When I think about nature, I think of the jungle and its primordiality. The greenish black whorl of it. The mathematics of its ferns. Thickets marked by the bright geometries of Heliconia bihai. I think of the plants that remember us to what it was like in the time before time.
When I think about nature, I think of how it is reflected: reports I read on the Amazon rainforest, photojournalism of Borneo, novels detailing Rudyard Kipling’s greatest muse: the jungles of India. I pour over accounts from biodiversity hotbeds: Costa Rica, New Zealand, Botswana.
When I think about nature, I think about commodities. Our global lust for commerce. The way nature has shaped our constantly shifting civilizations, propelled forward medicine and science and industry. Rubber. Palm Oil. The Cinchona officinalis tree that gave us the malaria drug, quinine.
When I think about nature, I think of animals. What comes to mind first is the lonely mangrove forests of the Bangladeshi Sundarbans, and a villager’s gaze as he anticipates the prowl of his famous cohabitator: the Bengal tiger. I joke to a fellow visitor about the tiger’s ability to be omnipresent and invisible at the same time. However, behind the joke is a fear, and not exactly an unsubstantiated one. I fear that as we encroach deeper and deeper into its world, one day the tiger will go from being willfully hidden to truly vanished.
When I think about nature, I think of the Mauritian Dodo. The Pyrenean Ibex. The New Zealand Huia. Here lie the creatures we lost to history, driven to extinction by hunting, habitat destruction, and poaching. Our implicit message is clear: Rest in Peril. May your legacy continue only through radiocarbon dating and vertical excavations. All this can be attributed to a brand of carelessness endemic to humans. The same brand of carelessness that has ended the Holocene and kickstarted the Anthropocene.
When I think about nature, I think of the ocean and the world beneath the ice. First, the waters of the Great Barrier Reef that I explored in 2015 and my confused disappointment at what lay before me: bleached white corals, atrophying, but teeming with life regardless. I think of the endless trawlers dotting the global commons and giant nets of fish. Last, I think of a place I may never visit: Antarctica’s incredibly biodiverse sea floor.
Finally, when I think about nature, I think of the liberties we have taken thus far. It is eerie how our planet reflects man’s hubris, allowing for bountiful gain with unseen repercussions. We manipulate, command, deplete our resources. We ignore the cardinal rule of business when we deal with nature; fall prey to short term gains and long-term losses. Our life is long enough to make a difference, but short enough that we can pass the carnage on.
And at the very end, I think about “human nature.” But it is not enough to merely think. Decades of thought have not been enough to protect the wilderness and all its gifts. It is time to act consciously and sustainably, and to act with resolve. If our human nature enables us to innovate and come up with solutions, then it is within our scope to undo the damage we have caused. It is up to us to hold onto hope. I am ready to work as hard and fast and as sincerely as possible to contribute to protecting and celebrating the natural world, because I love nature.
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