Achieving harmony on Earth: how can we protect nature?

June 30, 2020

Collage created by Finn Souter with photographs by Maëlle Jacqmarcq

Maëlle Jacqmarcq re-imagines our place as humans within the natural world

There are many things that can be said about humankind. We are social creatures: we enjoy the presence of other people in our lives. We crave connections, as the current pandemic has revealed.

We also possess a high degree of intelligence. We are capable of expressing theoretical concepts, and our perception of the world, through language, science, music and the arts, has solved many complex challenges.

Most of us are aware of these fundamental characteristics, which make up our identity. Most of us are also aware, but perhaps to a lesser degree, of the enormous impact we have had on the ecosystems of this planet, and the other living beings that we share it with.

Today, we are responsible for the loss of countless species around the globe, and the irreversible changes to the climate, threatening all life on Earth.

Humans took control of the growth and even existence of the natural world, way back when we ended our nomadic lifestyles and started agriculture. We became the ones to decide which plants were grown, and which animals were raised and where, instead of letting natural ecosystems regulate themselves.

During the Renaissance, in the 15th and 16th centuries, there was a widespread rejection of the belief that a higher power or God was in control of our future. Instead, through science, logic and rationality, humans shaped their own lives, controlling and eventually eliminating outside threats.

We are just one species among millions, yet we are the ones causing damage to all others

This mindset has pervaded throughout history, from the Industrial Revolution, to the ages of plastic, information and data. We are now raised with human supremacy as the norm.

However, we must reconsider our place on the planet. We are just one species among millions, yet we are the ones causing damage to all others. We are the source of imbalance on Earth.

While it’s clear that we must change our mindset and behaviours to protect nature, it is also key that we acknowledge the role of nature in our own well-being.

We cultivate plants and raise animals, but can it not be said that plants and animals also cultivate us? They give us air to breathe, food to eat, and most importantly, they do not need us to live.

The need for harmony in the natural environment between humans and all other life forms is further demonstrated through the connection between the climate crisis and Covid-19.

Deforestation and global heating increase levels of wildlife coming into contact with humans. This phenomenon, along with live animal markets, are problems that have bounced back to bite us, with the coronavirus pandemic.

We must not treat the natural world as a resource to exploit, but rather as a shared space to inhabit harmoniously with all other life

As the naturalist Chris Packham stated in The Guardian: “Speaking entirely biologically, what the whole, horribly harsh, tragic lesson of the virus has taught us is that we are part of nature; we’re not there to hold dominion over it, we’re not above it.”

Moving forward, we must remember our connection and appreciation many of us have felt towards nature during lockdown. We must remember that in our unequal society driven by profit, we are but one species on a planet of millions, and yet our current way of life is disastrous for all.

Increasingly, demands are being made to build a more robust economy, based on equality, and capable of tackling climate change. A fairer political system where all communities have a voice to define and defend their position is also needed.

Most importantly, we must come to see and treat the natural world not as a resource to exploit, but rather as a shared space to inhabit harmoniously with all other life. We must not only protect it, but together thrive within it.

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I tried to encompass some of my ideas here in a short film, Revive, made for the McGill University’s International Cellphilm Festival. Sadie Souter’s poem beautifully reflects the universal human longing for nature, during these overwhelming and scary times. Her poem inspired me to visually interpret this desire for harmony in the natural world.

Exposure is looking for young people’s testimonies of how they are getting through the coronavirus crisis. Please get in touch to share your experiences and advice.

Maëlle lives in north London and is currently finishing her Political Science and International Development degree from McGill University. She is passionate and engaged in helping to solve the climate crisis. As well as a student and activist, she is also a synchronised swimmer and an aspiring photographer.

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