What is “Nature”? February Content Series

Photo by Michal Lizuch on Pexels.com

Happy February! We hope you took some time in January to get outside and start the year grounded in the natural world. I’ve been in Maine recently, and it has been cold but filled with opportunities to get outside and appreciate the winter landscape.

For the month of February we are starting a new content series exploring the question, what is nature? Throughout the month we want to highlight some of the roots of the American ideas of “nature” and demonstrate the importance of re-thinking our concept of the natural world to better suit the 21st century. As urban sprawl continues and technology shapes our interactions with the world, we must find a new way to think about “nature” that changes how we engage with it and work to protect it. Unfortunately, traditional definitions are outdated and leave us without room to adapt and change, two qualities that are crucial to fighting climate change and increasing access to the outdoors.

To start with a brief background, the Oxford English Dictionary has several definitions of the word “nature,” but one of the most applicable ones reads, “the phenomena of the physical world collectively, esp. plants, animals, and other features and products of earth itself, as opposed to humans and human creation.” Taking this definition as a starting point for our exploration of the Americanized concept of “nature,” we will explore how the word “nature” has been informed by American history and ideals, and how it remains stuck in history.

This series has four parts:

  1. Defining traditional definitions of nature in the United States
  2. Re-defining what nature is and needs to be in the 21st century
  3. Why this new understanding is important, and what this means for the us living in the 21st century
  4. Call to action, including curriculum and activities

Each week we will post on the blog, and make sure to check out our social media for additional content, ideas on how to get outside, and ways to get involved! We challenge you to engage critically and be willing to think about engrained parts of American culture and the commonly held beliefs that drive our relationship with the natural world. Happy reading!

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