Nature?

Up to this point in the semester, we have craftily avoided any sustained discussion of what constitutes “nature.”  Let’s remedy that. For this response, find one example of something you think of as “natural” and share it here on the web site, along with a brief explanation of *why* you think it fits into this category. I am hoping to encourage a group conversation about this difficult term, in the context of our readings and through the use of concrete, real-world examples.

Due before class next Thursday, March 19.

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26 thoughts on “Nature?

  1. http://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-26358890 (image 6 of 12)

    When I went to Greece, I had the opportunity to go into some of the houses that were built into the mountains. They were incredible, but to think of them in terms of “nature” can be debatable. On one hand, the inhabitants are integrating with the natural surroundings and contours of the mountain. However, they can also be seen as exploiting and altering the mountains for their beauty and location. The location is a key factor, especially because the Greek Islands are small and congested. Therefore, it seems fitting that individuals would need to exploit all the areas of the island, including it’s mountains.

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  2. Nature at the Subatomic Level:

    When the majority of people think of nature, they describe the flora, fauna and things that they can visibly see with their eyes. Generally, they do not include things that are at a subatomic level; however that does not mean that these minuscule particles should be excluded from the definition of nature. Smaller organisms such as atoms should also be considered to be a part of nature because of their fundamental importance. These subatomic particles make up every single thing in the universe, including the air, the landscape, living organisms, every single thing that could be considered to be part of nature, and even more. These atoms are crucial to our existence. For instance, without the individual atoms that make up water molecules, life could not exist. Although water is included in everyone’s idea of nature, few remember to include the smaller elements that water is composed of, even though without them, there would be no life, and there would certainly be no nature.

    The links below are an image of an atom, an image of what it might look like if you could witness subatomic particles colliding and an image of Niagara Falls, respectively. The last two images really capture the overwhelming power of nature.

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  3. While ultimately I agree with the definition of nature as anything occurring within the universe, it’s a little too broad to really be useful. Instead I prefer the definition that nature is anything that occurs without human interference of any kind no matter how circumspect. The only real places these occur would be prior to a couple million years ago when humans evolved to our current form, and in hypotheticals that take us out of the current equation. I chose the above picture because it shows a landscape and fauna that predates humanity.

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  4. I’ve only seen photos of the San Francisco Flower Conservatory, but it’s a lasting example of the personal conservatories wealthy aristocrats of the 19th century added onto their homes, and like the ones mentioned in narratives we read earlier this semester. Although the San Francisco Flower Conservatory is a manmade feature, exhibiting flowers imported from other countries, I think it still constitutes as “Nature”. The Flower Conservatory is a popular landmark and tourist destination, and it gives people who have an appreciation of Nature and flowers a chance to see exotic plants from other countries that they wouldn’t ordinarily have direct access to. Right now the Conservatory is doing an exhibit on aquatic plants and tropical underwater gardens, giving people an opportunity to see and appreciate the beauty of aquatic plant life.


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  5. When thinking about what I consider “natural” or being a part of nature, I am drawn to one specific place. My husband’s family has a summer home in Northern Michigan which we lovingly call “the cottage.” It’s a beautiful home on Burt Lake, surrounded by woods. Although this place is clearly not “natural,” because it’s a manufactured home with electric, plumbing, running water, cable TV and all the other amenities we’ve come to expect from our homes, it is the place where I feel closest to nature. All it takes is sitting on the dock and playing with my son or hiking through the woods to make me realize how serene nature can be. So, no matter how manufactured the house, the dock or the amenities, nature in its simplest form can be found nearly anywhere. There are two definitions I have found which sum up my feelings about nature, they are both from, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nature. They state: 1) A creative and controlling force in the universe and 2) Humankind’s original or natural condition. I believe these definitions define my vision of nature.

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  6. First I think it is important to consider what constitutes nature. It is defined as the natural world that exists independently of human activities. This is a tricky definition, because it suggests that anything that humans interfere with is not considered completely natural. I simply cannot agree with this. In class, we looked at pictures of different things and decided which ones should be considered nature. One thing in particular that really stayed with me was the Garden of Versailles. Many people were quick to say that it was not natural because of the human interference. While I can see why someone would argue this, I still think it should be considered nature. Granted, it is not as natural as a forest or a river, but it is certainly still a part of nature. It is not as if the leaves are plastic, and there are many fountains throughout the garden as well. What about topiaries? These are bushes that are shaped and trimmed. Just because they are altered by human interaction does not suddenly deem them unnatural. I think that things can still very well be considered natural even if they undergo human interference. It is all about perspective.

