Submitted by Bezotcovschina in Anarchism

The recent post about domestication and domination made me wondering how the term nature and "natural" is defined in the context of anarchism, specifically green and anti-civ varieties. Can anything human-made be "natural"? Can something doesn't made by human be "un-natural"?

Interesting to hear out your thoughts



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subrosa wrote

There's an etymological root shared by nature, generate, genuine, kind. It's all beginning, birth, origin. There's an etymological root shared by art, arm, army, arranged, order. It's all manufacture, artificial, hand-made.

Basically, the old tension between being and doing, preservation and progress, coming from and moving to. And between there's the one that unites them in a massive contradiction, which in turn disperses the one into many. Kinda like what nature's been doing and what human beings have done. #deep #wisdom #fencesitting


Tequila_Wolf wrote

Everything is nature and everything is natural. There's no division between humans and the non-human world except the ones we as humans create ideologically and materially, like we do all other hierarchies.


LittleHelp wrote

I don't think there can be a unified definition of "nature" and I'm really not sure it is a useful word to use, ever. What constitutes nature is defined mostly by what it doesn't constitute in a given context. To have meaning, it needs to be opposed by some other term; typically it will be opposed by the term "culture." In that sense, whatever isn't culture is nature. However, it always stays elusive, because it depends on the reference point.

If you believe that anything a human makes or does is culture, and juxtapose culture with nature, then humans can never be part of nature, which is maybe not the outcome a (green) anarchist would want. It would be a view that is inherently anthropocentric, placing all humans, everywhere, at any time, distinct from nature regardless of their behaviour. This might, of course, work for some frameworks, but generally it seems to not be what people want to imply when they talk about nature.

On the other hand, humans are, biologically speaking, animals, and as such part of nature. Taking this to its extreme, that could mean anything humans do is inherently natural; which would then include hierarchies, capitalism and any form of technology. For example, if we were to find a dozen other planets with life on them, and on all of those planets would be life forms suffering under capitalism or systems of slavery, one might argue that those would be "natural" (which is why I generally disagree with framings of anarchism that make heavy use of undefined or loosely defined references to "nature", as they are not inherently future-proof. Opposing hierarchies is valid and should remain valid no matter what observations we may or may not make in the future on earth or in other parts of the universe, regardless of how likely or unlikely they are.). Of course, in that situation, where humans and anything they make is "natural", the word "nature" becomes meaningless and very little can be derived from its use in anything but highly specific scientific contexts.

If you reject that nothing humans cause is nature, and also reject that everything humans do is nature, then what remains is only that there are some things humans can do that are natural, and things that aren't, and at that point you are basically just deciding what you consider to be "natural" and what you consider "unnatural" arbitrarily.

In short, the question about how and when humans and their effects are distinct from nature would come down to human arbitration, making the term itself anthropocentric and thus not provide a useful framing when trying to dismantle anthropocentrism; which, again, might not necessarily be the outcome a (green) anarchist would want.

In reality, since different people will make different definitions, it really just leads to nature being the opposite of whatever someone decides not to be nature in any given moment. Saying that something is "natural" or "unnatural" just means that you personally decided to associate that word with it and are trying to invoke some kind of idea on how you think things should or shouldn't be, how people should or shouldn't behave, and what they should or shouldn't do; not based on anything really other than that you just say so.

In my mind, you don't need to use the word "nature" or its associations to justify or theorize anarchism, and doing so might in fact do you a disservice anyway since declining its use can lead to more robust results.


Majrelende wrote (edited )

This is all my definition, and no one has exactly the same two definitions.

Nature is undefinable. If it can be defined, described, written down, then it is not nature. I consider nature to be essentially the same as the Daoist Way.

But to summarise imperfectly, nature is when everything goes along with their correct or natural paths, according to the desire of themself, of the land. I can't get more detailed than that, because as I said, it is indefinable; we can only hint at it. There are some linguistic reasons as well, I think, English being a language of rigidity or "sameness", at least in connotation if not in grammar.

Subrosa reminded me: the world is always being created. This is why nature is indefinable: it is creative, always working in unpredictable ways, animated and alive, whereas the rigid and artificial, in relation to civilisation and what I call thing-mind, are all uniform, all the same, and they are in constant decay and collapse, which can be saved only by the application of ever-increasing amounts of labour and theft from elsewhere. Because of the requirement for reproducibility, much of science is stuck in artifice, and can only glimpse nature. This decay is true for scientific farming, which attempts to apply human knowledge and labour to manipulate nature, but only destroys it in the process. It is also true for buildings, obviously enough, and capitalist economy, and others: at this point in their unnatural progress they all have to steal in ever-increasing amounts to survive, whether that is materials, energy from petroleum, anything.

There is a qualitative difference between a modern house, and a mouse hole. They are both habitations, and both, if left to themselves will decay, but the mouse hole will, abandoned, be inhabited by different creatures, become a place where water soaks into the ground; roots will wrap around it, trapping air for the fungi and small animals, and so on. On the other hand, a town is not made to decay; in all cases, people have tried their best to ensure that no decay happens at all, by using laboriously and inefficiently created artificial methods and materials. Nature can rot, certainly, but artifice breaks, becomes useless, destroys, consumes. The decay of nature is creative; the decay of artifice is just that, self-degradation that inhales the world.

So thus, not everything humans do is unnatural. Nature as everything-not-human is a horribly depressing, and extremely anthropocentric definition. In anarchy, not dominating or being dominated, the cops and sages in our heads, the belief in the usefulness of control all gone-- at that point, we are living by nature, and in all likelihood quite happily and creatively, with diversity, beauty, and abundance flourishing in all places now that we are acting properly and contributing to, rather than destroying, nature.


lettuceLeafer wrote

Nature is whatever subjectively hippies kike the typical raddle user makes them feel like a hippie. Gardening, pissing outside, not using oil, no tech ect. It's a very subjective seemingly random thought.

I think everything is either natural or not tbh mostly bc I don't like the concept of something being natural or not.


zephyr wrote

unnatural is what i have in my mind. natural is when i am eaten by a tiger.


Fool wrote

Everything is part of nature - even plastic and cities.

The life on earth is evolving to make use of the new habitats forming - plastic eating bacterias have been discovered - humans are just building habitats il-suited for humans (and most other life).


AnarchoDoom wrote (edited )

I think the best, simplest, most "objective" definition there can be is: "wildlife".

Or "life-supporting systems that can sustain without human interference":

Anything that requires human action is therefore artificial. But are animals still part of "nature" when they got changed by any human intervention?


NeoliberalismKills wrote

Just because intervention is necessary doesn't make it unnatural. Beavers need to "maintain" their dams.

And I feel like you're maintaining the artificial separation of human and nature. Humans are as much nature as is the aforementioned beavers.