Welcome to human/nature

The start of a conversation about how to better see ourselves as participants in the unfolding of nature.

Abstract painting of two female figures against a collage background of different nature-inspired patterns.
The Thundershower, Lyman Saÿen


My name is Fran, and what I am—and have been—is a long list: a philosophy student, sustainability activist, food service worker, admin assistant, journalism student, science communicator, environmental science student, poet, freelance writer, aquatic science tech, warehouse worker, and now—oceanography PhD student and researcher.

If there’s any theme to all this activity, it’s both awe and anxiety for our natural world.

Though I struggle to even finish that sentence because I hate the way it ends: “our natural world.” I worry that you automatically envision something distant from yourself. You picture a remote, green landscape lush with exotic plant and animal life devoid of humans and their machines and structures. But that’s not quite what I mean.

And here’s the real kicker: I’m not sure what I do mean.

What I’m interested in here is not a place on this planet that’s untouched by humans, if there even is such a place. What I’m interested in is the way we exist in the natural world as part of it. Because even if for much of recent recorded history certain human cultural groups have been hellbent on erasing nature, we are not in fact separate from it.

One way of reading the title of this newsletter, then, could be “human slash nature.” This way of interpreting it undermines the assumption that humans are beings above nature. Complicating this assumption is a core aim of this writing project. A secondary aim is suggested by another way of reading the title, which is just “human nature.” What human nature is or might be once we see ourselves properly situated within the natural world is also something I hope to explore in this newsletter.

All this questioning is in service of addressing a dire problem in contemporary life. Because we don’t see humanity as part of the natural world, we don’t value that world. Or, if we do, we value it in convoluted, disingenuous ways. What results, you’re all familiar with. You read about it in headlines every day: deadlier weather, biodiversity loss, a global pandemic, social unrest.

Here, I’m going to try not to just rehash the bad news, but to reframe issues in ways that encourage us to envision an alternative future for ourselves. I plan to explore my chosen themes in short, monthly (at least) letters. My hope is that these letters can be the start of conversations about how to better see ourselves as participants in the unfolding of nature, and, ultimately, to discover ways of being more appropriate to our human nature.

I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m tired of doing nothing. I want to see what we can come up with together, and I do hope to hear from you all. Write back to me!

I won’t be the first, and I hope I won’t be the last to write about much of what I’ll share with you all. I’m ok with being just one more voice for sanity, and I hope you will be too.

Thanks for showing up.

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