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Human, Nature, City: From Oblivion to Review

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DOI: 10.4236/oje.2017.77030    573 Downloads   1,098 Views  

ABSTRACT

During initial evolution of human residences, the balance between human and nature was determined by nature and the relationship between human and nature was one-way. In the first stages of urbanization, humans did not have the required equipment for intervening in nature and upset the balance in it. Even after that, they would refrain from widely modification and destroying of nature when they became narrowly artisan. This balance was unhurt for a long time in history until the 19th century, where this relationship was broken by the rapid advancement of technology and as a result the increase in urbanization. Accordingly, presenting a model in order to preserve the relationship between human and nature in the city seems to be of a great significance. This research is carried out by a qualitative method in a descriptive-analytic form has reached a model through combining naturism, moralism, humanism and phenomenology as a novel approach in the relationship between human and nature in the city with an emphasis on the philosophical concept of nature and study of the types of the relationship between human, nature and city, nature during history and the current condition of nature in the cities.

KEYWORDS

1. Introduction

During human history, humans have been in close relationship with the earth as their origin and also as an environment for living and benefiting from resources and fulfilling their needs; a relationship without which, human life was not possible. Nature has found a meaning and an identity as a cradle for human and their life, through being chosen and being mixed with human history and order, and it has tied with human presence and became a place to live.

This relationship later became more than just fulfilling the basic needs and took various forms and toady, this planet, as the only habitat for all humans, depends highly on humans and their lifestyles in order to preserve the lives of other species [1] . Today, the crisis of nature has become an important issue for all societies. Nature has been neglected by humans and it is being ruined by humans [2] . It could be said that the root of this crisis is in the fundamentals of anthropology and naturalism in contemporary culture of human. To human, nature was considered as an external entity and human tried to reach maximum benefit from it (for a better life). Human looked at nature as a stranger of which they have to reach the maximum benefit and they forgot their common roots with nature.

Industry is one of the indices of the modern science that not only shows the lack of human obedience from nature, but also displays the post-nature supremacy of human. This dominance of human over nature, socially in the form which is observed in reality, unlike what was imagined in the past several decades, has not had any desirable consequences and its undesirable fallouts are being revealed day by day. In the majority of today’s urban societies, either developed industrial societies or consumer societies, humans and their physical and mental health are at risk. Pollution is not external only, but it is also internal. Human do not find comfort even in artificial urban and see themselves far from nature [3] [4] .

In spite of the above mentioned, it seems that nature, although beautiful and attractive, has confronted humans with two limitations:

a) Materialistic limitations: humans cannot tolerate all natural conditions and they are forced to detach from nature and move to a different environment.

b) Theoretical limitations: humans’ thoughts and attitudes on the definition of the status of nature and its relationship with humans, define nature as inferior or superior to humans [5] .

These limitations have led to various approaches on the relationship between human and nature and as a result, this has led to formation of different architectures and urbanism in various environments in nature. Any climate and geography recommends a special sort of operational recommendations to fulfill the minimum basic needs in architecture and this factor has been a determining criterion in architecture and urbanism in the world.

Accordingly, the main question in this research is that: how should be the relationship between human and nature in today’s urban societies? Considering the proposed question, the hypothesis in this research is proposed as the consensus of the results derived from the relationship between human and nature in history provides a correct assessment of the relationship between human and nature in today’s urban societies.

Accordingly, this research which is carried out with a qualitative method and in the form of descriptive-analytic based on library data, initially studies the various attitudes of humans towards nature in the city with an emphasis on the philosophical concepts of nature. Subsequently, with a historical approach, a novel categorization of these approaches is proposed and ultimately, by pointing out the current condition of urban societies, a model for interaction of human and nature is presented.

2. Philosophical Concept of Nature

It seems that the concept of nature covers a wide range of meanings in all cultures and although this problem could be solved by referring to the dictionaries, this word could not cover all its meanings. Based on this, in this research, the approach in philosophical concept of nature with a historical approach in three aspects is studied that is presented below. There are undoubtedly other aspects in to the philosophical concept of nature. However, due to the approach of this research, three aspects of them are mentioned here.

