Interaction between man and nature

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Potential classification of types of people according to their attitude towards nature
picture 2 Potential classification of types of people according to their attitude towards nature

An abiding love for virgin and absolute beauty of Baikal makes us give thought to the origins of these feelings and how they are connected with a human-being.

Far back ancient philosophers were well aware of global dependence of human role and being on natural principles. It’s well stated by ancient Indians’ in their epic “Panchatantra”:

We are guided by our temper and nature

While performing our deeds.

Water always gets cool

No matter how often you heat it.

Rather fire will get dull

And flame out a river slick

Than mainstream people act contrary to their nature.

One would think that a man totally belongs to nature and he would seem not to question power of nature and not to be a “revolutionary”-reformer but unfortunately nothing of the kind: a man took real steps to dominate nature (sometimes successfully). And some societies are apt to support this view.

So the question naturally suggests itself: what is nature’s attitude towards such human actions. This question can be divided into several sub-questions:

• Why did nature let its offspring change its characteristics and “appearance” (in real life it’s quite rare that a baby has influence over his mother’s characteristics who “lights” with pleasure at this birth and at his childish plays)?

• Why do human intelligence, human abilities serve a tool for performing negative and sometimes devastating effect on nature?

• Why do natural, raw materials, guns serve a “lever” for reforms?

• Isn’t it possible to foresee deplorable and tragic results of human activity and break off negative actions in the bud according to cybernetic principle of “feedback” ?

The questions have respective answers:

1. Nature is “dead”, passive and “soulless” and it is not aware of its offspring’s actions.

2. Nature is alive and treats a man as an equal partner but due to his “infancy” a man can act amiss towards his parent or friend.

3. Nature admits a man’s priority in improving the world treating him both as its talented “child” and “husband” who is able to go far beyond his mother surrounding when it comes to innovations and reforms.

The doctrine of the noosphere by V.I. Vernadsky will define which of the aforementioned responses is true to life. According to Vernadsky human impact on environment is growing so rapidly that soon we’ll face the time where a man is a major geological force able to shape face of the Earth: the biosphere will turn into a new state called noosphere-intelligence sphere. Development of environment and human society will go hand in hand and they’ll experience a noevolution- a joint evolution based on equality. “Mankind taken as a whole is becoming a powerful geological force. Humanity’s mind and work face the problem of reconstructing the biosphere in the interests of freely thinking mankind as a single entity. This new state of the biosphere that we are approaching without noticing it is the ‘Noosphere’”(63, pp. 515-516).

A culture to which a man belongs has a great influence over his attitude to nature. But long ago, some researchers, based on simple logic, established a simple typology of human attitudes towards nature:

• a man as a subject, “inferior” of nature,

• a man living in full harmony with nature,

• a man as a Lord of Nature.

Attitudes towards nature are based on these three principles.

The first view is more characteristic of preindustrial societies as well as people involved in pioneer reclaiming of virgin lands. The freaks of nature are seen as otherworldly effects because they are beyond human control. Let’s refer here to response of Siberian pioneers to natural disasters: flood, fire etc. They never tried to fight them but took them for granted.

The idea of harmonious coexistence between a man and nature is typical of ecological approach. All living beings are seen in this case, as an organic element of natural grandeur. Here we should refer to a book by N. Roerich “Man and nature”:

“ Wise ancient Maya left an inscription. It is 3000 years old:

“You, who will be here sometime! If you are smart enough, you’ll ask who we are? Who are we? - Ask dawn, ask forest, ask wave, and ask storm, ask love! Ask land, the land of suffering and beloved land! Who are we? - We are the land”.

When a man felt he was about to pass away, he would display calm and think: “I go to have a rest”.

We do not know how they spoke, but they thought well”(251).

The eupathy displayed by ancient people towards nature evokes the idea of human inferiority when opposed to nature. No doubt, some people can take steps to dominate nature for self-dependence and self-protection like societal forces do but however one should bear in mind that environment is unpredictable and rash acts aimed at changing it will result in consequences.

The necessity to treat nature as a living being was emphasized by V. Solovyev. He wrote that mother-nature “... cannot be found in dead and soulless reality, but rather must contain in itself all living forces of existence, must itself be living and animate. Such a view, which enlivens material nature, is called “hylozoism”, and it constitutes the second stage of naturalistic philosophy… These ideas about nature as a living, animate being may be entirely accurate (and consequently we will see that they are such in reality) (291, v. 2, with. 181 -182).

