Humans are sophisticated and evolved animals who have modified the natural environment to make it suitable for living. While human dependency on nature has been decreased over the process of evolution, people still demonstrate many forms of nature connectedness. This includes emotional attachment to nature, perception of themselves as a part of nature, and activities aimed at nature protection. How strongly are humans dependent on nature? Can its modified version substitute the real form of it?
The issues as above have been of a scientific interest of researchers across the world. It has been established that nature has intrinsic value for people. For example, the concept of biophilia was introduced by a US-based biologist Edward O. Wilson in his 1984 book. Biophilia is defined as an evolutionarily conditioned need to bond with nature, to experience its proximity and maintain contact with it. While the etymology of the word suggests “loving” attitude towards living nature, this term can be used in a broader context meaning the general need to relate with both living and nonliving form of it.
A significant amount of research has demonstrated that even children are aware of the fact that nature bears importance to humans. A series of studies between 1995 and 2002 have shown that children from different social and cultural backgrounds share affiliation with nature and demonstrate a moral sentiment towards it. For example, children were aware of the fact that water pollution would do harm to both people and other living organisms, and that it would distort the landscapes as we know them. They expressed the belief that it was people’s moral obligation to protect nature and prevent the negative effects of pollution. Although their responses within the study were human-oriented, it is believed that the sentiment towards nature is authentic in children as well as in adults.
After the strong attachment to nature was established in people, the question about its technological replica still remained. The next focus of studies was observation of nature through technological means. Thus, Peter Kahn and his colleagues conducted a study in 2008, in which a plasma television was installed in a windowless workspace in the university, and moving images of nature were displayed on the screen. The research continued for 16 weeks, after which psychological well-being of the employees was assessed. The university staff that had visual contact with “technological nature” had significant improvements as compared to those who did not maintain such contact. However, the study conducted later in 2008 showed that, in comparison to observation of real landscapes outside of glass windows, landscapes viewed on plasma screen were not helpful when it came to stress reduction or improvement of emotional well-being. These finding suggests that no technological replica can replace real nature in regard to its significance to people.
In conclusion, there is a need to introduce another concept, the one of environmental degradation. In simple words, it occurs when the following generations experience less contact with natural environments than their predecessors. This is what the urban population experiences right now in the world. To them, any contact with nature will be beneficial, similar to the university employees in the study mentioned above. To those who have more contact with nature, urban landscapes will not be enough. Their life and well-being are more dependent on nature than their urban counterparts’. So, while nature is an essential component for every person’s well-being, people are adjusting to technologically constructed natural environments. Still, the current scientific evidence suggests that humans’ activity will be lacking both living and nonliving nature without contact with it.
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