2014 Love Thy Nature. San Francisco, CA: Video Project.
Notes: DVD, 76, 59, and 25 minutes
Reviewed 4 Dec 2016 by:
Jack David Eller <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Anthropology Review Database
Medium: Film/Video Subject
Nature - Effect of human beings on
ABSTRACT: A lovely, hopeful, and inspiring film argues passionately for the essential relationship between humanity and the natural environment and for efforts to love and protect nature. This review is based on the 59-minute educational cut (there is a longer and a shorter version on the disc).
If humanity were a single person—and one of the wiser ones rather the narrow and self-interested ones—what would it say about and for itself? Love Thy Nature presents Liam Neeson as 'Sapiens' (Homo sapiens), a species in search of something, "but I'm not sure what I'm searching for." A voice narrating over beautiful scenes of the landscape, the life-forms of earth, and humans communing with both, he expresses hope for the world and our place in it.
The earth, after all, is the only planet that we know has life. Sapiens views itself as "the most intelligent, self-reflective, and wise...but am I?" It is hard to answer in the affirmative given scenes of pollution and environmental degradation. Serious experts understand that nature is in trouble and that humans have been pulling away from nature, since the time of the first hunter-gatherers and through the agricultural and industrial revolutions (what Jared Diamond called man's worst mistake).
Anthropology of course knows that Homo sapiens sapiens has invented many stories and myths to account for its relation to or dominion over the earth. But the film argues that we have reached the limit of a perspective that the world is just here for human use. Eastern worldviews like Buddhism emphasize the interdependence and participation of all things, as do indigenous cultures like Native Americans. Even Christianity is shifting from a dominion model to a stewardship model.
One mythological—but not entirely mythological—view is Gaia, which envisions the earth as a single living system. Like any being, the earth has self-regulating capacities, but humans have been upsetting the regulative functions of the planet. In particular, the domination of humans over animals presupposes that animals have no feelings and no value (and no personhood of their own, which anthropology increasingly understands is not a view shared by all societies). Today, "we are challenged by feeling our way into the lives of the animals."
It is good to be reminded that humanity is a remarkably recent species and one that shares genes with every other species. Perhaps to understand itself, humanity had to separate itself from nature, but that separation has gone too far, the film contends. What is the alternative to modern technology? The film insists that this is the wrong question: rather, a new biological revolution is redefining our relation to nature and places limits on what we take from it. One example is biomimicry or "the conscious emulation of nature's genius," which the film Illustrates from architecture to climate change and energy sources, on the premise that life provides the conditions for life.
Losing touch with nature, the film urges, also led to losing touch with humanity's own body and the things that contribute to healthy life—like the oxygen exhaled by trees. The city, which has been a crucial site for the advancement of humanity, has begun to take an unbearable toll on us. Inside windowless buildings, we have productivity as well as health consequences. Bringing nature to the city and office. We need nature most when we are grieving. Further, children today spend too much time indoors and online, which makes both their bodies and minds sluggish. Nature, the film pronounces, is an essential ingredient in child development. The whole-body experience of moving and playing in nature is healing.
So far, the notion of progress has been tied to the assumption that we can transcend nature—as if we are not biological like other species. But from the pespective of biophilia, humans "have an inherent need to affiliate with the natural world" for our "health, productivity, and wellbeing." It includes curiosity, peace of mind, fitness and vitality, confidence, adventure, imagination, animal connection, meaning, and wonder. Thinking of nature feels like being in love, Sapiens says, and what one loves, one protects. Maybe humans can get off the path of destruction. "There are people in action all over the world," caring for and replenishing nature. "The environmental movement is a social justice movement." Every species plays a role in the ecosystem, but we tend to ignore the human role.
In recent centuries, the film concludes, we have tried to tame nature but in the process have disrupted billions of years of evolution "and lost myself." Now humanity understands that it has choices that do not have to run contrary to nature. And the environmental movement is the largest and most hopeful human undertaking today, if not ever. Love Thy Nature does not fully portray the forces that work against its hopeful vision, such as consumerism, corporate capitalism, globalization, and global warming, but it is a beautiful and inspiring depiction of our planet and all of the things that make it worth cherishing and saving.
Level/Use: Suitable for mature high school classes and college courses in cultural anthropology, environmental anthropology, and anthropology of cultural movements/social justice, as well as for general audiences.