7 things about nature that kids must know

In today’s world we normally get an overdose of environmental gyaan. We have green-everything being offered everywhere. Most of us are actually wary of these exposures, the claims, even the education. So I’m not keen on giving any lessons, but these are thoughts that I would like to share with children, perspectives that I wouldn’t like them to either agree or disagree with, but rather just ponder upon:

1) Knowing nature is not the same as understanding nature

Nature cannot be understood from books or TV channels. These can only offer information. Getting knowledge about nature does not necessarily mean that we understand it. In fact knowledge can by itself sometimes be a hindrance to understanding, especially if one starts thinking that one knows. If one has to understand nature, one has to interact with it, participate in many different ways with it, and be with it.

Children need to sleep under open skies, wake up with buds and birds, grow with tomatoes, soak in sun and water alike, to live their life with nature.

2) There is nothing like natural and artificial – everything around me is nature.

Come to think of it, man has not made/created anything. Everything exists in nature, everything comes from nature. Just because man boiled a potato, does not mean that the boiled potato is either artificial or man-made. Same with plastics or cement or robots!

I would invite children to look at everything around them as nature. Our capacity is limited to playing around with various processes – the infinite permutations and combinations that nature anyway revels in. Once we jump out of this notion, we can better understand what helps us and what does not.

3) We cannot spoil/harm nature.

Since everything is nature, we cannot harm it in any which way. We can only change it. The changes may benefit us or harm us. So we need not think or worry about nature, we need to worry (if at all) about ourselves. If I put mercury in a lake, it does not by itself harm the lake – it just changes its state/properties. But the new lake may harm human life adversely. We need to recognise that whatever we do, we only do to ourselves.

4) We cannot fully understand nature, but we can learn from its impact.

Just like man makes changes, nature itself is dynamic and constantly changing as well. Here is what my friend Rajaram had to say about natural phenomena: “It is difficult, if not impossible for the limited human intellect to completely model complex natural phenomenon. One can only observe their impact, derive boundary conditions, and then stay within those boundary conditions. That is why “experience” triumphs. There is no substitute to “repeated trials”, till the boundary conditions are known. Never is the phenomenon itself known, only its impact is seen, and its behaviour is modelled and understood under defined conditions.”

5) Nature is not beautiful.

The notion (or adjectives) of beauty, kindness, benevolence, giving etc are made up by us. It’s only in our eyes. Nature by itself is not trying to be beautiful or ugly. It’s the same water which resides in yummy melons, paints the rainbow in the sky, and sucks up a whole village in just one flood. A butterfly is as beautiful as a cockroach. Nature by itself is neither good or bad, it’s how we perceive it, receive it. In nature all elements just exist, simply interact with each other, and all are inherently equal. Hold the rose plant by the thorn and feel this!

6) Nature does not give us anything, nature does not take anything.

Somewhere, I was fed with this notion that nature gives and we only take, hence we should also give back to nature. I find this funny, as we cannot give anything to nature (and hence we cannot take anything from nature). In nature there is no give and take – only interactions, constant change of state. Being inside nature (i.e. being part of it), we cannot take or give anything. If we plant a tree, the gift is for ourselves and not for nature. If we pluck a flower, again we may like it in our garland, but it still is a gift to ourselves. In nature, being selfish to their own needs is essentially how all organisms operate.

An extension of this thought is that in nature there is no death – only decomposition; “Every death is somebody’s diet”. It might be a scary thought, but it is the fundamental way in which nature operates – one thing constantly feeding into another.

7) Nature is your canvas. You paint what you want to see.

When I walk down the streets of Bangalore, people hear traffic horns, I hear barbets. So in some way nature, and for that matter life (I can’t stop being philosophical!), is all about choices. And if there is anything in abundance in nature – it is choices.

By nature’s design I am a male human. Which translates into having millions of choices in terms of whom I mate with. However, I add a paradigm of ‘marriage’ and reduce the possibilities to one – my wife. Realise that the number of possibilities, hence, are only a function of my paradigms.

Once we understand this game of abundant possibilities, narrowed down by our perspectives, we would start re-looking at nature and at all our decisions.

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