“in the end, everything that is against nature has no future.”
a walk through the woods or the sight of the ocean fills us with happiness and pure joy. looking at nature makes us pleasantly aware of our own existence. in his book “alles fühlt – mensch, natur und die revolution der lebenswissenschaft” (“eveything feels – people, nature and the revolution of life science”), phd philosopher and marine biologist andreas weber wants to find out why. weber comes to the basic conclusion that animals and plants are more closely related to us than we might have thought. the fauna and flora around us make us feel the “central dimensions of our feelings, without which our souls must whither.” according to weber, this is the reason why people feel so attracted to nature. he adds that we can only preserve our own humanity and freedom by preserving our nature.
in his book, the german marine biologist states that our affection and longing for other creatures and nature doesn’t stem from some kind of sentimental, romantic or esoteric illusion, but from an eternal need in life. weber quotes greek philosopher aristotle, who also worked as an animal researcher and already came to the following conclusion more than 2,000 years ago: “every thing that lives strives to be. everything longs to be, to persist … to be more. it craves to unfold, to procreate, to expand, to soak up more of this precious stuff we breathe in – this thirst is called life.” and to be and unfold, man needs the nature that surrounds him.
weber says that we shouldn’t only protect our environment because it is useful or has been there long before us. instead we should do this because we love and need nature, because we are part of it and it is part of us.
from ancient cave paintings to today’s aborigine art, primitive depictions of human self-concept and self-discovery have always shown animals and other creatures. many tribes have been living in an inextricable relationship with and in awe of animals, plants and even stones. many of today’s human ecologists are convinced that our ancestors needed animals to understand their own world. to them, nature meant order, a kind of society with many different relationships.
we can also see our close connection with nature when we take a look at our children. they climb trees, splash in the water, collect twigs, flowers, beetles and worms, longing to immerse themselves in a profoundly moving world. independent of different cultures, the very first children’s books often tend to be about animals. kids are fascinated by animals and magnetically attracted by them. stuffed toy animals are just one example of the vital role animals play in the formative years of growing up. children love dogs, cats, snakes, lions, elephants, monkeys, tigers and rhinos because they are so much alive and help them understand their own being.
famous anthropologist claude lévi-strauss once claimed that animals are necessary for our “wild human thinking”, while human ecologist paul shephard even says that six-year-olds mentally and spiritually still are the “children of prehistoric hunters”. philosopher andreas weber adds that “every encounter with nature shakes our self-concept as a biological being like a breeze rattling the treetops”.
if you take a closer look, you can see “the marks of the natural” surrounding us everywhere we go, even in our cities, streets, houses and apartments. in addition to big city parks and green spaces, urban nature mostly becomes apparent in private gardens, roof gardens, pot plants on windowsills and nature-themed decorations such as flowers and blossoms printed on table cloths, wallpapers and interior design elements.
man’s close relationship with nature also becomes apparent in our love for pets. for many years, they have accompanied us not only as productive livestock but as guardians of our social and emotional longing. “everything that defines us, even our most human traits, has grown from an organic soil,” says marine biologist weber. “that’s why we can only truly understand ourselves if we see ourselves as cultural beings within nature.” according to him, the worst thing about destroying our environment is that this kind of understanding will gradually be buried.
how strongly the laws of nature influence our behaviour becomes apparent in many areas of our lives. mood swings, drives and instincts accompany and define our entire being and actions. human characteristics like greed or thirst for power make it clear to the greatness of the extent that modern, civilized man is still driven by animal instincts and emotions. this fact is also underlined by nobel laureate in economics george a. akerlof and economics professor robert j. shiller in their book “animal spirits”, in which they point out how economic decisions are often based on animal instincts – often with a destructive result.
however, nature shows us that even the biggest catastrophe will one day give way to new blossoming and hope. for instance, in many cultures the tree stands synonymous with life and renewal. after every “death” in winter, spring brings a new awakening accompanied by growth and fruit. this goes to show that productivity, renewal and harmony are just as much a part of human existence and nature as decay and failure. this is why plants are often used as symbols for lively and creative things in constant renewal.
“nothing is as perfect as nature’s wisdom” was the motto of the expo taking place in japan a couple of years ago. in many millions of years, nature developed all those fascinating colours, shapes and functions and brought them to perfection. in line with this statement, evolutionary biologist and human theoretician edward o. wilson once said that he had never “seen an ant that wasn’t an object of beauty”.
plants and animals have often inspired innovative products, designs or processes, ranging from the shiny metallic colours of tropical birds and beetles that are used in the production of cosmetics and paint to the spines of hedgehogs and porcupines as a model for economical elastic structures. another example is the firefly, which produces cold light with almost zero loss of energy. nature and its diverse, freedom-loving organisms also teach us that it’s healthier to create several flexible entities instead of huge central monopolies. after all, “freedom is a gift of the oceans”, as economist and sociologist pierre joseph proudhon already stated back in the early 19th century. an insight that is still valid today and could be used as an appealing metaphor for life itself.
“every encounter with nature shakes our self-concept as a biological being”. in his essay about nature, helmut wolf explains our close and varied relationship with nature, which we can feel every day.
book source: “alles fühlt - mensch, natur und die revolution der lebenswissenschaften“ by andreas weber, berlin verlag