Nature and Wilderness
One essence of being human is that you are an adaptable and nomadic creature. Your innate preferences are layered like layers in sedimentary rock that allows geologists to read the history of a place over millions of years. Your deepest feelings come from the oldest parts of your brain that still recognize features of an environment that appealed to early mammals and perhaps to more ancient creatures such as reptiles and dinosaurs.
Humans are animals among animals who lived in crisis and depended on their relationships with other animals. Some were prey, others were predators. Animal spirits permeated the natural world and preoccupied superstitious humans. Humans evolved in Africa and followed a lineage from tree-living primates who ate plants and insects to ground-dwelling creatures that wandered further and further as time went on, perfecting the attributes and skills of nomadic hunters and gatherers. Human ancestors in the past 200,000 years have wandered all over the planet and settled in every place that could sustain their life. Our deepest recognitions come from contact with rocks, wood, fire, metal, bone and water. The history of the unique features of our mind is rooted in a very slow, gradual transformation from creatures who lived in nature to creatures who clustered in crowded space and transformed the nature of rocks, bone and wood into tools, weapons, clothing and shelters.
The finest of homes to this day display rock, wood and fire. Civilized humans still cook meat over fires in kitchens, backyards and fires improvised on beaches, feeling more peaceful and authentic on a camping trip when they are closer to their wilder nature. When you go to a beach, you will collect stones and shells and sometimes pieces of wood that have been sculpted by waves. You don’t really know why you find these natural objects so attractive. You cannot recall how your distant ancestors collected stones to make tools that were vital to their survival and used stones to make houses, mark places, and create monuments for deceased members of the clan.
Snyder suggested that: “Wilderness is a place where the wild potential is fully expressed, a diversity of living and non-living beings flourishing according to their own sorts of order. When an ecosystem is fully functional, all members are present at the assembly. To speak of wilderness is to speak of wholeness. Human beings came from that wholeness. Deep Ecology thinkers insist that the natural world has a value in its own right, that the health of natural systems should be our first concern, and that this best serves the interests of all humans as well...Environmental concerns and politics have spread worldwide. In some countries, the focus is almost entirely on human health and welfare issues. It is proper that the range of the movement should run from wildlife to urban health. But there can be no health for humans and cities that bypasses the rest of nature... A sophisticated postindustrial citizen will be asking: is there any way we can go with rather against nature?"