December 1-9  photographs and ? – What is nature?

December 1-9  photographs and ? – What is nature?

Nature is a tricky word but appears everywhere and everynow – at all scales from a gigantic sky, a Green Tree Frog camouflaged in the leaf of a crinum lily, or a spider jumping out of a stick of broccoli. Flower Spiders are well camouflaged and ambush passing prey.

Dec 1. Black-capped Tern hunting in the Nambucca River

We take the world to be natural with humans introducing the non-natural through science and technologies and building a new world. The scientists tell us the world is subject to chance, species evolve, and 99% die out, vast extinction catastrophes occur out of the blue and the very nature of reality, the quantum world is emergent and contradictory.

Dec 2. Wyn happy, guerilla gardening, spreading Strangler Fig seeds on weed trees

We all know what nature is –but what do we mean by ‘nature’?

Raymond Williams pointed out that the term ‘nature’ itself is an abstraction, a complex of concepts for the, ‘real multiplicity of things and living processes.’[1]

Dec 3. We weed and plant. Three bottlebrushes this morning

Kate Soper suggests nature is, ‘those material structures and processes that are independent of human activity (in the sense that they are not a humanly created product), and whose forces and causal powers are the necessary conditions of every human practice, and determine the possible forms it can take.’[2]

Dec 4. Dorrigo National Park treasures original Gondawna rainforest

Yet we are nature and culture works though nature nature/culture. ‘Nature is not so much a place or an object outside culture – dangerous, alluring, infinite – as a boundary between that which acquires a function through culture and that which leaves culture powerless, but is, nonetheless, its precondition.’[3] Stipe Grgas and Svend Erik Larsen

5 Dec. Empty nest, Crested Pigeon’s second clutch, Missed the fledging again!

Yet we have strong ontological assumptions, ‘In the attempt to avoid the technologically mediated aspects of the world, our culture holds nature up as a primary source for the real. Back to nature movements have come and gone with various cultural waves, but the idea of nature as a source of reality persists. Contemporary culture uses the idea of nature as a refuge, a place to become grounded in reality.’ Ross McNary[4]


Dec 6. Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos flying into sunset

Writing about nature, Raymond Williams noted, has become, ‘now the nature of observation, of the scientist or tourist, rather than of the working countryman.’[5] That has changed with recent interest in nature writing and general interest in observing and understanding natural processes, brought home by the environmental disaster we are in the thick of, and not just climate change – everything.

Dec 7. Green Tree frog on Crinum Lily in the garden

The concept of the Anthropocene presupposes that we have come to a position, or that we have created a position, to respond to what we as a species need, to what the earth needs. Occupying such a position risks a great hubris, but abdicating the responsibility of adopting such a position carries its own risks. [6]

Dec 8. Pied-Oystercatcher and Kite surfer Deep Creek

Australian academic Glenn Albrecht coined the neologism ‘solastalgia’ in 2003. He recently added, ‘Solastalgia, the lived experience of negative environmental change, has much to offer those who seek clarification about the relationship between the state of human emotions and the state of the built and natural environment. In order to negate the distress and grief of emergent solastalgia, I have also created a new meme, the Symbiocene, which is the locus for the full expression of positive emotions that counter, or are the opposite of, solastalgia and other negative Earth emotions.’[7]

Dec 9. Pink lower Spider, (Diaea evanidaw) jumped out of brocoli in the kitchen

Whatever term we use for our current epoch, and however we understand the concept of nature, the world of nature, the natural world is being destroyed, and we are the culprits. So we all have a responsibility to consume more wisely and be proactive in our local communities to conserve what natural values remain.


[1] Raymond Williams, ‘Ideas of Nature,’ in Problems in Materialism and Culture, London, 1980.

[2] Kate Soper, , John Wiley, 1995

[3] Stipe Grgas and Svend Erik Larsen intro to The Construction of Nature: A Discursive Strategy in Modern European Thought, Eds. Grgas & Larsen, Odense UP, 1993.

[4] Ross McNary, ‘The Construction of Nature’, MFA Thesis, Washington University in St. Louis, April, 2002.

[5] Raymond Williams, ‘Pastoral and Counter-Pastoral’ in The Country and the City, Chatto & Windus, 1973, p31.

[6] Joshua Trey Barnett and David Charles Gore, ‘Dwelling in the Anthropocene: Notes from Lake Superior, Ethics & the Environment’, Vol 25:1, Spring 2020.

[7] Glenn Albrecht, ‘Negating Solastalgia: An Emotional Revolution from the Anthropocene to the Symbiocene’, American Imago, Vol77:1, 2020.

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