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  7. I would hesitate to call anything that man has touched as nature. The only things left I would consider are volcanoes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Though some may say man has affected them, they are still uncontrollable. I think we try to create as much as we can in the name of nature, but is my salt water aquarium really nature. I try to keep the environment as close to natural as possible. Even natural water wonders have been affected by structures such as dams, dikes, and levee’s. So are they natural anymore? The only thing natural to me is anything that man has yet figured out a way to prevent.

    http://www.capitalwired.com/volcano-eruptions-can-pause-global-warming/26560/

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  8. The notion that nature encompasses the vastness of the universe is a definition that I found to be intriguing. Although it is a broad concept, I don’t think we should necessarily limit nature to the confines of Earth. The images I chose to accompany this definition depicts a white pine bonsai tree and a bouquet of flowers, which were both subjects of the “Exbiotanica” project by Japanese artist Azuma Makoto. The artist’s description also seems to reveal a similar understanding of nature as the universe: “Within the harsh “nature”, at an attitude of 30,000 meters and minus 50 degrees Celsius, the plants evolve into EXBIOTA (extraterrestrial life).” Regardless of human interaction and the fact that these plants have been removed from their natural environment, I think this project shows the potential for a universal conception of nature.
    http://azumamakoto.com/?p=5051
    http://www.artshub.co.uk/news-article/bits-and-blogs/visual-arts/assistant-editor/50-year-old-bonsai-and-flowers-sent-to-space-in-the-name-of-art-245294
    [IMG]http://i58.tinypic.com/5ebi3o.jpg[/IMG]
    [IMG]http://i61.tinypic.com/2nvge2b.jpg[/IMG]

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  9. For this assignment, I would like to start by discussing the meaning of the term “nature”, and what its definition encompasses. By definition, nature means the physical world and everything in it (such as plants, animals, mountains, oceans, stars, etc.) that is not made by people. From what is to be understood by its definition, I believe anything in physical existence that has not been made or altered by human activities is to be considered natural. With this in mind, I chose a picture of a morning sunrise to depict what can never be changed, and will forever remain natural.

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  10. I do not believe that nature has to be independent from human activities as I would consider things such as dredging the ocean to replenish sand on public beaches, or creating a protected wildlife sanctuary all aspects of nature. When I think of nature, the Yatir Forest in Israel comes to mind even though the forest’s creation is due to human interaction. The Yatir Forest is the largest forest in Israel’s afforestation program. Afforestation is the establishment of a forest in an area where there previously was no forest. Since afforestation efforts began to turn the arid desert land into a place suitable for agriculture and human habitation, over 240 million trees have been planted. Tree planting is an ancient tradition in the Jewish culture, and I remember being very proud to have trees planted in Israel under my name. I do not believe that nature must remain free from human interference. The Yatir forest, though planted and created by humans, is not overly cultivated. At a glance, it appears to be a lush area of “natural” beauty.

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  11. When I think of nature, I see nature as an environment that has been grown from the Earth. I feel that trees, flowers, hills, cliffs, caverns, rivers, and lakes can be considered as part of nature. Humans can be considered as nature, but to what extent? I went to New York during my vacation, and I went to the botanic garden in Brooklyn with my father. I looked around and all I saw is GREEN and all kinds of colors. Yes, everything that I saw in the garden were trees, flowers, small waterfalls, and a tree house. Everything that I saw in the garden have been grown from the earth, however, this garden has been built, structured, maintained, and routinely checked by human beings. I saw a greenhouse, Japanese garden, and a tree house. It gets confusing when defining “nature” and what you can call “natural”. The tree house was built out of trees into an area where people can sit and walk around, especially when the kids can climb on the tree house. What can be natural about the tree house, for example, is that it was made out of trees, but what’s not natural about the tree house is that it was made into a tree house by a group of people, has stairs and seats for people to sit on. Even the small waterfall in the Japanese garden. The water falling from the rocks, which can be similar from the various waterfalls in forests, may seem natural, but what’s not natural is the assumption that the water falling is probably because there’s a pipe that runs water onto the rocks to make them fall. The botanic garden is all things natural because of the plants and the trees. However, the way the garden was structured is done by human beings, not by Earth. The Earth didn’t create roads or paths that lead from one place to another. What is natural is what grows from the Earth, what the Earth creates from its very ground.

