Nature vs. Technology
As America enters the “post-natural” era and technology becomes more significant in the daily lives of most people, the relationship between humans and nature is no longer an important influence. America’s attention has drifted away from nature and moved towards science and technological advancements. It becomes apparent nature is no longer critical or interesting to Americans as more people have grown accustomed to a life of comfort through the power of modern machinery. Through incessant logging, pollution, and other problems that are detrimental to the environment, it is clear that America’s negligence towards nature is a serious issue. In addition, the increasing dependence on technology can have a serious effect, psychologically and physically, on the lives of many people. People such as Ray Kurzweil, author and futurist, would go so far as to say that the transcendence of technology will eventually lead to the integration of the physical human body and machinery. The contemporary society has detached itself from nature and now embraces the power and convenience of electronics.
Twenty-first century America has grown attached to technology and made it a necessary part of their daily lives. People in modern society have grown accustomed to a comfortable lifestyle. Studies by author and journalist, Richard Louv, have revealed, “In 2008, for the first time in history, more than half the world’s population lived in towns and cities” (“Reconnecting”). When people spend most of their day inside a building, it becomes evident that nature is no longer an important factor in their lives. Americans have allowed humanity to lose their connection with nature because they are not willing to give up the little things that make their life more comfortable. Richard Louv explains that in the 1910s, people used to crack open the window at night to let in a cool breeze of air and enjoy the sounds of nature. This, however, all changed in 1970 when approximately one-third of the United States began to use air conditioning in their homes (“A Life”). At this point, people began replacing nature with technology in their own homes to enjoy a more tranquil way of life. Few people would be willing to give up these minute indulgences to reclaim a strong natural relationship with the wilderness. The cost of this comfortable lifestyle is that humanity tarnishes its relationship with nature. Louv believes that, “one price of progress is seldom mentioned: a diminished life of the senses” (666 “A Life”). People begin to lose their natural senses the more they rely on electronics and machines to do the work for them. America has immersed itself in technology and, in exchange, lost its close relationship with nature.
Time and patience is a large factor in the reason why America has developed into a society that disregards the benefits of nature. Many people today believe that taking the time to experience nature is not worth the time they could be spending on the computer or watching television. Some feel as though they are over encumbered with a copious amount of work and cannot spare the moment to reconnect with nature. The value of experiencing nature, as Richard Louv quotes is that:
Nature is about smelling, hearing, tasting, seeing below the “transparent mucous-paper in which the world like a bon-bon is wrapped so carefully that we can never get at it,” as D.H. Lawrence put it, in a relatively obscure but extraordinary description of his own awakening to nature’s sensory gift. (667 “A Life”).
Nature is about embracing the wilderness in its entirety, which requires time and patience that people today no longer have. The convenience of technology has given people more time for leisure, yet people decide to fill that time with other forms of technology. Cellular phones, computers, televisions, and music players are different types of electronics that people of today’s society will spend most of their time on. Even when people are out in the wilderness, their attention is still focused on other portable devices. The incessant use of technology in America is evidence that modern society has lost its interest in the natural world.
America has become disconnected with nature because, as a culture, people have lost their interest towards it. People have made a sport out of nature as though it is not fascinating enough. Some people believe that; hunting, kayaking, golfing, etc. is exactly the equivalent as experiencing nature itself. Others may argue that it is the best way they can connect with nature. Modern society has created a false nature for them despite the actual experience standing right next to them. Most people no longer have the attention span to experience and understand the true meaning of nature. This disconnection with nature can be overcome simply by taking a moment to enjoy nature: whether by taking a step outside or even by looking out a window.
Losing humanity’s relationship with nature can lead to extreme consequences for the lives of numerous people. The disconnection between the modern society and nature may cause problems with humanity on the psychological level. Studies have shown that, “people recovered better from low-level stress by looking at an actual view of nature rather than seeing the same real-time high-definition TV scene displayed on a plasma window” (“Disconnect”). Simulating nature with television is not the same as experiencing nature on a personal level. There is no need to replicate nature when the real experience is only a few steps away. Richard Louv believes that as people withdraw themselves from nature, they will begin to experience something he calls “cultural autism”. The symptoms of cultural autism are, “tunneled senses, and feelings of isolation and containment” (671 “A Life”). Seclusion from the outside world can be harmful to a person on a psychological and physical level. This could lead to depression or even aggression expressed though some form of violence.
Children are among the people who are heavily affected by this age of technology. Many kids spend their time indoors playing video games instead of learning new skills and experiencing the outside world. Young children are easily influenced by their surroundings, especially when they interact with it. It is important for a child to spend the time to connect with nature because it is a critical point in their life when their mind is developing. Professor and Senior Research Scholar, Stephen Kellert, believes that, “a young child engaged in play out doors . . . is constantly challenged to adapt, to cope, to master, to create in response to this complex information rich . . . world that is the natural world” (Cavanaugh). A computer or television cannot perfectly emulate an experience that is as personal and engaging as the natural world creates. In his essay A Life of the Senses, Louv explains that, “Urban children, and many suburban children, have long been isolated from the natural world because of a lack of neighborhood parks, or lack of opportunity – lack of time and money” (671 “A Life”). America has created a society in which children living in the less fortunate cities no longer have the luxury of engaging themselves in the wilderness. Louv brings up an interesting notion, “so many Americans say they want their children to watch less TV, yet continue to expand the opportunities for them to watch it” (670 “A Life”). As technology becomes more influential in America, children are more susceptible to television programs that have no educational benefits.
Although it might seem as though America has completely entered the “post-natural” era and has lost any lingering interest in the benefits of nature, there are still many people who experience personal exposure and interaction with nature on a regular basis. Some people even spend their entire lives trying to protect and preserve our environment. Conservationists and environmentalists work diligently to prevent humanity from destroying the natural world. There are even people who completely reject the expediency of modern machinery. Communities in America, such as the Amish people, refuse to implement the use of current technology in their daily lives to live a simple lifestyle. Nevertheless, America as a whole still relies profoundly on the convenience of electronics and has forgotten the value and the importance of nature in our everyday lives.
Technology has become so prevalent in the everyday life of the average American that it is easy to forget the simple luxuries in life that lie in wait out in the wilderness. As America relies more heavily on modern technology, humanity begins to lose its connection with the natural world. A life of comfort and convenience come to be more appealing and people start to lose interest in nature. The significance of interacting with the natural environment loses its value when people view an image of it on the internet rather than experiencing it for themselves. Ultimately, technology has affected the culture in America in such a way that people have become apathetic towards the significance of nature and the influence that it used to have in the past.
Cavanaugh, Maureen, and Stephen Kellert. “Why is it Important for Children to Experience Nature?”. KPBS. San Diego State University, n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2012.
"Disconnect with Real Nature Will Hit Humans Hard: Study." The Hindustan Times (2009). Web. 24 Nov. 2012.
Louv, Richard. "Reconnecting to Nature in the Age of Technology." The Futurist 45.6 (2011): 41-45. Web. 23 Nov. 2012.
Louv, Richard. “A Life of the Senses”. Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. Ed. Gary Colombo, Robert Cullen, and Bonnie Lisle. 8th Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 664-675. Print.