The Unfounded Fear of Nature

Humans dominate nature. Concrete is poured on top of green grass. Cars zoom by in a plume of exhaust. And it’s all deemed safe and secure, the better alternative than the green and wild world out there. Society teaches a narrative of the dangerous predators that prowl the forests. T.V. shows display people trying to survive like the cavemen of old, and the audience watches as nature ravages their bodies and sucks them thin and burns them red. The narrative often goes: It’s scary outside. Stay in where it’s warm and dry.

Wildfires are labeled terrifying. This society fears nature and what it delivers. It’s chopped down into parcels to be controlled. Large patchworks of farms melting into subdivisions and cities riddled with roads and buildings. The few wild places that remain are turned into viral tv shows of people trying to survive like the cavemen of old, and the audience watches as nature ravages their bodies and sucks them thin.

But humans were born from the wild. The nature we fear so much right now, used to be our home. And it still is in some societies of the world. Innocent animals can be villainized, and predators built up to be so terrifying in the public’s eye that they don’t see that they’re, in reality, prey. Deadly creatures can save the day. Grandiose devastation from natural disasters can be blessings in disguise. Nature is a source of happiness and beauty that humans have evolved to prosper off of.

With industrialization, there’s been a slanderous campaign on what nature is. This needs to change.

And as much as this narrative and perspective goes on, the more ignorance there is about it’s villainous characters.

But every villain has a backstory.

Sharks are an infamous villain in human society, but based on what?

There’s no evidence that sharks intentionally hunt humans¹. They don’t usually go about trying to attack humans. In fact, there’s more friendly encounters with sharks than attacks¹. The fear of sharks, based on their actions, is unfounded. Maybe it’s their appearance with a mouth full of sharp teeth that stirs the public into a fear frenzy.

Villainized as they are, they have a soft underbelly. Would it be surprising to learn that these “monstrous” sharks even make friends with each other². Or worse yet, who the real villains are? Because it’s not them, it’s humans.

Humans massacre large populations of sharks to obtain the valuable fins. The shark fin trade has many species lingering too close to extinction³.

The image above shows only a fraction of the devastation these sharks feel at the hands of humans. Humans are the serial killers in this situation, not the other way around.

There’s still the case of venomous creatures who can kill with a single sting, bite, or touch. They’re electrifyingly terrifying.

But they can be life saving.

Venoms from all kinds of animals are being explored for life save medical practices. Even the nuisances like jellyfish, have potential to heal wounds faster by encouraging collage growth⁴. Deep cuts could mend faster. Cancer can be absolved quicker.

And some of the most venomous animals, like the sea snakes off the coast of Costa Rica, have mouths so small they can’t a human would have to physically try and get bit by them to die⁵. It would be suicide, not murder by snake.

This wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility seeing as suicide is ranked 10th in leading causes of death in the United States⁶. The rest were diseases which can be aided by nature itself as stated above with the example of the jellyfish. So in reality, the fear that’s held towards nature should really be bent inward at the true animal to fear: ourselves.

Don’t worry. Nature has a solution for this too.

Human minds are stimulated by the great outdoors.When going outside, people experience an increased satisfaction with their life, less stress, more happy, and aware of the world around them¹¹ and there’s also less depression, and less anxiety⁷. This would equate to less therapy visits, less pills, and more happiness with a cheaper bill. Children with attention deficits focus better, and people in greener areas have better mental health⁷. Why isn’t the importance of being outdoors stressed more? Society would be much more healthier, if they went outside more

Homo sapiens evolved to thrive outside just like any other creature on this planet. Zoo animals don’t like to be behind cages any more than humans do. The more space and greenery available, the overall happiness of an ecosystem increases, humans included.

Disastrous events from mother nature can be scary, but it can also bring a lot of beauty. Wildfires bring wildflowers.

Lighting can create the most beautiful creations⁹.

Hurricanes can unearth archaeological findings¹⁰.

Nature gives and takes. Every scary event nature throws at humans, brings its own beauty in tow.

And then there’s the beauty of nature itself. No one can deny the beauty of a sunset. Or an early morning birdsong welcoming in a new dawn. The preservation of national parks allows cheap beautiful vacations for families across the nation. Slowly, through various governmental initiatives these priceless properties are being leased off for oil and gas use. Mass extinctions of species both flora and fauna are spreading across the world. Children of tomorrow won’t see the creatures of today. Grandchildren of the future won’t see this green world with all of it’s wonders without a film of grey.

Nature is priceless, yet humans treat it as a disposable enemy. This needs to change. Media needs to stop teaching that predators are the enemy. Children at a young age need to be taught the importance of the environment around them and how it is needed to live happy, healthy lives. Government policies need to be created to protect the predators as well as the beauty of nature. And most importantly of all, it’s vital that American society recognizes that it’s destroying nature and makes lifestyle changes to amend this.

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[1]: Gray, R. (2019, August 8). The real reasons why sharks attack humans [Identifies why sharks attack humans and clarifies myths]. Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190808-why-do-sharks-attack-humans

[2]: P, E. (2020). Friendly Sharks? A New Study Shows They Also Make Friends With Other Sharks. Science Times. Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.sciencetimes.com/articles/26843/20200812/friendly-sharks-study-shows-make-friends.htm

[3]: Conservation body bolsters shark fin trade regs [Shark fin and the effects conservation is having on it]. (2013, March 11). Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/conservation-body-bolsters-shark-fin-trade-regs/

[4]:Hyunkyoung Lee , Seong Kyeong Bae, Munki Kim, et al. (2017). “Anticancer Effect of Nemopilema nomurai Jellyfish Venom on HepG2 Cells and a Tumor Xenograft Animal Model.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/2752716.

[5]: Gamboa, S. (2020, February 9). Marine reptiles. Universidad De Costa Rica. Presentation at San Ramon, Costa Rica.

[6]: FastStats — Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury. (2020, April 20). Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/suicide.htm

[7]: Pearson, David G, & Craig, Tony. (2014). The great outdoors? Exploring the mental health benefits of natural environments. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1178–1178. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01178

[8]: Turner, M. G. (2011). [Photograph]. Wisconsin State Journal, Shoshone National Forest.

[9]: Myers, P. (n.d.). [Photograph found in National Park Service, Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve]. Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.nps.gov/articles/grsa-fulgurites.htmP (Originally photographed 2017, March 27)

[10]: Farber, M. (2018, October 24). Hurricane Michael unearths nearly 120-year-old ship wreckage on Florida island [Old ship revealed durning]. Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.foxnews.com/science/florida-ship-wreckage-unearthed-by-hurricane-michael

[11]: Mutz, M., & Müller, J. (2016). Mental health benefits of outdoor adventures: Results from two pilot studies. Journal of Adolescence, 49, 105–114. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.03.009