    http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.nycgo.com/images/460×285/BBG_Japanese_waterfall_460x285.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.nycgo.com/articles/brooklyn-botanic-garden-culture-spot-2012&h=285&w=460&tbnid=ISyZ6hbKZbPKvM:&zoom=1&docid=lzZbna35-2CbMM&ei=v94IVbHHIoOfNrXFgPAM&tbm=isch&ved=0CEYQMyg-MD44yAE

    http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://buddydon.blogspot.com/brooklyn_botanic_garden_lily_blossoms_profile.jpg&imgrefurl=http://buddydon.blogspot.com/2006/05/pitchers-tuck-by-buddy-don
    brooklyn.html&h=2304&w=3456&tbnid=8mzgUoExcKDirM:&zoom=1&docid=YfEN_l6gqlCZ_M&ei=Ac0IVcTIDMagNqXggOgL&tbm=isch&ved=0CIsBEDMoTzBP

    http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.redesignrevolution.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Sandy-Tree-House-Installation-Brooklyn-Botanic-Garden-NYC-1.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.redesignrevolution.com/eco-monday-tree-house-installation-at-brooklyn-botanic-garden/&h=420&w=620&tbnid=hJKcylCJGi5T_M:&zoom=1&docid=yb4i8ZVdOwVEFM&ei=K-AIVbbbM4yANu2ygagH&tbm=isch&ved=0CGgQMyhgMGA4ZA&biw=1366&bih=611

    http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https://nyctravelexpert.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/botanic-gardens.jpg&imgrefurl=https://nyctravelexpert.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/the-brooklyn-botanical-gardens-nyc%25E2%2580%2599s-%25E2%2580%2598other%25E2%2580%2599-great-park/&h=226&w=325&tbnid=Mjbq6VzFQEXFXM:&zoom=1&docid=3LNtOPy_no_SuM&ei=a-AIVcqMCczagwSzxoKoDA&tbm=isch&ved=0CB8QMygXMBc4yAE

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    • Press the links under the paragraph in order to view the pictures. There also may be an issue with the second link, so simply look up Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Google and you’ll see various pictures of the garden.

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  12. According to the eighth definition of nature http://www.thefreedictionary.com/nature, nature is “the normal biological needs or urges of the body.” Nature in general is something that is unaltered by an outside force. Because animals have biological needs, hunting prey is nature, sex for reproduction is nature, and taking fruits from trees is natural because fruits are there for the plants’ benefit. When the body feels biological urges to eat, it will alter the prey’s nature. It is nature because animals evolved to need to consume for its survival. Eating prey alters the nature of the prey, so is eating prey really natural? There are carnivorous animals that must eat other living breathing prey in order to live. I believe that nature is a cycle and the consumption of prey is a part of it.

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  13. Visually the salt beds of Peru can be viewed as a picturesque scene to be consumed in the eyes of the onlooker or possibly tourist. What’s interesting, however, is that these salt pools are not ‘organically’ part of nature. They were constructed during the Chanapata culture of Peru between AD 200 and AD 900, and still monitored by a human element – the flow of the water in the pools is monitored by workers. The salt beds are available for the citizens of Maras to use to harvest salt. I would consider these Pre-Inca salt beds to be part of nature. It can be considered ‘natural scenery,’ it also contains elements of the natural world, despite being connected to humanity and human development. These salt beds can be considered part of Second Nature, except unlike some instances where human interference has caused the natural scenery to be stripped of its inherent beauty the salt beds of Peru is an intriguing and memorizing sight to take in. (info of salt beds found here: http://www.amusingplanet.com/2013/04/pre-inca-salt-pools-at-maras-peru.html)

    http://www.rebeccaarnoldphotography.com/travel/tp1opka5ykg1egbi31og1qz4hb3c9o

    Salt pans

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  14. When it comes to glass, many people often think of its as a human constructed material used for doors, windows, skylights, light bulbs, etc. But, I see glass as “natural” because, when one considers humans to be a part of nature, by extension, what humans craft is a part of nature. If humans are taken out of the equation, there are instances where glass is created by natural phenomena. One of the instances in which the glass is created in this manner is when lightning strikes rock or sand; this particular type of glass is called a fulgurite. (Fulgurite can also be created by humans by manipulating certain elements and processes.)
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fulgurite

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  15. I prefer to think of Nature as more along the lines of “Natural;” As in, “the instincts or inherent tendencies directing conduct” as seen on definition 9 here http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/nature Thus, when a predator is attempting to catch and eat prey, it is behaving naturally. It can apply to humans to, in how someone inherently acts, so that you would describe it as “in their nature.” Given how hard it is to pin down nature with many definitions excluding man or leaving out certain things like gardens due to man partially helping, i feel this definition as appropriate to a degree. It must be pointed out how this definition, too, is not a great fit since it can include domesticated animals as well.

