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The Interdependence of Nature

The Unknown's picture

Rosa Nanasi Haas

Jody Cohen

Emily Balch Seminar: Changing Our Story

November 7, 2014


If humans are considered to be interconnected with and apart of nature’s cycle, then should we not be included in its definition? Why are people the only parts of nature who seem to be actively causing the destruction of the rainforest, driving more and more species into extinction, and rapidly increasingly the effects of climate change? Do these actions exclude people from the symbiotic-natural system? How could we work with and beside nature without harming it? It starts with listening and a humble search to discover nature’s tricks and hidden processes. Though it is difficult to see how people fit into the grand design of nature when it seems that we provide nothing unique to nature and seem to be constantly demolishing, misinterpreting, and failing to understand the natural systems around us, whether intentionally or non-intentionally, nonetheless, it is vital to our survival to see, search for, and discover the interconnections that do exist.

            People interpret and view nature in many different ways. Some people see nature as destructive, submissive, abundant, efficient, endangered, magical, or brilliant. Unfortunately, these words, even though some are viewed as beautiful and unique, they are not complex enough to include many of nature’s facets and forms. These terms will never be able to dabble in some of the crucial parts of nature because the words have been created by people. Individuals have choked and misrepresented nature with their language. Unfortunately, nature cannot speak for itself, people do not understand its language, or individuals have not tried hard enough to connect with the natural world. All three are likely possibilities. Either way, we are only shown and comprehend a sliver of nature’s story. Although language is constantly changing, it does not change fast enough to keep up with the faster, altering and reforming environment it seeks to explain.

            Throughout “Wissahickon Schist,” Karl Kirchwey struggles to find answers in a rock without understanding its language or how to interpret its colors, rough edges, or changing surfaces. Kirchwey appreciates the difficulty and complexity of people’s desire to find the meaning in nature’s expressions: “You look for a plane along which it will cleave to admit the self, but it is you who are divided always between resolution and doubt…” (Kirchwey 1). Kirchwey describes how people are constantly caught in a balance between what they think they know about nature and questioning these “truths.”  This uncertainty can be uncomfortable and overwhelming.

Burke claims that it is impossible to uncover the formula for the planet because people did not design or create the planet. Humans cannot understand many of the connections in nature nor the reasons why these relationships exist because they were not there when the systems were being established. Therefore, what gives me the right to interpret my environment? I do not claim to be able to explain my surroundings, but my ignorance does not completely prevent me from being influenced and changed by my environment. I am caught between what I perceive to be true and what I know to be true, what I desire to define and what I know I do not understand, and the constant surprises nature breaths into life.

            I struggle to do justice to nature’s form and the complex ways in which it presents itself through the language I have at my disposal partly because it is difficult to see myself as another part of nature’s scheme. I find myself in mostly “unnatural” settings. To me “unnatural” means any environment that has been heavily influenced by people, such as Bryn Mawr College. The idea of “nature” in its most raw form is still foreign and uncomfortable to me. I have not figured out a clear definition of what the “environment” includes. Where are the limits? Who or what decides what nature consists of?

            Bryn Mawr College attempts to branch people’s imprint on the institution to the environment surrounding the college. The college strives to tangle the two worlds by fusing old architecture with looming, stark, interwoven sturdy trees, and roots that stretch below buildings, connecting ideas, linking feelings, and dispersing knowledge. Though the buildings and layout were created using natural materials, the shapes and figures the materials have manifested into have become so removed from their original shape. Does the architecture resemble collaboration between nature and people or just another example of people taking advantage of and manipulating nature? I doubt when people look at the dining hall or a dorm they think wow! How natural looking. People were learning about the ways the construction of this building would be the least harmful and most beneficial to the trees and species in the area around these structures.

Unfortunately, it is not only about people’s lack of lack of awareness about the needs and structures of nature, but individuals have created nature and the landscape’s history by forcefully implanting flora in the college’s setting. New species are interacting with each other that would not have come into contact if it had not been for the “helping” hand of humans. New life is being created by our hand. Is this natural? Many of the plants I see our “beautiful” and appealing to the eye because they were designed and placed in intentional positions by people. It seems that people’s idea of what makes nature attractive has been influenced by society and what nature is “supposed” to look like. This idea has not taken into consideration how the local ecosystem will be affected by the new plants.

I have trouble seeing myself as another string in the web of nature and therefore it is extremely difficult for me to learn about subjects that are traditionally taught indoors in the natural environment, outside. I am disturbed by how distracting I find the outdoors. Rather than feeling comfortable sitting next to sprouting flowers, or under an expansive and far-reaching canopy of overlapping bridges of life, I search restlessly for where the sound of a crunch, wisp, shake came from. My focus on academics abandons me. When discussing a novel, learning about people, or studying traditional curriculum, I feel out-of-place, disconnected, and removed when the lesson is taught outdoors. My eyes wonder with a curious nervousness. I am troubled by what I do not know, what I struggle to understand, and my strong sense of separation.

My personal feelings and experiences toward traditional forms of education do not make studying in the natural environment any less valuable or necessary. In fact, my uneasiness with schooling in more “natural” settings is one of the key reasons learning should occur out of a classroom setting more often. Questions such as, why do I not feel connected to nature, if nature is all around me, feeding me, keeping me warm, happy, content?should be debated and considered more often. People should not feel “out of place” when they are in place-in the environment they walk through to get to class-but do not stop and revel in, instead rush out of. We should not be viewing nature with my lens, as something separate from us, but as an energy that is as essential and connected to our lives as our lovers, families, friends, and teachers.

The question then becomes how do people work with nature, learn from nature, acquire all kinds of knowledge in, from, and with nature, and not see ourselves as separate from nature. As the concerns of climate change continue and intensify and more and more extreme weather events occur, how can we flip the switch and see this as a collective problem? How can we take our appreciation for the environment, which includes humanity, to prevent further repercussions of climate change? It all begins with redefining humanity’s role and place in the natural world and seeing ourselves entrenched in nature’s design. This is not an option, but a vital perspective that must be realized. This way of thinking must be the catalyst for action and change that is essential to our survival as humans.


Works Cited Page

Burke, Ted. "LIKE IT OR NOT:Ted Burke: School of Defeatitude." LIKE IT OR NOT:Ted Burke: School of Defeatitude. Ted Burke, 8 July 2010. Web. 3 Nov.    2014. <>.

Karl, Kirchwey. "Wissahickon Schist" Slate Magazine. The Slate Group, 6 July 2010.  Web. 3 Nov. 2014. <>.