No Nature

“Human societies have their own nutty fads, mass delusions, and enabling mythologies. Daily life still gets done. Wild nature is probably equally goofy, with a stunning variety of creatures somehow getting by in all these landscapes. Nature also means the physical universe, including the urban, industrial, and toxic. But we do not easily know nature, or even know ourselves. Whatever it actually is, it will not fulfill our conceptions or assumptions. It will dodge our expectations and theoretical models. There is no single or set “nature” either as “the natural world” or “the nature of things.” The greatest respect we can pay to nature is not to trap it, but to acknowledge that it eludes us and that our own nature is also fluid, open, and conditional…

An open space to move in, with the whole body, the whole mind. My gesture has been with language.” 

–Gary Snyder, from the “Preface,” No Nature: New and Selected Poems (1992)


“Science and some sorts of mysticism rightly propose that everything is natural. By these lights there is nothing unnatural about New York City, or toxic wastes, or atomic energy. . . . “

“So we can say that New York City and Tokyo are ‘natural’ but not ‘wild.’ They do not deviate from the laws of nature, but they are habitat so exclusive in the matter of who and what they give shelter to, and so intolerant of other creatures, as to be truly odd. Wilderness is a place where the wild potential is fully expressed, a diversity of living and nonliving beings flourishing according to their own sorts of order.”

–Gary Snyder, from “The Etiquette of Freedom,” The Practice of the Wild (1990)