2.1. Nature and the Concept of Order

It seems that one of the determining characteristics of nature is the concept of order. Initially, by considering sunrise and sunset and the gradual increase of crescent in the sky in a specific time and also season changes and the sectional return of any of them and many other similar phenomena, human was gradually able to discover the order governing nature. Probably, this discovery had a direct relationship with gradual growth of intelligence in human and increase in their intellectual facilities. Understanding this order in nature has probably released humans from their attachment to the present and has not only familiarized them with the past and most importantly with the future, but also turned past to experience, the future to prediction and as a result turned it to planning. In Greek, nature is called physis (the root of the word physics) which in fact means growth. This growth, either external or internal, is carried out based on a specific order and undoubtedly, the first Greek philosophers who had inherited older traditions of mythology and initial beliefs, gradually introduced the universe as cosmos, through pondering the order in the universe. Cosmos is the orderly universe, so that anything is in its own ordered place and this order in Green traditions implies a harmony which is the crystallization of elegance and perfection [4] .

2.2. Nature and the Concept of Eidos

In Plato’s Timaeus (On Nature) which is one of the oldest books of physics, by imitating a logical balanced eternal world, which is eidos, Dmiurge formalizes and harmonizes nature. The tangible world is partial, becoming and transitional and it is not authentic and its attributes are reflected by benefiting from eidos. By following Pythagoras, Plato added a novel aspect to the system of nature and formulized the order and harmony of nature in mathematics. This was used by his followers by vast and even one and the only one and even numbers were discussed in it. However, cosmos is not the presentation of visual beauty alone, but it also represents a prefect image of justice and in fact, since justice is the constitutive of all perfections, therefore, nature is the origin of all these values and human also could benefit from these perfections through coordination in various stages. Hence, there is a similarity between macrocosm and microcosm, which are nature and human and human cannot reach salvation without coordinating with nature and accordingly, the meaning of coordination of human with themselves, is their coordination with nature and vice versa. Nevertheless, in their finite astronomy system, the Greeks distinguished the above-moon and under-moon world. According to Aristotle, in the above-moon world, the movement was circular and complete and in fact eternal and in this regard, it is above time and space and there is no concha in it. However, in the under-moon world, movement is refracted and there is a possibility of accidents and incomplete entities, for instance a sheep with five limbs. Ultimately, for the Greeks, nature is the mind and Venus which are considered as the whole and unit and there is nothing out of it which could be investigated. Hence, the metaphysical discussions of Aristotle do not have any metaphysical implications, but they are considered a more professional stage of his discussions on nature [6] . Of course, by the emergence of monotheistic thought systems and the divine teachings of the prophets, the validity of Greek thought schools was decreased, since if nature is considered as a creation, it is necessarily relative and it is not the root of any absolute value. Hence, reflecting on nature drives human mind towards its creator and as a result, in the framework of natural affairs, perfection could not be achieved and it is only God which could be perfect and the origin of all values.

2.3. Nature in Abrahamic Religions

In Abrahamic religions, nature is intrinsically good, since it is a creation of God and it is the sources of his blessing and an indication of his creation wonders. Meister Eckhart has claimed that: one who does not learn from God’s created nature, will not learn from any preacher, either [7] . Nature in this regard is like a book, or even an encyclopedia which is presented to humans; it has to be learned first. However, in the tradition of the prophets, the salvation of humans is not reached through the current nature and human’s salvation is in hereafter only; human, although being a natural entity, has a supernatural dimension [4] .

In Islam, nature is the realization of God, but it is never attributed a divine sacredness. It is amazing that one of the divine names is environment and this name is cited in surah an-Nisa along with nature: and to Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And ever is Allah, of all things, encompassing. This correspondence is of a great significance. A Muslim is immersed in divine environment and the environment crises is caused by the modern human’s refusal to see God as the real environment which has surrounded them and constitute their life. Since human is linked with God and this link has surrounded human in all directions, nature is the way to confront God and in a way, it is the divine dimension. That is why some if the theosophists refer to it as the divine book of creation. Accordingly, a correspondence is formed between the Quran and human in Islamic approach. The result for this correspondence is the verse view of nature. The Quran has cited the term verse for nature and this shows that Islamic naturalism is never the final stage of ontology, but it is a symbolic aspect so that it could guide human to higher stages of universe and draw humans to the divine essence [8] [9] .