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  16. When I first started thinking about this assignment, it being strawberry season, I thought about when my grandparents used to take me strawberry picking. When I thought about it more though, it wasn’t necessarily the strawberry fields as an agricultural entity that gave me the feeling of natural immersion; it was crouching in the soil, the leaves brushing against my hand as I picked berries and feeling the sun on my back and neck as I dropped them in my basket and moved down the row. Nature – for me – is when I feel connected to the earth in some way; to enjoy a closeness with the earth. This experience of nature can occur in a variety instances: smelling the scent of afternoon rain on the breeze, feeling the moist coolness of a river rock, tasting the dry grit of rising dust in my mouth on a dirt road for instance.

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  17. There are numerous definitions of nature but my favorite is this one: The phenomena of the physical world collectively. There’s an immense void filled of curiosity that comes with the word phenomena, an abundance of unknown which is the natural world. Every atom and every fraction of light is nature. The natural encompasses nature, it’s a never-ending cycle. Nature to me at its finest is the enormous ocean waves under the secluded night sky. The ocean, grand and intimidating, at night represents nature in its purest form. This picture of the ocean on the darkest night is the same as the infinite universe in space, both which are nature in its scary, beautiful, and eternal form all at once.


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  18. I think that, at least colloquially, when we discuss nature what we really mean primarily is organic life. Rocky landscapes are not seen as vulnerable and needing protection because they cannot literally die, though they can be altered, destroyed, and made uninhabitable. Hairs can be split about this, obviously, but nevertheless I usually think of nature in terms of what it means to be organic versus inorganic. Human habitation is not quite irrelevant to this definition (or angle really), however, since it is the greatest catalyst of environmental change. Rather, it is it’s own example of organic life within the concept of nature as organic existence, only it gets a lot more emphasis because of its potency.

    Anyway, in trying to think up of an example of how to express nature as organic manifestation, I had to consider what is critical in life forms. A lot of the time it is tempting for nature loving people to personify Nature as a teaching mother, someone good and wise and fair, and we are supposed to derive lessons from how peaceful nature is. This view bothers me because nature is violent and without adherence to human morals. So, if not some sort of moral good, I have to wonder what “Nature” with the capital ‘N’ would be trying to teach us, if anything, and the only thing that seems to make sense across all species, including humans, is that for life to exist, life must live. Organisms must survive within the inorganic world in order to breed. One of the most impressive examples of this that I know of is the crocodile of Mauritania, in the Sahara desert. Crocodiles, and other reptiles, have always amazed me because of how adaptive (and cute) they are, and crocodiles have lived through the ice age. Because they are ‘ancient’ animals, they are often called primitive, when in reality they are amazingly adaptable and fine-tuned predators for a lot of amazing reasons. Being ‘ancient’ does not make them slow, dumb, or primitive, but rather it makes them more sophisticated in terms of survival tactics. The crocodile is a semi-aquatic predator and needs water to hunt. However, the crocodiles of Mauritania go six to eight months without any access to large bodies of water at all, and therefore no food. Rather, they hibernate underground, getting most of their energy from the desert heat, and waiting for the annual wet season to hunt and breed. From an organic-centered perspective, this kind of amazing perseverance is nature at it’s most resilient.

    I originally learned about this crocodile from the BBC documentary “Dragons Alive,” one of few reptile-based documentaries that has meaningful information about reptiles beyond “Look how deadly and creepy!” so I highly recommend it. The segment on desert crocs is in the chapter “Future Reptiles” which considers the future survival of various reptiles in increasingly human-dominated terrain. In the following link, it runs from 3:25 to 7:25. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gi5OA2XFYGg

    Further, National Geographic has an article about it as well with more specific data on them: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/06/0617_020618_croc.html

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  19. Although I tend to agree with the “everything that exist is nature” mindset, I think that anything that has to be forced into existence is definitely less natural then say, a tree growing in the forest.
    I mean it’s hard to imagine a giant planet made of plastic and discarded iPhone cases floating around somewhere in outer space but who am I to question the workings of the universe right? Who knows what’s possible. But to me, “nature” are all of those things in this world and in this universe that happen organically and by accident, to a certain extent. Human are a part of nature, i’ve never felt otherwise. Even the structures we build are a part of it to a certain extent because all creatures alive seek shelter when bad weather comes or a place to sleep at night. There’s nothing unnatural about building or modifying the land but there is something unnatural in the materials we use. Where as a bird builds its nest out of the discarded parts of a tree, we take the fossilized gunk of dead dinosaurs and turn it into plastic to cover our roofs with.
    So to me, nature is anything that can occur naturally, without extreme human ingenuity and manipulation.

