These days I have been thinking about my fundamental question, our relationship to nature. The predominant paradigm understands humans and society as a separated body acting from outside and damaging a hopeless nature. That paradigm has its origins in creationist believes, where humans were created as a distinct and special part of the universe. That vision, inherited from religious approaches, still has a subtle influence in the way science shapes its understanding, even though most of the scientific advancement of the XIX and XX centuries has been systematically demonstrating that humans do not have any special place in reality. We are no more than another species of big apes. We are not the centre of the universe. We were not created, we rather evolved following the same fundamental principles of evolution as any other species of this planet. We are not special. We are not out of nature, rather strongly determined by its laws.
Instead, I am trying to promote a different paradigm. I try to understand humans as an inherent part of nature, as an entangled body arising from the fundamental laws of nature, thermodynamics and ecological process. I am not saying that there is nothing distinct in the way we transform the world. We have of course distinctive traces, behaviours, drivers and determinants. But all of them can only take place within nature. They come out of nature, not from elsewhere, because there is no such elsewhere. Society, with all its actions, impacts and hopes came completely and undoubtedly out of nature. And remain as its centre.
I firmly believe that the current conceptual separation between society and nature hinders our capacity to conceive better futures. That’s the main reason why I insist on understanding the laws of nature to better shape and conceive our designed, i.e. teleological, systems, like cities. Not doing so, this is not fundamentally encompassing the laws of nature in the design of our society, it does not take our artefacts and actions out of nature. Not in the sense of separation. On the contrary, as an action emerging from nature and feasible only within the strict limitations imposed by natural laws, it is doom to perish sooner than later, if the assemblage it does not guarantee a sustainable, resilient, performance in accordance with the unavoidable determinations of natural laws. If we want to boil water, we can decide to do it as fast as possible, slowly or very slowly. Water will boil anyway, but time matters here. The same principle can be applied to our human actions, that can be designed to give us more time, to be resilient, to avoid boiling the water too soon. In the absence of such tuning, our actions, transformations and futures are only condemned to be ephemeral. It will take a glimpse of a geological eye to nature claim back every single millimetre of our traces to populate former human habitats with renewed and thriving organisms. We won’t damage nature. We can’t do that. Just the idea is another demonstration of our immense human proudness, to believe that we have the capacity to destroy nature, to be gods. We might certainly destroy many beautiful things on our crazy way towards what we called development; in a similar way a volcano destroys vast ecosystems during eruptions. Whatsoever the magnitude of our actions, nature will last to vanish even the last molecule of our anthropogenic existence. At the bottom, all the impacts, the injuries and damage that concern to radical conservationists are not done to nature, they are actually done only to our own selves. And therefore that is a huge bill that we humans have to afford sooner or later.