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    Are we part of Nature?

    Sigurður Jónsson

    We like to believe that “in the old days” people lived in harmony with nature. Aurora Arktika’s favourite stomping grounds are in what is now called the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.  Here people lived for almost one thousand years, primarily off what the land and the ocean gave and apparently in delicate harmony with their surroundings.  It was often a very tough life but when the last inhabitants moved away around 1950 the land was in no worse condition than when the first settlers arrived before the year 1000.

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    Obviously these farmers and fishermen had some impact on their environment but we like to believe that they had an understanding of how their actions had consequences for the nature. That they had to maintain some sort of a balance, not damage anything this year as their life depended on things to be available again next year, and for all future. These remote but cosmopolitan farmers were not disconnected from the outside world and traded lively with their neighbours in the Westfjords and also with visiting ships from all over the world. They sold eggs, wool products and all kinds of things made from Siberian driftwood and received important goods from afar such as coffee, sugar, flour and various tools.

    These societies understood that they were a part of a much bigger system and that even their small scale activities could risk upsetting the delicate balance of that system if they were not mindful. A farmer on a remote cottage in Hornstrandir would have had no problem understanding the definition of sustainability as it was presented in the visionary Brundtland report: "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

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    In our modern societies we have unfortunately lost much of this ability to picture us as parts of a larger global system. To cope with our ever more complicated lives we have divided everything into little packages and sectors and imagine that one doesn´t really have to know what the other does. Our education system starts preparing us for this at an early age. We learn biology, history, mathematics and languages without minding how these connect. We become teachers and doctors and lawyers and engineers without knowing or even caring much what the other professions do. Our governments are divided so we have ministers of environment, education, fisheries, finance and it often seems that they each run their own agenda without taking the big picture into consideration.

    Nature is not something that we can set aside and visit now and then. The big system we are all a part of is actually nature and we are unfortunately oblivious of the effects that our activities have on it. To change this is the most important task of our future. Only by accepting that we are all a part of nature can we hope to find ways to a happy and prosperous future for the 10 billion future inhabitants of planet earth. Realizing that we are a part of nature doesn´t mean that we all have to move into cabins in the mountains and take up subsistence farming. It is projected that two thirds of the world population will live in cities and urban areas by 2050. As long as we understand the big picture, the concentration of population may actually help to minimise our environmental impact on the planet. The increasing concentration of people in cities can provide a way of more economically providing services and better access to health care and education.

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