In this viewpoint, the interpretation of nature is an interpretation based on which, God is the basis for human and nature identity and based on this, the relationship between human and nature is an integrative relationship which is presented in Figure 1.

In this approach, what has formed an intrinsic commonality between human and nature is the source of existence, which is God that is the basis for the identity of the whole universe. Nature, like human, but in a very low level, is the realization of attributes of God such as knowledge (self-awareness), will (freedom), creativity, power, etc. The root of stability of the laws and intrinsic traditions of nature and human during the past thousands of years, and also the scientific changes and movements of them has been from this divine nature. This divine nature is realized in the form of perfect human and perfect human has the managing and meta-systemic role in relationship with the whole universe [5] .

Figure 1. God the basis for human and nature, Source: Authors based on [5] .

Based in this, the definition of nature based in the three aspects extracted from the Quran is as the following:

a) Human has the duty to exploit and capture nature. (11:61)

b) The value of nature from anthology point of viewis lesser than the spiritual dimension of human. (95:4)

c) Nature is the required context for formation of human physical and spiritual dimensions of human and it is their mother. (11:61)

Based on this, the spirit is the result of physic and it needs nature as a mother and this leads to reservation of some rights for nature and human must not forget that and nature cannot satisfy all spiritual needs. The low rank of nature causes human to have a managing role (not as a surrender or coordinator) and use it as a common interest between human and nature [5] .

The Quran considers nature as a divine realization which can both help to discover God and also could cover the God and this confliction is of importance. To deeply understand nature, its language should be understood. As much as nature could link human with God, it can be a barrier in linking human and God. Maybe the emphasis of the Quran on the presence of nature in paradise and hell is the same thing. In the Quranic language, there are trees both in paradise and hell. However, nature in paradise has a divine source and has broad attributes in the Quran, while the trees in hell have satanic roots and fruits and grown in the middle of the hell and they do not have that broad attributes and realizations. This hellish tree is the realization of inadmissible look at nature and not understanding it. In one general look, the important spiritual message of natural symbols could be introduced as the main message, which is showing diversity in the absolute unity [10] .

3. Study and Criticism of various Approaches of Human towards Nature

Baruch Spinoza, who lived in a period of time between Descartes and Kant, believed that there are two species, creative nature and created nature. Creative nature is in accordance with its nature, which is cause in itself. Hence, it is the cause of itself. However, created nature is caused by the necessity of nature; that is the meanings and external characteristics of nature, the necessities which are present in God as a nature is in accordance with its freedom which is its nature and has a form of necessity in the universe, since everything is necessary in the universe. Based on this theory, it seems that in the relationship between human and nature is subset of creative nature in the oriental viewpoint and a subset of created nature in the occidental viewpoint. However, this viewpoint could be criticized through the fact that by approaching towards monotheistic intellectual systems and divine teachings of the prophets, the value of this school of thought is decreased, since if nature is considered as a creature, it is relative and it could not be considered as the source of any absolute value. Hence, reflection on nature inevitably guides human mind towards the creator and as a result, the framework of natural affairs could not be considered perfect and only God is the source of all values. Hence, the truth is that nature is created and a phenomenon which requires a creator.

By dividing the occidental view into two forms of aggressive and separatist, Grutter introduces three main patterns of nature making, escape nature and naturalist. To elaborate these three approaches, three paradigms of goods in the modern approach, prison in the medieval and mother in its oriental role (far- east) could be expressed [11] . The main critique of this categorization is the fact lack of comprehensive approach towards this problem and neglecting the approach of theologians towards nature.

Noqrekar has viewed Grutter’s view with an Islamic approach. Based on his view, Islamic view is a view based on human needs and their perfection. This view sees nature as a farm which is required by human, according to the word of God, and saints, and interpretations of divine mystics and philosophers. However, it does not include it all, and nature of the farm leads to intellectual growth, spiritual becoming and enlightening of human [5] . And based on this view, a new model is added to Grutter’s theory and that is a nature-creating model which is defined by Islamic view. It seems that the criticism of his theory are examples based on which he has tried to explain the intellectual roots of the model so that Islam is seen as a religion or school only and it seems that such deduction is not correct and considering the definitions which are mentioned before, all divine religions have this view in them.

