A history of respect for nature

The conception of the natural world through history

Did we ever consider the past?

Our relationship with the surrounding environment – and its protection – is a topic we need to consider nowadays, because most consciences are still lethally asleep.

We often blame the past for our indifference but it’s interesting to notice that in the past the environment has always been taken into consideration, and there have always been critics against the industrial system, even at its birth.

Devotion to Mother Nature in ancient times

Let’s take the following civilizations: the Sumerians, the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. They were different, yet had something in common: already at their dawning, these civilizations had started to worship the elements of nature.

Then, with the development of society, the birth of various cultural traditions and the spread of religions, worshiping nature became the basis of these civilizations. They were devoted to nature in many ways.

For instance, the Greek god Zeus Olympus was the master of thunder and lightning, like Hesiod tells in his “Theogony”; Demeter was the goddess of Earth and Poseidon was the god of sea and water. Rivers were considered the essence of gods and bees were divine honey vectors, similar to celestial ambrosia. So, the strongest link mankind had was the one he had with nature.

There is light even in the darkest times

During the Middle Age, despite today’s stereotypes about that period, ideas about nature and the environment spread widely.

Without considering negative meanings that were given to some natural elements, there were lots of studies on nature, the bond with Mother Earth was strong and the Franciscans strengthened the celebration of nature as a divine gift. Many examples about this could be provided.

Philosophy and literature are in favour of harmony

After the Renaissance and the following centuries, the period of modern industry – and its critics against the environment – began. From the dancing “Daffodils” described by Wordsworth (in the poem “I wondered lonely as a cloud”, 1807) we come to the “Coketown” described by Charles Dickens in his novel “Hard Times” (1854).

In the coke town, smoking chimneys killed everyone and everything. Philosophical critics emerge, like the idea of integration between men and the world in which they live.

In the beginning, however, critics were weak and obtained ex negativo from Schelling, Marx and Luckacs. In particular, in the social critics made by Marx and Luckacs, we can find a clear call to end human exploitation, alienation and mortification.

Reflecting on their ideas, we understand that we must respect our only life source, the environment.

Merleau Ponty, French philosopher, views the world as a surrounding landscape, which changes and transforms every time a new life comes to light, every time a living being does something. This underlines how much we depend on the context in which we live and the importance of protecting it. Everyone has the power to make the difference.

The positive side of our change is possible

We are aware of the negative sides that the past has created, but to promote the change we need to focus on each positive gesture, action, event, to enhance them and to transform them into the future, which needs to have a stronger bond to nature. We need to focus on positivity and to observe it from as many points of view as possible.

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