Writing essays: what can we learn from nature?

Here’s a question I was asked recently by a student, that really made me think: what can we write about of what we learn from nature? This was for an essay she was about to write.

writing about nature on HTWB

The business world seems to claw at nature to make its commercial points.

In fact, how many of us still can take the time to look around us and absorb the lessons nature teaches us, especially when our heads are mainly buried in electronic devices while sat in antiseptic urban homes and offices?

These were my ideas on what she could write about

It depends a bit on what level you’re dealing with – high school, college? – but here are some thoughts off the top of my head, mostly relating to animals as I am an animal lover!

Why the “fight or flight” instinct is dealt with quite reasonably in animals, but in humans has become a major health hazard … In other words how long will it be before this unwelcome physiological reaction that causes stress/suppression of digestion, immune system, etc. has been evolved out of humans. Or should we revert to handling it the way animals do, and burn it off in a simple manner?

send you writing question into HTWBWhat can we learn from the different attitudes the animal and bird species have towards familial relationships and rearing their young? This ranges from the species who meet, mate and then separate leaving the female to raise the babies alone (e.g. tigers) … to the birds who pair for life, raise several years’ worth of young, and are distraught when one partner dies (e.g. swans) … to species like penguins and elephants that share parenting right across the group…

Breaking down the above, what can human societies learn about community parenting such as that seen with penguins, elephants, apes, monkeys, even lions? Some human cultures still do share parenting across wide extended families. What could we in the so-called “developed countries” learn from that, and why it works so well still, to this day?

What can we learn from the “wild” species in countries like Canada, where I come from, that are now evolving very fast (at a rate that would have shocked Darwin!) to live, feed and breed alongside not only human communities, but human communities in big cities? (E.g., coyotes, foxes, raccoons, bears, skunks.) Are these animal species putting us humans to shame in the way that they are adapting very quickly to changing circumstances? Should we be willing to do the same?

Is writing about what nature teaches us, writing about ourselves?

From the TV commercials that made puns about banks whose roots were its branches (some years ago – hardly true now that so many banks are closing their branches in Europe, at least) to other bank commercials using images of galloping black “stallions” … nature is obviously assumed to have a strong influence over us. Or our buying stimuli, anyway.

The health gurus, mindfulness wallahs, life coaches and their various clones all prescribe the great outdoors as a cure for anything from obesity to burn-out as if it were the latest no-additives, no-bullsh*t concoction. Business coaches recommend “walking meetings” to clear entrepreneurial brains of noxious indoor clutter.

Parents are encouraged to walk their children to school for the exercise and appreciation of nature in the great outdoors. Cyclists now pervade most square inches of parks and other nature features as well as expecting motorists to move at their slow pace on the roads – all in the name of the magical, healthy return to nature.

But surely the most important thing we learn from nature is that humans are animals and so  belong in the natural world, in the first place?

Instead, being human beings who perhaps think too much while suppressing our instincts, we have been managing to b*gger up our natural environment over the last few centuries at an eye-wateringly ludicrous pace.

Bring on common sense, please – here, I’m writing about it

Can we try to create a good balance with nature once again, despite the fact that probably the last time there was a good balance between human nature and the rest of nature was around the 17th century?

For starters, we’ve seen how humans’ messing with the food chain has led to disasters. (And that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of global warming … another topic for another day.)

However there are glimmers of hope. Here’s the best example I have seen in a long time: how by returning previously extinct species to their original ecosystems, everything is made OK again.

This has been the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park in the USA

I’ve embedded the video about it below, with its beautifully written and voiced narration. However should the video have been removed by the time you read this (not sure of the copyright issues here) you can view it via this link. It will be probably the most interesting four and a half minutes you’ll have spent in some time…

What else can we write about that teaches us lessons from nature?

I think the student who asked the question about how to write an essay on what we learn from nature was happy with my suggestions, but I’m certain there are hundreds if not thousands more. Please share your views here!

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