4. Present a New Categorization

In order to present a new approach, this paper has a historical approach. Based on this and considering the definition desired by this research on nature and criticism presented in the last chapter of this research on the current approaches, this chapter studies the relationship between human and nature during history and it presents a new categorization through studying the intellectual roots and examples related to this historical approach in relationship with cities.

4.1. The Relationship between Human and Nature from Beginning to Present

Human has had a close relationship with nature from their reemergence. Since human is always evolving, their worldview and relationship with nature has always been evolving too [12] . Hence, the relationship between human and nature from beginning to present could be presented in four categories; that is, the relationship between human and nature based on quality could be categorized in four stages.

The first stage is the time when human distanced from the animal world and reached the human world in which thinking and problem-solving were musts, human came to this understanding that they should try hard in order to survive and overcome nature and the imminent dangers. Primitive man would know the cause of the happenings in nature, in nature itself; that is, human does not see the causes in supernatural and they did not know the spiritual world, since their intelligence had not evolved that much and they couldn’t distinguish between nature and supernatural. Human does not believe in spiritual affairs and spiritual world, and all the things were in nature; that is, human would not recognize supernatural and Gods and spirits, which were beyond nature and were nonphysical [12] .

The relationship between human and nature in the second stage which begins from nomadic phase and the stage of manual food production, changed a lot due to the change and growth in human mind; firstly, natural events were attributed to the supernatural and a huge gap emerged between nature and supernatural. And secondly, the natural phenomena or the temporal world was considered to be caused by the spiritual world, and human saw supernatural as the determiner of their fate. Due to this ideology, the quality of the relationship between human and nature changed; that is in order to prevent natural disasters and obtain their salvation, human refrained from direct engagement with nature, which was carried out through magic, and human began praising spiritual entities in the territory of supernatural. Human wanted the spiritual world to enable them to dominate nature through praising and sacrificing, so that they can benefit from nature. The result of this ideology was the cut of human’s direct relationship with nature; that is, instead of understanding nature through science and dominating it, human requested the cure for the pains and ways of salvation from the spiritual world, spirits and Gods [12] .

The third stage begins by the formation of civilized human during Renaissance which is not far from current time and human returned back to future and similar to early humans, they considered nature the source of natural affairs and changed their views on the causation of spiritual factors. The difference between the early humans and the human of Renaissance and scientific era on the explanation of nature and the cause of the events, is that early human did not know the methods of understanding nature and the cause of the events due to their ignorance and they knew magic as the method of dominating the world. However, human, after Renaissance, change their worldview about nature due to having science and as if is observed by having the correct knowledge, their power for understanding nature and natural laws and dominating it and exploiting it increased [13] .

The fourth stage is the time the negative impacts of human forthright economic activities surface gradually and they understood that while having economic and industrial activities, a step should be taken towards preventing negative impacts of these activities and prevent damage and pollution of the environment. This stage began in mid-twentieth century.

4.2. Present a New Model

In any of the historical stages presented above, huge concepts such as God, religion, praising, time, location, territory, art, language, family, society, living, production, need, and many other of these concepts and anything based on which one of the dimensions of human was pointed out and identified, is challenged and they have a different aspect in any of these stags. However, from what is derived from historical studies, it could be said that the confrontation of human with nature could be divided into five categories of cognitive, technical, aesthetic and practical-moral. In the cognitive approach, curious human wants to explore nature and in the beginning, this view of nature was presented by observing nature and it is considered a value. In the modern era also, science serves the practical purposes of human and the salvation of human is the materialistic salvation of human. In technical confrontation, by the knowledge human obtains, nature is exposed to technique and practice. Also, in aesthetic confrontation, from ancient times, nature belonged to the aesthetic understanding of human. In the fourth form, which is considered in the last century, there is a scientific-moral confrontation with nature; that is, the proposition of dos and don’ts in confronting nature. However, considering the fact that in some historical stages a combination of all four types confrontation of human with nature are observed, the new categorization could be presented in three models. The first model is organic which is Ecotourism, and the second model true to dominate nature.

4.2.1. First Model: Organic

The relationship between human and nature in this model is a mutual interaction. An approach which seems to be present from prehistoric era to the modern era.

