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People often take nature for granted just because it is everywhere. Seeing nature is different from observing it, hearing it is not the same as listening to it, walking within it is nothing like feeling it. Different cultures, but also different people in the same culture, have different perceptions of how the nature function and how it responds to the human actions. While every perception has a basis in the reality, some perceptions of nature are more accurate because they embrace reality more completely and more accurately.
Recognizing the existence of different perceptions can help to understand why and how different individuals and different societies interact with the environment and the nature in such strikingly different ways. The two authors John Lame Deer and Bill McKibben in their respective works, “Talking to the Owls and Butterflies” and “The End of Nature” provide the readers with the unique opportunity to discover the effects of the human being on the nature and gifting as well their own personal perceptions of nature.
In many cultures, ancient and modern, butterflies are symbols of change, transformation but mostly symbol of life and hope. Butterflies are insect that begins their life in one form and ends it in another. A butterfly starts living as a crawling creature, then it hibernates in a cocoon, only to rejoin the world as a beautiful, colorful, flying creature. On the other side, owls are seen as mysterious creatures, mostly because they live in the night and humans have always found the night to be full of mystery and unknown.
The owls, live within the darkness, which includes magic, mystery and often fear. Because of these reasons, the owls are somehow symbol of the unknown and the fear. When knowing what are the symbols of the butterflies and the owls in many cultures, it comes almost naturally to think that the title given by the author Lame Deer to his book “Talking to the Owls and Butterflies” might be referred to the human race trying to establish a relationship with the nature and its magic, while being scared of the unknown in the nature but knowing that in there life can be found and hoping to find a balance between the nature kingdom and the human being.
In ‘Talking to the Owls and Butterflies,’ the author John Lame Deer, begins with a a request for the modern people of the world by saying “Sit down here, all of us, on the open prairie, where we can’t see a highway or a fence. Let’s have no blanket to sit on, but feel the ground with our bodies, the earth, the yielding shrubs. Let’s have the grass for a mattress, experiencing its sharpness and it softness. Let us become like stones, plants and trees. Let us be animals, think and feel like animals”(687). More than a request, it seems to be an important invitation to the human being to understand how the life we built for ourselves is such an organized life of career and habits, that people are now trapped in the materialistic world that they put themselves in. “Watch the ashes, don’t smoke, you’ll stain the curtains. Watch the goldfish bowl, don’t breath on the parakeet, don’t lean your head against the wallpaper; your hair might be greasy. Don’t spill liquor on the table; it has a delicate finish.’ (688). It almost seems like people are not interested in experiencing the world, they do not want to hear it, smell it, taste it or feel it but they want to sanitize everything, so that only the desire for movement, progress and profit will remain and anything that hinders these ideals will be thrown to the side. People continuously improve their knowledge and develop technologies to improve their lives, these activities help to improve the life of human beings but at the same time these activities cause some side-effects to the Earth because of pollution, deforestation, and exaggerated natural resources exploitation.
Lame Deer, in his book, chose to focus mostly on how the white people have raped and violated, altered and degraded both the land and the animals on it, and taken away their power and spirit. “There is power in an antelope, but not in a goat or sheep, which holds still while you butcher it and will eat newspaper if you let it”(687). The point of view of Deer on the white people and what are the consequences of their behavior on nature, finds an interesting window of agreement in “The End of the Nature”, where McKibben, explains how the western people have considered the natural world as collection of resources to be developed as sources of food, habitat and raw materials, and how their ignored the sense of the natural beauty and the appreciation of it. Exactly like Deer, Mckibben, accuse the people of consuming and polluting the natural resources of the earth. The human being has over the ages been progressively moving towards a world and a life of destruction. What most people fail to realize is that this destruction is not only the destruction of the nature that surrounds us but it is also a systematic destruction of the universe inside ourselves.
We have been destroying trees, forests, but at the same time we have been destroying ourselves in terms of our mind, body and soul. If we destroy the nature, then also our health gets destroyed because all human beings need air to survive, actually we need oxygen contained in the air, while food is also a necessity, we can survive for days without it but without air, however, we would quickly die. During the process we call respiration we breathe in air into our lungs, when we release or exhale, carbon dioxide and water vapor are released and the oxygen we take in helps to oxidize or “burn food.” Plants are the cornerstone of this process. All living things depend upon food synthesized from raw materials in the leaves of green plants. Plants depend on their parts to help produce this food. For example, trees absorb carbon dioxide and other gases, such as sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide, from the air and release oxygen so they help us to live better and it is also important to know that one large tree can supply a day’s supply of oxygen for four people.
