Nature and Our Ignorance

In the modern world, human activities have significantly adopted modernization and technology. Nature has been characterized as a subject to be learned in books, on the internet or television. People allocate minimal time, if any, to interact with nature. Additionally, human activities have continued to harm the natural environment in favor of modernization and technology. However, the preservation of nature and contact with it is critical to understanding the world intimately. While technology and education provides in depth and varied knowledge on nature, hands on experience are critical to understanding the relationship between nature and sustaining healthy human life.


Thoreau in the essay, “Walking” observes that nature is an integral part of human life and should not be perceived as a selective association. He asserts that man experiences life at its peak when interacting with nature. The experience of freedom, spiritual and physical, is attributable to the untamed aspects of nature. His advocacy for nature is illustrated by his desire to make statement where he asserts that he wishes “to make an extreme statement” (Colombo, Cullen, and Lisle 647). Human experience is a contributing factor to the decisions that are made in choosing a lifestyle; therefore, a balance must be found in indoor activities and outdoor experiences, thus “what I have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preservation of the World” (Colombo, Cullen, and Lisle 650). Thoreau’s perspective is reiterated by Richard Luov’s essay; “a life of senses” (Colombo, Cullen, and Lisle 664); where Luov observes that in the modern era, all a person needs to do is type a few words in a search engine and all the information needed is provided. However, not all information can be provided or illustrated using words, experiences in nature have to fists hand in order to be appreciated and understood. Luov observes that in modern society where nature is not appreciated, “That, which cannot be Googled, does not count” (Colombo, Cullen, and Lisle 673). The proliferation of the indoor culture, where all knowledge is purported to exist at the behest of a few keyboard strokes, in the libraries or the electronic media is misleading.

While an individual may believe to be knowledgeable in matters concerning nature, knowledge without experience is inadequate. Thoreau perceives knowledge of nature as inclusive of hands on experience, where an individual has first hand interaction with nature. In the absence of outdoor experiences, one can be construed as knowledgeable in the outdoors matters. According to Thoreau, the availability of information is construed by most as knowledge. However, knowledge is an intimate result of a direct and integral association with the subject in question. Thoreau argues, “What is most of our boasted so-called knowledge but a conceit that we know something, which robs us of the advantage of our actual ignorance” (Colombo, Cullen, and Lisle 632).

This argument coincides with Luov’s illustration of “the know it all state of mind” where in the modern society has no desire to learn what is not available in their information sources (Colombo, Cullen, and Lisle 664). Luov characterizes the modern society as one whose sense of curiosity and wonderment has been lost. People are more interested in the intricate details of organisms rather than concentrate on the obvious details this has led to a culture of know it all. However, this aspect of modern society is misrepresented given that it is easy to find a highly educated specialist on a given subject, but he has never interacted directly with the subject. As Thoreau observes, “there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy”, (Colombo, Cullen, and Lisle 633) therefore, knowledge should not be premised on the theoretical but practical experiences and a curious mind.

Luov’s observes that the modern life of the senses is characterized by mechanical and electrical manipulations. In spite of these, being significant advances in human evolution, the deny people the intrinsic satisfaction of hands on experience. Luov’s observation, “true, our experience of natural landscape  often occurs with an automobile looking out” (Colombo, Cullen, and Lisle 670); implies the significance of technology in substitution human actions with machinery, hence denying people the experience of acting and experiencing in person. Therefore, the sensory aspect of life is eliminated creating a mechanized life, where human actions are calculated and predictable. 

The experience of nature, where a person acts, feels and hears himself in action characterizes a life of senses hence interaction with nature Luov observes, “as electronic technology surrounds us, we long for nature, even if the nature is synthetic”, (Colombo, Cullen, and Lisle 668). In so doing, a more in-depth understanding of life and appreciation of nature impacts positively on understanding the purpose and significance of the natural environment. Thoreau believes, “wilderness is the preservation of the world” (Colombo, Cullen, and Lisle 650); however, people do not always believe this, hence succumb to their “civilized” instincts, which often lead to the destruction of nature.  Therefore, in taking these actions, they depart from their purpose, leading to a creation of more problems than solutions.

As civilization continues to encroach into the natural environment, it takes with a significant part of nature. Luov observes that in of the information that technology places at people’s disposal, there is an infinite number of organisms that are not accounted for by technology.  While this may be true, a large number of children are not given the opportunity to explore the outdoors by their parents; therefore they rely on their technological gadgets to provide information. This creates a nation that nature is, “something made to be used and admired not something to live” (Colombo, Cullen, and Lisle 674).

Thoreau agrees with Luov’s assertion of the deception resulting from civilization. He observes that while civilization is characterized as human development, the drawbacks associated with it are detrimental to nature, “What we call knowledge is often our positive ignorance; ignorance our negative knowledge” (Colombo, Cullen, and Lisle 632). The modern civilization attempts at recreating nature through artificial garden, yards or parks in order to mitigate the dull aspect of the  “know it all state of mind”. While this is essential in creating a semblance of the destroyed natural environment, it is critical to participate in the restoration of natural environments. This creates a wholesome society where the interaction with nature is at an intimate level; therefore, defining the nature of life experienced in that environment; as Thoreau puts it, “We hug the earth--how rarely we mount! Methinks we might elevate ourselves a little more. We might climb a tree, at least” (Colombo, Cullen, and Lisle 633).

It is often that nature is referred to in varying contexts; in most cases it is depicted as a subject which commands affection; “For some young people, nature is so abstract the ozone layer, a far way rain forest that exists beyond the senses” (Colombo, Cullen, and Lisle 674). However, this affection is premised on definitive aspects of nature such as plants or animals and not of nature in general.


While nature is a crucial aspect of life, its appreciation has waned as civilization and technology continues to advance. The benefits attributable to interacting with nature have been asserted by both Thoreau and Luov as intricate. However, modern society has neglected or ignored nature. This has led to dissociation between people and the sensory experience of life. The misconception of knowledge as far as nature is concerned has led to more people succumbing to the know it all culture. In light of this, the reliance of technology significantly the internet to provide information on nature has been a contributing factor to people moving away from the outdoor experiences. Nature is not only a contributing factor to human life, but an integral part of human existence, intelligence and development. Therefore, the appreciation of nature should not be characterized by threats posed by human actions such as destruction of the natural environment but should be a continuous aspect of human life.

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