Nature and the Human Being

Dr.Tatsuhiko Kawashima
Professor of Gakushuin University

Nature is commanded by obeying her, as the proverb goes. In my opinion, the relationship between nature and the human being is to be discussed neither in the paradigm of "commander vis-a-vis commandee" nor in the paradigm of "obedience vis-a-vis disobedience". Instead, in order to promote appropriate feedback between them, it had better be discussed from an angle of "constructive vis-a-vis destructive association", or "friendly vis-a-vis hostile interface". I would, therefore, like to regard the natural environment as an actual and abstract entity to which we would respectfully look for her assistance in enhancing our social welfare as well as in augmenting individual private happiness.

Are we in practice fundamentally constructive toward the natural environment? I am afraid we are very likely not. Consider the case we develop such public infrastructures as transportation networks, water supply systems, hydroelectric dams and parks all of which are crucially important to our living and work in the present day. Obviously, developing infrastructures for ourselves would result in doing nature harm. Consider also the case you raise livestock to nourish you with protein, or the case you camp in a forest land for fun. In both cases, it is unquestionable that we inevitably hurt nature in greater or lesser degree. Other cases similar to the aforementioned would be unfortunately too numerous to be mentioned.

Based on the above understanding, may I perhaps say as follows? For the purpose of guaranteeing our tangible existence, we the human being commit a great deal of necessary deeds that are destructive against the natural environment even though we eagerly want to love "Nature, that kindly mother of humanity" and even though we often try to minimize the magnitude of our mischievous actions against her subject to a set of given specific constraints. Because of this we are supposed to strongly encourage ourselves, whenever possible, to behave in an extremely friendly manner to nature by avoiding unnecessary additional hurt to her, or more creatively by trying to compensate for our mischievousness to her.

In this context, among critical facets that we are recommended to clearly bear in our mind when discussing the relationship between nature and the human being, would be to possess our ability to relationally and pertinently judge the optimum trade-off point between (1) the level of socio-economic development (that is, pursuance of selfpropelledness-oriented efficiency of our economic and social activities) and (2) that of natural-environment protection (that is, protection of irreplaceableness-oriented precious value of the natural environment to our society). It would be my desire that the future increase in wisdom of the human being may step by step lead us to more acceptable trade-off points between "the value of efficiency" and "the value that can not be measured by efficiency".

I am confident that, especially to children, experiences of camping in or close to the wilderness would significantly contribute to obtaining better insights into the trade-off point(s) between the socio-economic development and natural-environment protection.

March 1997 (Asia-Pacific News No.2)

Mark of Asia Pacific Commission

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