How Can Humans Reconcile With Nature?

Por: Sue Zhu

The world is an ecological whole constitution, formed by the interaction of human, animals, plants, and microorganisms. Nature provides human beings with resources for living, making the sustainability of human society possible. However, after the Industrial Revolution, as our material life became prosperous, human’s activities have brought increasing damage to the natural environment, especially the intensification of economic activities based on fossil fuels, the advancement of globalization, and the unrestrained growth of human material desires. Problems such as the expansion of human desires, global warming, seawater acidification, wetland drainage, flooding, etc. have gradually emerged. The coronavirus that began last year and this year’s upgraded to Delta and now Omicron has spread at such a rapid rate that they are even more shocking for us. The alarm bell has rung, facing up to nature's revenge, and reconciling with it as soon as possible is imminent.

How do we reconcile with nature? I think that in addition to the correct use of science and technology to rationally select natural resources, religious and some philosophical ideas should be respected and followed when our generation and even following generations act because these ideas and beliefs will guide us to face nature with true emotions voluntarily and selflessly. Getting closer to nature, taking resources from it, and returning things back to it, so nature will develop in a virtuous circle. The prerequisite for reconciliation is to know the relationship between nature and human, which is convincingly explained in most religious and philosophical thoughts.

The Bible says that God created human beings after creating the heavens and the earth, the sun and the moon, animals and plants. Taoism’s ancestor Lao Tzu believes that “The Tao is the flow of the Universe,  it transforms all things and keeps the Universe balanced and ordered”,Confucius said “all things are born in nature”, and the materialist philosopher Wang Chong of the Eastern Han dynasty said that "all things are born with the same spirit. " These expositions point out that human and nature all come from the same origin, have the same status, regardless of their pros and cons, and have the value of their independent existence. Any small action of mankind will affect nature's whole body, will affect the entire ecological environment.

In ancient Chinese culture, there is a simple view of nature, "the unity of human and nature", which believes that natural formation is a natural thing with its own evolutionary process. Lao Tzu said, "Tao gives birth to one, one is born two, two is born three, and three gives birth to all universal things" It is recorded in the Book of Changes-Preface, "after heaven and earth, then everything is out."  Human flesh and life are not possessed by human, but the convergence of the spirit of heaven and earth. Human survives because of their nourishment. Therefore, they must “conform to the virtues of heaven and earth, their clarity/wisdom must conform to the luminosity of the sun and moon, human timing conforms to the order of the four seasons ", as a whole existence of life in nature, it contains the big four "Tao, Heaven, Earth, and People's Congress". Human are not superior to the other three. Human obtain living materials from nature to maintain life and at the same time transform nature to make it more in line with the needs of human existence, human beings are a part of nature. Nature is also an indispensable part of human beings. Both of them have me in you and you in me. The relationship between human and nature is not binary opposition, but Uniformity.

Chinese Confucianism believes that heaven and earth are the two fundamental forces for all creative processes and natural changes, and are also the origin of human and all things. What is necessary to sustain life is given by nature. Human should conform to the order of the season changes, and obey the laws of nature. "Born by nature, nurtured by the earth, then the earth is nurtured back by human, this is the right circulation." This doctrine binds human to nature and cannot be separated.

Christians believe in what the Bible says that human were created by God in his own image and are closely related to other creatures and nature but also different. Paul warns us that "all things created by God are good. God, human and all things are in a harmonious relationship, and the earth and its resources belong to God (Psalm: 24:1)." But the Bible also points out that human beings are different from all things, they are given special status and value. "You have to be multiplied in generations. All the beasts on the earth and the birds in the sky, all insects and fish in the sea will be frightened with you, under control by your hands". It points out people's responsibilities to nature.

When Hinduism affirmed the integrality and independent value of nature, it opposed the separation of human from nature and pointed out that human depend on the spiritual level of nature. It is believed that nature does not exist for the purpose of serving human only, but it is the evidence that we can see the ubiquity of the Creator through its elements, "I am the taste of water, the brilliance of the sun and the moon, the sound of the air, the mellow fragrance of the earth, and the smell of flames. " ("Bhagavad Gita" (7: 8-9)), Human beings can only get happiness from the well-being of all things, and thus get spiritual support and comfort.

In the cosmology of the Native American Lenape, the relationship between human and nature is tolerance. Land, water, sunlight cannot be privately owned, and land is "our mother". In the Baha'i scriptures, the natural world is defined as the reflection of the gods, "all things in the natural world are dependent on each other, moving towards beauty together, and perfect evolution is very important." Human inner life shapes the environment, and at the same time is deeply affected by the environment. Nature nourishes our lives and accepts our deaths. Nature and human are really one body, endlessly recurring.

In Japanese Shintoism, it is pointed out that "God, human, and nature are not isolated and unrelated, but parent-child relationship or compatriot relationship that uses life as a medium. God, human and nature have a harmonious and integrated relationship. The three are the indispensable elements that make up the same world.

In addition, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism and other religious beliefs all have the same identification with the above-mentioned relationship between man and nature and its similarity. In New Zealand, the saying that “Human are not the owner of earth, human do not own the land, but the earth owns human" originated from the emotional expression of the local indigenous Maori who fear and love nature. Now, it has become a cultural heritage of New Zealand. Besides these religious aspects, scientific research has already pointed out that the most basic elements that sustain human life: air, water and food all come from nature.

Now that we know the one-piece relationship between human and nature and the importance of nature to our human existence, what is the reason for more and more uncontrolled activities related to mankind, making the earth more and more overwhelmed? It is the awakening of human nature, the further development of the inherent defects of human nature, and the further development of human beings' pursuit of individual feelings and satisfaction of desires, as well as the cultivation of moral education and spiritual abilities that are gradually lacking.