From our perspective, individuals should be classified according to essential features of their interaction with environment in order to grasp peculiarities of human attitude to nature, to predict his possible reactions when he meets nature’s “objects” and “subjects”. Thus, the first position is quite simple, namely pragmatic or, on the contrary, extremely spiritual significance of nature. Actually, this position is manifested in two forms. On the one hand, it is seen as a necessity and ability of a man to dominate nature, to make maximum use of its gifts, and even use nature for his own ends with the help of “unnatural” and artificially created mechanisms and “hybrids”. On the other hand, it seems as if nature has always been “over a man”, and the latter is considered to be a temporary and micro-dust in an all-embracing power and a man has nothing to do but admire beauty of nature and thank it for supplying all his wants. A balanced resolution to these two variants can be expressed in the following points:

1. Nature is a mother for a man (unattainable and perfect creation – a temple) and a man is just one of elements that makes up harmony and perfection (“nature over man”)

2. Nature and man are an organic whole in their being and purpose and by no means they should be opposed or separated from each other (“nature and man are equal”).

3. A man is a fully independent reformer of nature and his purpose is to turn nature to pragmatic advantage, change it and improve at his discretion (“man over nature”).

Each of these positions are subject to change depending on particular motives and we’ll view them in detail later. Here we would like to hypothesize. Apparently people who hold the boundary (first) position are few in number. Many individuals go some way either to the right or to the left from the boundary one and find themselves at some distance from an intermediary position. Thus, the correlation of different types of people which rests on aforementioned criteria can be reflected in symmetrically disposed parabolic curve named after its creator Gaussian. So, the Gaussian curve has most results around its center, opposite results are quite rare. The classification of types of people in their attitude towards nature (1, 2, 3) is revealed the following way (picture 2)

From this curve we surmise that

1. Explicit or implicit (conscious or unconscious) character of relationship to nature depends on degree of development of social productive forces: the less power a man has over nature, the more he is dependent on nature, i.e. holds the first position. That is why we have in our society “primitive” religions. A rapid development of scientific and technical progress implies that there are more and more tools tailored to change nature and this tendency is supported by those who believe that a man dominates nature. However at a certain stage even industrially-developed and urbanized society comes to awareness that man’s supremacy over nature will lead nowhere and people realize that they better keep a position of equality.

2. The presence of “hump” in the curve represents people with a fertility of feelings and attitudes to environment. This implies that distinctions are characteristic not only of right and left parts of the curve but also of "centrists". Reality and necessity of any social life is a qualitative variety of types of people, including a variety of attitudes towards nature.

3. Degree of development of this or that position will be presented dynamically depending on age and certain life circumstances, not statically where personal capacities are important (inherited or inborn). This is evidenced by the following examples: a) when people advance in years, they have an inclination for “soil”: they prefer working about their summerhouses and gardening b) when faced with economic recession, low-income part of any population are no more environment-conscious, they don’t care about flora, fauna and moreover they tend to use nature for their own ends. As a counter to this, when nature is at risk of being polluted or damaged, people start to realize that they should take responsibility for environment protection.

Theoretically and practically that would be of great interest to gain insight into the arguments given by holders of the positions (both boundary and “centrists”) for gaining over to their cause. We’ll try to set forth these arguments clearly taking into consideration ambiguity and inconsistency of this problem (see Table 1).

Talking points-arguments in a man’s favor:

A man is dependent on nature

A man and nature are an organic whole

A man dominates nature and subdue it

Natural disasters happening every now and then brings forth the idea of “who is who”.

In terms of genetics, a man does not possess extraordinary character, but a universal one.

By nature a man does not differ from other living beings as he is also fully dependent on his physiological needs.

Its natural function of man is little different from all other living beings, he is also fully dependent on the physiological needs.

New forms of behavior result from conditional reflexes rather than inherently.

A man is Nature’s plan endued with a certain purpose and a man’s fight against nature can result in heavy consequences as nature is capable of taking revenge.

 

Human development as a biological species is in accordance with the laws of evolution and is guided by them.

If God is a perfect, social and natural being, accordingly a man will never rise above God and nature (legend about Babel tower).

