Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Humans -- part of Nature

At this late date, it is exasperating (and quaint?) that we still need to be reminded that "man [sic] is part of nature." That is the topic of a TEDxWDC presentation by landscape architect Jeff Lee recently reported by ASLA's The Dirt. With the urbanization trend unabated ("China alone will build 300 new cities the size of Chicago [by 2050]," I suppose we need to readjust just how we understand humans-in-nature. Not only are humans "part of nature," but urbanization is part of nature. Big Systems are natural -- whether they be populations of microscopic organisms in our gut, data on the Internet, or urban living networks in the 21st century. Big cities and urban life can be good for humanity; we just have to do it right. Lee's presentation is a good reminder, but I miss more emphasis on what could be a very valid, compelling celebration of the benefits that Big Systems can provide. Advocates for sustainability of all kinds have to stop being jeremiads and scolds. Let's hear more sentiment from Lee, and others, like his observation: "nature shows us the way to build and the way to live. With our awareness that we are part of nature and not over it, and with our ability to communicate and connect as never before, we can leave our grandchildren's children something of awe and inspiration."