The Bible says that humans are composed of three parts: spirit, soul, and body, and spirit is the fundamental difference from animals. The advancement of science continuously solves the needs of our bodies, enriching and changing the material world of mankind. The spiritual pursuits and beliefs that human beings increasingly despise, as well as the conflict between the body and the soul, are the root causes of today's global ecological crisis. The unrestrained demand for nature, the competition between people, and the war between nations to obtain resources, which led to the generation and escalation of crimes, has devastated nature, directly threatening our living environment. Reconciliation with nature as soon as possible is the only way for mankind to survive and continue.

So what actions should human take to reconcile with nature? From the ecological wisdom and value orientation of traditional Chinese culture and the contractual relationship between humans and gods in Christianity, the answer may be directly found, that is, human should strengthen moral training and improve spiritual ability through the study of philosophical thinking and religious beliefs.

“Genesis” points out that human has the function of "managing" all things, but it does not say that man is the master of nature, and his status can override other things. Instead, we have to look after nature, keep it as Eden. The reason that God blessed us on the seventh day as the Sabbath is that we should exercise restraint in the use of nature through rest, allow it to recuperate and regenerate, and let it proceed according to its own routine to maintain the balance of the overall ecosystem. The Bible expresses the rainbow covenant between God and mankind, the circumcision covenant, etc. If the relationship between man and God is a contractual relationship, then there is also a contractual relationship between nature and human. This kind of spirit, the interchangeable sense, is what nature provides to us for survival. We repay nature by caring for it, so as to get more rewards from it, and such a virtuous circle continues.

Confucian philosophy defines human beings as the head of all things, human can consciously cultivate the virtues of conscience, the ability and wisdom to act in accordance with etiquette. "The book of universality" says that "human beings are born with benevolence, benevolence, given by God. ", the essence of benevolence is love, "knowing one's relatives and benevolent people and loving things", things, including all kinds, they can be as small as sand, as light as dust, we need to cultivate compassion and compassion for those and we should not deprive other lives of the right to live and of space for no reason.

"Reverence of heaven and earth" is one of the main ideas of Confucian religion, which teaches us to be full of gratitude and repay nature to nature. Human cannot do anything without nature, but nature can be lifelong without any human. Also, nature is not completely cognizable by us. In the natural world, the sky, that is, the way of heaven and the virtue of nature, the earth is the birth of all things. Heaven has a dominating role, and many of them exceed our current cognition, which is the existence of the so-called divinity. What we should do is the "inaction" advocated by Taoism, that is, people should conform to nature, let everything grow in their own ways, do not violently intervene, do not impose their own will on nature, or do things that violate nature.

The minimalist desires and basic lifestyle advocated by Taoism will allow us to minimize non-basic needs, advocate a simple life, and reduce the desire to pursue material things, which is the so-called "road to simplicity", when fame and wealth conflict with natural justice and morality. We know that relics take righteousness. This lifestyle, similar to abstinence, will reduce excessive damage to the earth.

Taoist philosophy of Yin and Yang balance seems to be able to explain the reason for the intensification of disasters and man-made disasters today. The earth is Yin and heaven is Yang, Yin and yang do interact with each other, restrict to each other as well to maintain the balance, excessive exploitation of underground energy and reduction of cultivated land. When the pressure of Yang is bigger than Yin, balance will be broken. The imbalance between heaven and earth breaks the balance between human, animals and plants, and the consequences of imbalance are global warming and the spread of viruses.

The Taoist values of symbiosis amongst all things urge everyone from the people to the government to treat nature well, believing that the abundant growth of all things in the world is the real treasure for all of us; if not, it will be the decline of the country and the people’s failure. Natural abundance is regarded as something to be celebrated, so we can reintegrate into its natural rhythm.

Many studies have shown that in areas where people follow Taoism, the protection of forest vegetation is far better than those in areas without Taoism. Taoist thought has given us very good enlightenment: if everyone becomes the defender of nature who disciplines himself strictly and treats everything with tolerance, then he will naturally shake hands with us to be friends. A scholar once said that "using pure rationality to understand nature is incomplete”. Heidegger also warned mankind that "the real meaning of salvation is to put something free in its essence. Saving the earth is not about dominating her and conquering it. Dominate and conquer are one step closer to the insatiable extraction”. But when human beings truly regard themselves as a part of nature, they will voluntarily produce a great sense of responsibility and sincere emotions, treat nature like cherishing their parents and others, understand it, conform to it, and stop further affecting it through expedient considerations under pragmatism or politics. Achieving reconciliation between human and nature and becoming integrated means mankind will not be abandoned by nature, and lives can continue to be passed on from generation to generation. To achieve this, in addition to the positive use of advanced technology, I believe the guidance of religion and philosophical thinking plays a pivotal role, and Taoist thinking is the top priority.

Sue Zhu, former TV presenter and editor in China, now living in Auckland, is a New Zealand Chinese Poet, Artist and organizer of international cultural exchanges. She began to publish essays in 1995 and has published three collections of children's educational books. One story translations and one collection of poetry. Her poems have been translated into English, Polish, Vietnamese, Italian, Macedonian and other languages and has been published in many counties.


She won the Naji Naaman literary prize, Mentions of the 36th Nosside World Poetry Prize ( UNESCO), The Poiesis Award for Excellence in Poetry’ in the Rabindranath Tagore Award International Contest, Italian Il Meleto di Guido Gozzano Literary prize (2020, 2021), China “Monkey King Cup” poetry competition award, China international short poem contest award and some other literature awards in Bangladesh, New Zealand, Romania. 


She was nominated for Pushcart Prize in 2020. She has been invited to participate in quite a few poetry and literature festivals in Mexico, Canada, India, Macedonia and other countries.


Published on 20.02.2022

Última actualización: 19/01/2024