In his life, a man follows the laws of nature, and at the same time adjusts some of them to his needs.

All progressive forms of behavior are consonant with nature’s interests.

Man was created by nature to improve its certain aspects, not contradicting laws of the universe.

Awareness of trends of nature development separates people from nature, but anyway a man remains a part of nature.

Nature considers a man to be one of living beings but according to his level of development he is in the forefront of evolution.

In the course of evolution, nature always strives to maintain equilibrium and a man in his turn strives to create noosphere.

Modern lie of matters clearly shows the major problem of a man: while transforming nature, he should come into antagonism with ecological laws.

God created man as a part of nature.

Nature “entrusted” a man to express his true character and he has been advancing along this path.

It was a man who created gene and cell engineering, learned to “clone” living beings which never pertained to nature.

A man made the laws of reproduction (sex) and some others work for his pleasure and whims.

A man is head and shoulders above other living beings thanks to his new forms of behavior and tools.

Unlike nature who does not have any plns or goals to pursue, a man possesses all the aforementioned qualities which guide him in getting alone with nature.

A man’s purpose is to take an imaginative approach to transforming environment according to his needs. He succeeded in changing the environment and now he is exploring space.

According to Christian canons, God entrusted a man to manage nature.

 

 

Analysis of the judgments set forth in the table, shows that a man’s variety of views embraces all three trends. But nevertheless people believe that they are not challenged by nature and consider themselves to be a source of ideas and actions tailored to transformation of the Earth. A man’s nature was in charge of environmental changes. This statement served a fundamental doctrine for many societies grading to industrial forms of management. People believed that factories, plants, hydro-and thermal power stations, developing means of transportation (from the first clumpy vehicles to modern airliners and to space vehicles) were indicative of man’s supremacy over nature and that everything would go this way. Such views which lacked care for nature resulted in deplorable consequences and nature around Baikal is no exception. The first constructors of Baikal and Selenga plants as well as other industrial facilities, which cause harm to the sacred sea, were vocal supporters of industrialization and scientific and technical progress and they were not able foresee potential ill effects.

But it’s pointless to condemn “ordinary” inhabitants, visitants or some authorities for their intrusion into the life of Baikal ended up in tragic consequences, because even researchers who dedicated their heart and soul to exploring of Baikal were not able to foresee potential threat to Baikal nature. Gleb Y. Vereshchagin, a prominent scientist who enjoyed a great popularity in limnological society, wrote in his famous sketch called “Baikal” about change of strategy towards water-resources with the help of human interference: “This adjusting effect of Baikal can be significantly enhanced by construction of dikes which would raise the level of the lake to considerable altitude - up to 2 meters, and thus it would regulate the amount of water flowing into the Angara over a number of years. Such an adjusting mechanism would allow having a fixed amount of flowing water masses all along the Angara up to its inflow into Yenisey any season as well as eliminating dependence on wet and dry years”. In general the scientist approved of construction of six dikes on the Angara which would turn the river into a “chain of lakes”. “The rapids of the Angara will burst and let loaded ships pass through locks into the Yenisei and up to destinations included in the Northern Sea Route” ( 61, p. 151 - 152).

At present it’s obvious that only one dike in Irkutsk and a reservoir had a negative impact on, as it caused flooding of the shores in low and sandy areas, significant reduction of endemics (in particular, Baikal sculpin) and other irreversible changes. But one cannot blame people who did not expect such drastic changes. It is worth while recalling that the necessity for industrialization of Siberia, development of its riches and resources stimulated the views according to which a man was “obliged” to remake and reshape nature. It was, on the one hand, the objective necessity of economic development in specific circumstances, and with another - the mood of the time, and against his own time is difficult to go to any person, even scientists. We must be sensitive to such positions, but be sure to remove from them their lessons.
It is safe to say that something, what arguments "chooses" the majority of people depend on the economic situation in the country, from the environmental education of different groups on how their "not ecological economy" will affect the environment. Differences may depend on the religious systems of people, the activity of the "environmental" positions and actions of public officials and environmental groups in any nation. In this case, a combination of "arguments" may vary in different combinations, sometimes even borrowing their theses, and evidence of the seemingly contradictory concepts.
Currently, civilized countries are more inclined to support the idea of the unity between a man and nature as well fall-back positions which influence selective classes of population.  Not to beg the question, we’d like to share some researches of cross-cultural nature which were carried out in Irkutsk region and republic of Buryatia. A developed inquirer called “Baikal” let interrogate multinational body. One of the research objectives was to define key attitude of people towards nature (see table 2).

