on a hike or camping or even get polio lol. Sure that’s all natural but why link nature with arsenic poisoning???
    I love everything about nature, everything, I LOVE unaltered nature for itself. The reason why I go out into it is because of my personality. It’s natural, it’s beautiful, wild and untamed… best of all there usually won’t be ANY people near me (or a couple of my friends who are normal). I can live in it for weeks and be just fine because I’m prepared for what’s out there. I know what to do about bears and how to prevent from encountering them or any other dangerous animal, I know what to do if I get lost etc etc. I personally think people who hate nature are just way too pampered and don’t truly understand nature.. Which is another reason why I go camping hardcore style (Hike in 6 – 8 miles to the camping location using light gear) is so I can build an appreciation for what we do have in life. Houses, cars, showers, food anytime we want, air conditioning, water, medical care, soft beds… We take everything we have for granted..

  5. Gaia Citizen says:

    I’m with Richard. Sara, you seem to be saying that ‘love’ and ‘hate’ mean the same as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in terms of human benefits.. There is no such thing as pure good or pure bad, all things are filled with positive and negative, yin and yang. I think that’s largely what I do love so much about nature, that amazing balance that keeps it humming along, rejuvenating after catastrophic events and systematically adjusting to minor events. We may not enjoy polio or arsenic but they play key roles the ongoing balancing act, which nature is so good at performing in amazing complexity and beauty. In other words, it is nature’s intrinsic value that I love, not its value to humans. Perhaps environmentalism, like you, only sees nature as what is necessary to support human life (their environment). Whereas lovers of nature feel it’s value to itself alone, i.e. do not see the human species as supreme, but as one tiny part within a truly magnificent system. In fact, this environmentalist perspective is probably more destructive than beneficial because it promotes the opposite of the reality that humans are an unnecessary part of nature. Until environmentalism recognizes this basic natural law, it is simply moving in the wrong direction and will never succeed.

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