4.2.2. Second Model: Dominance on Nature

In this stage, nature, unlike the last relationship, does not represent the mutual and equal interaction with human, but it is completely passive in confrontation with human. This is observed by the beginning of the modern era.

4.2.3. Third Model: Ethical Confrontation with Nature

It seems that the basis of this approach is nature, God and human as a triangle and any change in this triangle leads to huge changes in other angles of the triangle. This approach which is around since 70s, bends towards the fact that while having industrial and economic activities, measures should be taken to avoid damages to the environment. Various environmental conventions which are managed and carried out by the UN are in accordance with this model. Table 1 presents a categorization of the models presented based on historical review of the relationship between human and nature.

Table 1. Categorization of models of the relationship between human and nature presented through historical review, Source: Authors.

5. The Relationship between City and Nature from Beginning to Present

Human has changed the earth due to their need to adapt it for survival during history. These changes, either small or large, have all been efforts to form a place, or in other words, changing the spaces without identity, security and order to spaces with identity, security and order. It is clear that any change in the environment leads to changes in the natural environment. Hence, the artificial environment is different from natural environment by nature. It seems that the relationship between city and nature in formation and development of cities from the beginning of history to date cold be studied in three stages.

In the first stage, from the beginning of history to the 16th century where there was a balanced relationship between traditional cities and human, there were nature and city and changes were under the control of humans. Due to the small size of the cities, the natural context of the city was understandable and citizens were in direct contact with nature. In that time, cities constituted an inseparable part of nature order and their physical and biological relationship was guaranteed by a self-regulating process. In fact, there was a desirable relationship between city, as a part, and nature, as a whole [14] [15] .

The second stage is related to the era after the scientific and industrial revolutions in which the aim of science-oriented human was to reach a utopia in which all human problems could be solved via science and human can reach a comfortable life without any fear or threat from natural forces. However, it was only possible through potentials of nature and the laws governing it and also the physical resources. The support of a technique-oriented theory in two centuries, the prevalence of industrial development thoughts, urbanism based on extreme exploitation of natural resources, led to irreparable damages to nature and emergence of environmental crisis centers in cities and ruin of resources in natural regions and climate change, as the main challenges of the global community [16] .

The third stage began in late twentieth century and continues to present and in it, the reconciliation of extreme urban development to fulfill the needs of urban population on the one hand and the limited capacities of the environment on the other, has become a great concern. Passing these challenges require a fundamental research on the relationship between human, environment, city and limitations of development.

Based on this, in this era, the experience of living in metropolitans, being exposed to heavy air pollution, noise pollution, visual pollution, etc. are new experienced for human [17] . The population density and overcrowded spaces have never been experienced on the earth before and this is the common phenomenon is new to human species [18] . Considering the importance of the issue, since late twentieth century to present, various theories and measures have been taken in order to increase urban development, trough considering the natural capacities which are presented below.

5.1. Contemporary Urbanism and Nature

In 1920s, Le Corbusier who had directly experienced the lack of open spaces in European cities, presented the ideal urban plan of his dubbed the Radiant City in the form of 60-story buildings or other dense buildings. His goal was to recommend an unprecedented model of construction, liberalization of land for access and use of the citizens, so that he proposes that 80 - 90 percent of the land is left unconstructed and only 10 - 20 percent of the land is constructed. Accordingly, despite the relative density of population increase, enough open space is accessible by the citizens [2] [19] [20] .

In the 1930s, in order to increase the relationship between city and nature, Frank Lloyd Wright presented Broadacre City project. In his ideal city plan, each family owns around 2 hectares of land in which they can farm and build their houses there. Accordingly, the relationship between human and nature would considerably increase. Broadacre City plan would present a broad and wide city form through decreasing the population density and emphasis on motor transportation. Consequently, while considerably decreasing the population density, enough open spaces are provided for the citizens [19] .

Although the plans of Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright are in conflict based on population density, both ideas emphasize on providing open spaces and the relationship between citizens and nature―the issue which is considered highly in the recent years in developed countries.