Table 2

Attitude of a multinational body towards the interaction “Man-Nature”

Responses given by multinational body

Judgments

Total

(441)

Russians

(271)

Buryats

(52)

Chinese

(38)

Japanese

(50)

 

1

Nature above a man

25.4

22.5

32.7

21.1

36.0

 

2

A man and nature from unity

55.9

57.6

57.7

57.9

48.0

 

3

A man over nature

5.7

7.4

0.0

5.3

2.0

4

Do not know

13.0

12.5

9.6

15.8

14.0

The study shows that people tend to differ mostly in “boundary” position and the difference is noticeable. Thus, this result can be used for development of desirable principles of nation-specific economic ecology. Thus it is of high importance to carry out ethnic and psychological analysis of priorities tailored to human attitude towards nature, including not only general versions, but “details” of the question.

A real peculiarity of ethnic mentality (national identity awareness) towards nature is revealed in the results of longitudinal research classified by nations: Buryats and Russians (see Table 3).

Table 3

Assessment of interaction between a man and nature by the Buryats and Russians.

 

Agreement with the position

Buryats

Russian

1994

2004

2007

1994

2004

2007

Nature over man

40,4

32,7

77,0

44,1

22,5

68,0

A man and nature form unity

27,8

57,7

11,0

23,9

57,6

18,0

Man over nature

26,6

0,0

2,0

25,6

7,4

6,0

Cannot say

4,3

9,6

10,0

6,4

12,5

8,0

 

The data can be interpreted in different ways but we’ll focus on the following points.

Firstly, the data of 1994 (the beginning of “post-Soviet period”) show that the Buryats and Russians were guided by the same principles due to common living environment and unified scope of ideological education institutions in a socialist society. In this ideology a “man over nature” was prioritized.

Secondly, one can notice movement of positions in the responses “nature over a man” and “a man over nature” by both nationalities. Decades devoted to the development of democratic institutions in Russia coincided with an active struggle for the protection of nature led by various public organizations. The Russians’ ecological position depended much on flawed idea of confrontation between nature and a man and that it could result in ill effects. And responses of 2007 were influenced by the information about natural disasters for the past 2-3 years: well-known earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, severe storms, snow flurries where it never snowed before, unexpected thaw in winter, etc. However, according to respondents the position “nature over a man” does not contradict the other one, namely “a man and nature form unity”, but it emphasizes original human dependence on nature. If nature is not a black-hearted step-mother or brutal and a hard-line father, but a loving and caring parent instead who cares about development and well-being of its fosterling, in this case it would be natural and generous to acknowledge its supremacy over a man. But nature tends to prove its supremacy over a man to those who question its power and try to challenge it by polluting and using it for his self-gratification. Besides, consciously a man cannot be willing to cause harm to nature but his actions manifested in ill-considered technologies, his desire to accelerate natural processes put natural phenomena beyond the range of stability and it results in ill effects. In such cases nature has good reasons to be over a man and the latter cannot clamor about.

Thirdly, the table enables to speak about a specific trend, characterized by return to traditional “Eastern” views on the interaction between man and nature among the Buryats. The core of these views is in filial dependence of a man on nature. This trend is a well-established reality among the Mongols, the Japanese and some other Asian nations and thus it promts suggestions that the trend is getting hold of ethnic identity of the Buryats. The latter two circumstances as well as the research results at large, reveal the importance of ethnic and psychological approach to the issue of interaction between a man and nature.

In defense of the idea about natural unity between a man and nature, highlighted in our research, we refer to a prominent Russian scientist V.Vernadsky, who reflected much on the essence of scientific approach to interaction and interdependence of living and non-living things in the biosphere of the earth. He wrote in his work about “fundamental material and energy difference of living and non-living natural bodies in the biosphere” in 1938: “...not all sorts of organisms can survive in the biosphere but only those having a definite structure. A living organism and living substance are naturally-determined function of the biosphere which is often not considered. Philosophical arguments well as biology get it wrong when they oppose a living organism to the environment as if they were two separate units. Such a comparison is not reasoned. Mostly it is manifested in philosophy and it totally undermines a great deal of its statements” (63, p.432).

