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Separating Humans from Nature is the Wrong Approach


How is it that humans have largely come to view themselves as apart from nature? This is a very skewed point of view, as Shane Mahoney describes.

“What separates humans from the rest of the natural world is the complexity of our brains. In particular the complexity that allows us the arrogance to imagine we are somehow apart from nature.” So says Conservationist and Wildlife Biologist Shane Mahoney, as he discusses the view that humans have set themselves outside of nature.

“This is a false and dangerous perception of otherness,” he declares.


Mahoney also posits that humans have manipulated the environment to suit their own preferences and frailties. We have gathered and grown favored plants, hunted and domesticated certain animals, used fire to clear areas for habitation and agricultural introduction. We’ve diverted water and excluded certain animals from cohabiting with us.

“We’ve processed nature to give physical structure to our social groups,” he says.

We have, he says, “successfully distances ourselves from nature. The gap, it seems, ever widening.”

As we’ve altered our worldview to set ourselves apart from the natural world, we’ve chosen to ignore the simple reality that exploitation and competition are characteristics of all things living on earth. Some species are just more dramatic about it than others.

Humans are uniquely gifted to alter their world to suit their own needs and desires. But those unique gifts and abilities do not make us unnatural.

Separating ourselves from nature, however, has created a significant problem for conservation. “Psychologically it makes it easier for us to justify unsustainable land use and resource consumption,” says Mahoney. “The argument against conservation as acting against the best interest of human population becomes palpable despite scientific evidence to the contrary.”

We need to begin to think and view ourselves as part of the natural world, not separated but an integral part of the natural system. Our very lives ultimately depend on it.

This view could be translated to hunting. The disdain some feel for hunting, an activity that puts humans in closer contact with nature than anything else can possibly do, is a view very much apart from nature as well.

Anti-hunters tend to view humans as separate from nature. How often do we hear the refrain, “If only people would leave nature alone. Nature can take care of itself.” This kind of thinking reinforces the false and dangerous attitude of otherness Mahoney was talking about.

This is also why our job as hunters is one of educating and enlightening those who are ignorant of humankind’s role in the natural world. We must be standard bearers for nature, for the natural system, and for a healthy world.

Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his Facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.


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Separating Humans from Nature is the Wrong Approach