Nature, a conversation II

Each person takes one of the three roles: Partovo (“Humans are a Part Of nature”); Separata (“Humans have become Separate from nature”); or Interpreta (“Interpret Socially views about nature and what is natural”) (see Preamble).

Begin the conversation as scripted, but call time out to discuss among yourselves any comment that you do not understand or that you would like to rewrite.  If the group agrees to the rewrites and they diverge far from the script, record the new conversation you generate.

Partovo:  Humans are living organisms.  As such they are part of nature.  Therefore, everything they do is natural.

Separata:  People have lost touch with nature and that is why our environment and our society are in trouble.

Interpreta:  When I hear people draw lessons from nature, I hear them really telling me something about their views on society.

Separata:  You’ll have to explain this interpretation to me, because, without a sense of what is natural and what is unnatural, anything is acceptable.

Interpreta:  But Partovo has a sense of what is natural that tells him everything is acceptable.

Separata:  Is that right?

Partovo:  Yes.

Separata:  So you mean mad cow disease, polio, AIDS, and so on are acceptable?

Partovo:  Um, yes.  We could look at them as forms of population control for the human species.

Separata:  So you wouldn’t invest in research for AIDS treatments?

Partovo:  No.  And I don’t think the government should either.  AIDS affects mostly gays and IV drug users.  Their practices do not meet widely held community standards and so they don’t deserve society’s help.

Separata:  I think you are out of date about who gets AIDS.  But, putting that aside, I thought you said anything humans do is natural and thus acceptable.

Partovo:  Well, not everything.

Separata:  So, what is and what is not?

Partovo:  Look, I overstated my position.  What I do know is that it is not consistent for environmentalists to argue that draining wetlands disturbs the balance of nature, while putting out forest fires to keep a national park scenic is OK.

Separata:  I think that the National Park Service is reconsidering its fire policy — whether it is better to do preventative control burning or not; whether to allow lightning fires to burn or not.

Partovo:  So humans get to decide what kind of (non-human) nature is the one they want?

Separata:  Not in any arbitrary way; forest ecologists use the best science available to advise the NPS on this.

Partovo:  “Scientists know best”  — I thought your line was that we’d lost touch with nature, not that we needed to listen more to scientists.  But now I think about it, you did support research for an AIDS vaccine, right?  So you don’t mind if scientists intervene to limit interaction between humans and (non-human) nature in the case of the HIV virus.  In what ways exactly do you want us to regain touch with nature?

Separata:  I guess I also overstated my position.  Basically what I want to say is that we have to remember that we’re dependent on foodchains for much of our food, plants for our planet’s oxygen, microorganisms inside us to digest our food well, and..

Partovo:… microorganisms for our beer, bread, sewerage treatment works, and thus clean water.  Or do you think these processes are unnatural because humans have harnessed them for our own purposes?

Interpreta:  Can I interrupt here? (continued in the next post)


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