Why Do We Fear Nature?

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Children pointed over the bow of the boat on Monterey Bay just meters away from sauntering grey whales.
As their parents smiled and encouraged the enthusiasm, a pod of killer whales arrived and began to harass a mother and calf, circling and ramming to try to separate the calf from the mother.
Soon the peg like teeth of the orcas began to lacerate the sides and flippers of the calf.
This, of course, is what predators do.
They predate.
Usually on the individual that is easiest to catch or subdue, thus giving them a meal that keeps them alive at the lowest risk to their own safety.
On the plains of Africa, lions, wild dogs and hyenas always single out the weakest of the grazing herd - why make things any harder than they already are? Chase down predators, as opposed to those that sit and wait, benefit from making the chase as easy as possible.
On the bay the orcas were persistent.
Injuries to the calf steadily accumulated and blood became visible in the water, the reality of the event dawning on the faces of the watchers.
Marine scientists, who later analyzed footage of the event, observed that it was the younger orcas who took the most active roles in the attack.
The adult animals held back.
"Teaching the youngsters how to hunt", the experts thought, or perhaps, "leaving the dangerous work to the more agile individuals".
The scientists also concluded that this was "not usual behavior," or "if it is what orcas do, then we have not observed it" and "maybe it was because of the high numbers of grey whales in the bay at the time.
" Or maybe, like the lions and hyenas of Africa, predators rarely pass up an opportunity.
Intuitively predators know that lean times are more common than times of plenty.
Whatever the reason, the attack was a prolonged event lasting several hours.
As time passed, and apparently against all the odds, the grey whales swam towards the shore.
As they reached shallower water the orcas broke off.
No-one could follow the calf to see if it survived its injuries but the looks on the faces of the tourists interviewed for the documentary of the event left the audience in no doubt.
Of course it had survived for the sake of all things decent.
And even though there was trauma, there was a happy human ending to this natural event.
There was relief for the watchers, and for the film makers, a salable piece of television.
Why do we react with fright when nature presents itself to us unedited, truthful and raw? The logical explanation is that we know instinctively that we were once hunted.
Fright reminds us that still there are lions, sharks, even orcas, that are big enough and strong enough to consume us.
Fear releases the adrenaline that primes our bodies for fight or flight.
This adaptive argument, the one that says we have evolved responses that have served us well, is sound.
It explains the mental conflict created when instinct sees death but our conscious mind tells our body that we are in a 40 foot boat and so safe from an 12 foot predator.
Truth and instinct are now in conflict.
It also explains our need for a happy outcome.
This is the conflict resolution our instinct would prefer because our reflex for survival is stronger than our logic.
When the adrenaline runs, instinct wins out over what our understanding can tell us.
And this is the core problem for how we view nature.
We love it and yet we also fear it because of our uncontrollable urge to survive.
This instinct we even project onto a whale calf whose ancestors provided sustenance to their orca cousins for thousands of generations.
It is so powerful within us that we have attempted to subdue and control nature, to become removed from it, to become safe.
Except for a handful of us who still camp out in the open and hike in the wilderness, we have become detached from the dangers of nature.
The retreat into our built world is almost total for many people in western cities.
The Discovery Channel is as close as we get to natures tooth and claw.
Demographers tell us that cities will continue to expand and take on a greater proportion of the human populous.
What we are doing is giving in to instinct; fleeing from nature because we still fear it.
We don't think this way.
Our logic tells us that nature is good and sometime our pleasure centers are triggered by nature's beauty but that primal urge is hard to shift and it is the simplest explanation for why we fear nature.
There is one thing to remember.
At dinner tonight, I hope you will enjoy your t-bone steak.
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