In 1960s, Ian McHarg expressed the importance of accompanying “designing with nature” and in a book entitled the same subject, emphasized that development should not be carried out in problematic lands which are sensitive to the development or places which are exposed to natural disasters [21] . He emphasizes on refraining from development in lands located in floodplains, high-risk earthquake zones and steep and unstable slopes. Accordingly, the quality of the design matching the environmental condition is specifically emphasized [22] .

At the same time with the publication of McHarg book, the book of William White “The Last Landscape” was published in 1986, which was an effort to preserve open spaces in American cities. In this book, he has counted the negative impacts of development without plans. Among its negative effects could be referred to the loss of farmlands, lack of entertainment lands for citizens, urban floods, pollution of surface and underground waters, visual pollution (natural inelegance), decrease in the sense of location, and relationship with nature. He proposed various methods to overcome these consequences among which, protective zoning, creation of green belts and scenic roads could be referred to.

Also, the movement of restoring the urban environment could be referred to; a phenomenon which tries to restore and revive the urban environment in the cities around the world. The objective of this movement is to preserve and restore natural resources and systems which are exposed to the urban development. This movement began in 1980s and it has overcome many environmental issues and political, technical and economic barriers which were on the way of preserving and reviving the environment. The main groups active in this movement include social groups, municipalities and NGOs. Among these, the theory of Sir Richard Rogers and On power entitled Dense but Green could be referred to, they believe that high density along with providing green and quality spaces could provide a desirable environment for the citizens [23] .

5.2. The Model of the Relationship between City and Nature

Considering the history mentioned above on the relationship between city and nature in the last discussions, three models could be proposed in this regard. The first model is the balanced relationship between city and nature in which the confrontation of city with nature is direct. It could be observed in this model in the first historical era, considering the area and population of the cities, human was able to control environmental happenings and nature in the cities.

The second model is the dominance of city over nature which happened at the same time as the industrial revolution, increase in human knowledge and increase in health quality and ultimately, increase in the population of the cities. In this era, the confrontation approach is technique-oriented and city excessively used the natural resources and damaged nature in city and environment around it.

After this era, during the past century, human has become aware of their mistakes and ties to reconcile city with nature and the third model was proposed to prevent pollution of urban and regional spaces, decreasing local, regional and national production capacities, supporting textures and not supporting damaging developments and considering the carrying capacity of nature proposed city in accordance with theories of sustainable development and this process has continued until present. Table 2 presents the model of categorization of the relationship between city and nature based on history.

6. Conclusions

Today, urban planner and citizens believe that presence of nature in the city is a huge step in sustainable development and improvement urban quality and citizens’ life. However, how this nature enters the city with which approach and format and scale to maximize the relationship between citizens and their lives is a question whose answer needs a deeper reflection in philosophical and theoretical concepts on nature that was considered in this research. Various philosophical concepts of nature were discussed in this research and various relationships between human and nature were studied and new models of the relationship

Table 2. The model of categorization of the relationship between city and nature based on history, Source: Authors.

Figure 2. Proposed model of the relationship between human and nature in the city, Source: Authors.

between human and nature were proposed. The status of nature in city was discussed and the models of the relationship between city and nature during history were expressed. Here, the main research question “what is the relationship between human and nature?” is answered here.

Since experience is the result of interaction between human and nature, therefore, qualities and characteristics of nature in cities are considered subjective. Hence, this relationship could be studied in two phases of cognitive and subjective. The cognitive aspect of nature in cities guides humans’ moral traits of humans towards preserving environment and ecosystem (moralism). On the other hand, the subjective aspect stimulates the naturalist aspect if humans. These two aspects turn to a new trend of thought by a humanistic and phenomenological approach, which today’s human requires it for their relationship with nature in cities. Based on this and considering the proposed issues, it seems that by combining presented historical patterns, a model of the relationship between human and nature in current societies could be reached.

The model whose thinking trend is a combination of naturalism, moralism, humanism and phenomenology and its objective is to increase the life quality of humans in the cities by considering the perception and interaction of humans and nature by creating subjective capacities of nature in the cities. Figure 2 presents the proposed model.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

Taghvaee, A. , Kamyar, M. and Moradi, A. (2017) Human, Nature, City: From Oblivion to Review. Open Journal of Ecology, 7, 433-446. doi: 10.4236/oje.2017.77030.

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