Both McKibben and Deer lament the loss of the concept of wilderness, or unspoiled nature by the people that caused an increasingly alteration in the natural world and the loss of the real meaning of nature so that it became almost impossible for us to appreciate the value of a pure and unspoiled natural environment. Global environmental problems as acid rain, the greenhouse effect, the depletion of the ozone layer, and the massive destruction of tropical rain forests, humankind has lost its sense of nature as an infinitely renewable resource capable of absorbing any amount of human alteration. The air, the water, trees, land, and oceans all have become increasingly subject to environmental degradation to the point that they have lost their natural resiliency. The earth, is like a great organism suffering from the impact of man’s technological civilization and it’s natural, self-regulating systems have reached the limits of their capacity to absorb manmade pollutants and are being seriously degraded by the deluge of toxic environmental pollutants. With the loss of the health of the natural environment, McKibben argues, humans will be forced to manage the entire planet as an artificial environment, as a convalescing patient whose health must be constantly monitored.
Huge natural cataclysms have occurred periodically in the history of the earth, there is no clear way of predicting the effects of possible human global alterations of the natural environment. The warning signs, however, of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, with dire forecasts of global warming, massive changes in weather patterns, melting of the polar ice caps, and a consequent rise in the level of the oceans, have given scientists pause for thought. In much the same way that studies of the global consequences of nuclear war led to the hypothesis of a nuclear winter, warning of the equally serious cumulative effects of global atmospheric pollution from the burning of fossil fuels. For example, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) “ Iran’s south eastern Zabol city ranks first among the most polluted cities in the world. The pollution is believed to be caused by the dust carried in the atmospheric circulation to the west of Iran. Some have blamed the desertification of lagoons in Iraq and the strong winds from the deserts of Saudi Arabia for the blanket of dust reaching Iranian cities. The air pollution is a result from the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, natural gas, and gasoline to produce electricity and power our vehicles, thus, the human being while trying to improve is making suffer the nature and is giving people a low quality of lifestyle in terms of health”.
The nature can be compared to the lungs of a human being, if the lungs of a person are trespassed, the person is not healthy. What we see on National Geographic or on the Discovery Channel or in movies, about animals, is slowly disappearing. “Humans have dammed a third of the world’s rivers, have covered, destroyed or altered half of the world’s land surface. We use up most of the freshwater faster than it can be replenished. And we extinct about 30,000 species every year. From the original equilibrium of 10 million people to 10 billion people, the nature just can’t handle this density of humans and because of that the nature is slowly losing the battle against humanity” says the Mirror magazine last month, which chose to show to the world some devastating pictures that reveal how the human being is ruining our planet and its beauty. In the article shown by the Mirror magazine there is a picture of a polar bear in Norway who died when the fjords didn’t freeze enough because of the climate change that have been occuring, there is also a picture of a melting ice cap on North East Land, Svalbard, Norway, which has shrunk down for around 3827 square miles. These pictures, are just some of the events or better the ways the nature is showing its pain.
The excessive pollution and degradation of the land are a concrete and sad evidence of our attitude towards our land and ourselves. “How we will feel the end of nature?” (750) asked McKibben, in my opinion, it is not possible to stop the human being from progress and from discovery because in the change that the human being made, there are also some good ones such as the medical discoveries that allowed people in the past to don’t die of a simple flue anymore and are allowing some people now to continue living even if sick. The human kind is a particular kind, a kind that will never be completely satisfied and will always want more, but in this thirst of progress we should remember to respect our planet and learn from the mistakes. The reality is that every big progress made by the human being has consequences, that might go on for years, like in Japan where the invention of the atomic bombs caused not only the complete destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki but as a long-term effect radiations exposure increased the cancer rates in the survivors and caused high rates of cancer and birth defects for generations after the 1945. Unfortunately, like in this case, it is not possible to go back and change the past, but it is possible to learn how to balance the present because we can and it is our job to keep alive our world, like McKibben said “When changing nature, means changing everything, then we have a crisis. We are in charge now, like it or not. As a species we are as gods” (753).
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