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Humans and Nature in the Age of Design

October 5, 2012

By Matt Artz

The relationship between humans and nature is defined by change.

We evolved as did other animals—just one small piece of a very complex ecosystem.  This changed radically when we began to leverage technology in an ill-guided attempt to subjugate that complex ecosystem and exploit its resources, with little or no consideration for anything beyond ourselves.  This was the age of exploitation.

When we began to understand the devastating effects of mass exploitation on the earth, we reacted with conservation.  For all the successes, the age of conservation is not without its problems; we were conserving and preserving dramatic, representative, and remnant pieces of ecosystems, but in the process we were still losing whole ecosystems.

So what’s the next logical step in the evolution of our relationship with nature?

It’s the age of design.

It’s about actively creating an environment ideal for both humans and nature.

And it’s driven by technology.

Technology is the New Natural

Humans are incredibly smart, and have an amazing array of technologies available to extend their abilities.  We may not be able to fully restore the complete ecosystems we have damaged or destroyed, but we now have the scientific and technical ability to design them—and to do it in such a way that we can meet both our need for resources and our desire for conservation.

In the age of exploitation, we asked: “Is this good for me?”

In the age of conservation, we asked: “Is this good for the environment?”

In the age of design, we ask “Is it good for me AND good for the planet?”

It’s a much more complex question that requires a much more reasoned response—a response informed by science and enabled by technology.  Aided by new technology, we are at the dawn of a new era in man’s relationship with the environment: the age of designing.  As we move from exploiting nature, through conserving nature, to the new paradigm of proactively designing nature, we are redefining what it means to be masters of our environment.

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