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  20. For the most part, I believe Nature is anything that isn’t maliciously manipulated by humans. Human interaction isn’t always going to disrupt Nature and the best example for that are the Hot Springs in Laugarvatn Fontana in Iceland. This is a health spa that opened in 2011 however the springs date back to the year 1000. All the steam rooms in their facilities are heated all through the springs underground –– it is also to be noted that you can actually hear the boiling water from the ground. The steam baths are take place in naturally occurring hot springs. The spa allows its guest to make use of the beach, called Ströndin, that naturally has warm black sand which has should to help people with any joint or muscle pain. Because Iceland is very protective of their springs, they have strict rules as to in what condition can people use the hot springs. It may seem “unnatural” first, but everything is made by Nature and it would surely keep existing if the spa decided to close down and leave.

    Below are some links to what Laugarvatn Fontana looks like:


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  21. When I think of nature, I picture a growth from Earth itself. This growth is a specimen that flourishes from the nutrients given to it by the planet. I chose a picture of weeds because when I think of this naturally flourishing specimen, I think of plants. But, humans create their own landscapes with plants to make it presentable. Where I see nature, there is no “planned” execution, but rather wild and free… Like weeds!
    Picture in link:

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  22. I am very late to the game (totally thought this was something we were turning in during class time), but I agree with many of the above ideas regarding the definition of nature. Here is what I originally wrote up:

    While we may wish to describe some sort of lush environment thriving with animal and plant life, this representation becomes problematic. Are these plant and animal species native or were they introduced by some mechanism of the human race? If they are non native, does that mean they are unnatural? Perhaps we can consider the weather as a natural movement of the planet. It acts in accordance to natural processes, indeed. Hurricanes and blizzards result from the temperate and relation of the entire planet. Yet, is global warming a natural cause? Are humans natural?
    Ultimately, the atom may be considered the basic unit of nature. Everything in existence, whether created by humans or occurring without our assistance at all, is comprised of the atom. Every living thing on this planet is simply manipulating the atomic structures we were provided on earth. Essentially, the beginning of life was the building of atoms to create the first organisms which eventually became plants, animals, and humans.
    As we have explored in class, the definition of nature has taken on a new meaning in our society over the last one hundred years. Urbanization, industrialization, and over consumption have changed our surrounding environment so much so that we can see the physical effects within one lifetime. Overall, nature is a difficult idea to define, yet the very attempt to define it is perhaps the most effective way for its protection to become a topic of conversation.

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  23. Ultimately, when I think of nature I think of foliage, dirt, creepy crawlies and wild animals. I think of something that has been untouched by reason. It seems that everything in, “nature” thrives from instinct. It works without hesitation, it grows and survives. Here in this picture we have a forest. The forest does just these things. It’s ground is dirt, filled with worms and bugs, and then the animals that eat those bugs, and we go up the food chain from there. Everything in the forest seems to be balanced and everything has a role. However, the deeper I delve into this question the more confused I get. Even though people are natural organic beings, it seems that they currently are so far removed from that original, animalistic yet caretaker type role that meshes into the natural circle of life. Therefore currently, I see nature as somewhere untouched by man. Somewhere that is not welcoming to a human. Even though, generally all our personal materials first come from nature, they are eventually altered out of their natural state to be made into something else. That to me, doesn’t feel like nature.

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  24. When I think of nature, I think of anything that is meant to be untouched by humans. The great barrier reef is has gone through a great deal of destruction due solely to the careless nature of humans. Because it has had so much interaction with humans, calling it completely natural may be problematic. However, I feel that its fragile nature and inability to survive when it comes into contact with humans, is an attribute of something that is completely natural. It seems to me that nature is something that is inharmonious with human beings. Being that the Great Barrier Reef will only survive if we limit most, if not all, human contact with it, Its inability to mesh with human nature makes it completely natural.

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