At present we’ve been witnessing environmentalism worldwide and particularly in Russia. There is a growing awareness that environmental disaster can be an endpoint in mankind development. Contemporary liberal-minded thinkers and experts started fostering an attitude of care towards nature and it can be considered a remarkable phenomenon of modern time. However, it would be incorrect to have it as if humanity was waiting for the XX century to take actions for environment protection. If we recall to arguments of ancient Mayas, we’ll find out that even primitive societies reflected on how to maintain a harmony with nature and wild world. Certainly, these relationships underwent significant changes in the course of time: from open confrontation and thoughtless destruction of living things to zealous attitude towards the environment. Thus, we should be well aware that disparaging approach to use of natural resources, and striving for environmental protection are inseparable story that were manifested in centuries-long history of mankind.

In late 80th of the XX century the term “sustainable development” became a buzzword in foreign literature in fields of economy and ecology, sociology and political science, global studies and law as well as in other human sciences and this term stood for socio-economic and environmental development, aimed at keeping the peace worldwide, sensible repletion of human wants simultaneously improving living standards of present and future generations, solicitous use of natural resources and preserving the environment.

The core of this concept rests on the following issues:

• Postulate which obliges economic development to be free from pollution and environmental destruction

• Acknowledgment of the unity as well as variety of socio - economic and environmental development of countries and nations

• Approval of the primacy for the harmony between people, society and nature

• Socio-economic development must rest on freedom and humanism, not on violence and hostility

Thus, we are referring here to transition from modern society, namely industrial and consumer one to noospheric civilization.

Negative sides of ecology and economy interaction were emphasized at the world Environment and Sustainable Development conference held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro:
-economic development separate from ecology turn the planet into a desert;
-emphasis on ecology disregarding economic development leads to poverty and injustice;
-equality without economic development means an overall misery;
-ecology divested of the right to act becomes a part of enslavement system;
-the right to act disregarding ecology leads to omnicide.
Prof. Mantatov V.V., one of the most active Siberian facilitators, messengers, believes that the Baikal region has a fair chance of success to be called a model territory for sustainable environmental development due to a number of reasons. One of them is density of the population around the lake which is twice less than the maximum allowable density on the planet, and this, from prospective of the UN experts is a factor contributing to stabilization of ecological situation. Further on, the Baikal region is known for high scientific-intellectual potential as there are numerous higher educational institutions, scientific centers and majority of the population in Irkutsk region and especially in Buryatia has education at university level or incomplete higher education. Eco-cultural potential of the Baikal region is of no little interest. Eastern Siberia is a region where spiritual values of Buddhism and Christianity engrained in the traditions of the local population. Buddhist ideas as love for neighbors, tolerance towards all living things, self-restriction and to overcome self-centeredness are of great importance not only for individuals but also for the theory and practice of sustainable development. In some sense, the Baikal region can be considered a prototype of an ecological community development, which has deep roots in ethnic and cultural traditions of the Buryats, the Evenks and the Russians. Finally, the Baikal region has tremendous potential of ecological benefits and services. From the perspectie of experts the 21-century will mark the leading position of ecological market in global economy and it is believed to leave behind electronic and computer technologies. We are referring here to personal and social benefits of ecotourism, to marketing gifts of nature and to civilized market of pure Baikal water (see.201).
In terms of psychology, the strategy of sustainable development can rest on the unity of man and nature and man’s acknowledgment of nature’s supremacy over him. That is not to say only about omnipotence of natural disasters and conflicts, but also about origins of human soul. Likewise the question is also about people being environment-unconscious and our ill acts towards nature indicate our ignorance, immaturity and irresponsibility . And it begs the question: can an immature and self-derogating man be above nature or peer to it?

See also

Literature

  1. A.D. Karnyshev "The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal"© BSU Publishing House, 2011

Выходные данные материала:

Жанр материала: English | Автор(ы): Karnyshev A.D. | Источник(и): The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal. Ulan-Ude. 2012 | Дата публикации оригинала (хрестоматии): 2011 | Дата последней редакции в Иркипедии: 30 марта 2015

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Тематический указатель: Irkipedia English