Free Will: nature is a privilege

Fayetteville, WV
Courtesy of Random Michelle on Flickr
This week, our columnist considers the value of nature.


I know very little about the secrets of mother nature; she tends to keep them tucked and hidden away in the depths of her ecological barriers. Searching for them requires to step off a preset path, creating your own trail, setting forth to discover what cannot be felt from the outside looking in.

Along the way, you will find the inner mechanisms clicking together, as if everything you saw and heard, from a fungi growing to the swoosh of a jettisoning bird, conspired with the other to create a strange feeling of stillness. Attune the senses properly and you’ll understand the grip these beings have on their domain. Nature acts in its own regard, sentient and undaunted by judgmental viewers. Introverted yet trustworthy, she rarely fights back when visitors come for a stay. It’s in these bouts where you find out that nature is a privilege. We haven’t quite gotten around to understanding this yet.

If we look at a 24-hour clock — the clock representing the history of our planet — we see that the human race has existed for a little more than a minute. Looking back in time shows that our existence has been short, barely registering a blip on this fictitious watch. Simply put, it is amazing how far we have come in such little time.

From the beginning, humans always showed ingenuity, taking the best of what the natural world had to offer and constructing the necessities we need in order to survive. It is because of our access to resources that we have been able to make progress. Progress, mind you, that has shown to override a system of checks and balances. Stone tools and fire were just the beginning of our display. Incurring knowledge at a rapid pace we did, and soon enough we settled into our own, dignified and relentlessly pushing forward our ability to create.

The human race was predestined to advance beyond the previously inconceivable.

So we furthered our progress while simultaneously curtailing our intellect and imagination. The impossibilities of the past became the possibilities of the now. Autonomous machines that operate under their own ability to acquire knowledge and the passage of flight were once written about in folktales. Now, something as small as a smartphone will soon possess the capabilities to out-think a human being.

Because of these advancements, humanity has reached peak expediency, and the opportunity for everyone to share in the bounties of human life has become more ubiquitous. That should be noted, because I sit here writing this piece on a remote computer that works like a charm. I’m a benign recipient of this collective achievement, and many more, even if I’m watching from the sidelines. I am able to revel in mankind’s push for a greater tomorrow, like many others.

But the betterment of my life, and everyone else’s, has come at a cost to the very thing that afforded us this lifestyle. As we continue to move forward, we fail to transition our natural world with us. While we live in fast times, our natural world still meanders slowly. The evolution of us hasn’t meant the evolution of nature.

It is important to human progression that we not leave out our natural wonders in this quest. We rely so heavily on the natural world for everything we have, and the strides we have made in the 60-plus seconds of our existence are because of its very existence.

If there was no such thing as nature, there would be no such thing as humanity. The direct correlation between the two is of much consequence. Much of what we need, whether that be technological sustenance or appetite fixers, begin as organic processes in the Earth. Minerals, food, energy sources all come from a similar place, where time is the crucial determinant of their success. Time, however, no longer is an option, as we have broken the bond we once had with our natural world and forged a new one. One that gives many, including myself, a great deal of discomfort because of how potentially destructive it can be.

So when we hear about how our atmosphere is being polluted with greenhouse gases, we should acknowledge this to be a by product of our new relationship with nature, and it should be unnerving. The reality of that, along with the myriad of other environmental catastrophes, is quite dismal. They pose a direct and calculable threat to our livelihoods.

The onus is on us to explain to others just how vital the natural world is to the non-believers, specifically one. President-elect Donald Trump will be taking office soon. When he does so, he will potentially bring about the most destructive environmental regime this country has ever seen. He plans on restarting our country’s coal initiatives, extracting more oil from the ground and not upholding the pledge our country made in the Paris Agreement.

And that’s just the beginning. There is no current reason to believe that any of his policy stances will change.

What we know, irrespective of Trump holding office, is the need to act now on preventing further damage, whether or not the next administration acts on their anti-environmental rhetoric. Trump’s rise to the White House wasn’t going to change the fact that we have become disillusioned to the wonders of our natural world. We are still exploiters, unable to see the beauty we destroy.

Now more than ever, we must acknowledge a few truths. One: Climate change is happening, and freak weather patterns that were once outliers are now normalities.

Two: The power of many can profoundly influence the way we act on destructive tendencies. Think about the people who fought their entire lives to see the legalization of same-sex marriage. It was these intrepid people who catalyzed the change, despite years of oppression and stigmatization. They made their voices heard despite the uphill battle they faced.

We now live in a country where love can be expressed freely, thanks to those who didn’t give up their fight. Now, more than ever, we who fight for a better environmental standard must keep up ours.

Now, we must rally behind Mother Nature so she can express her love to us freely, without the fear of being desecrated. We have her to thank for our existence, so let’s stop treating her without respect. Let’s start treating our natural world like it’s a privilege to have.

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