One comment I picked up on today (summary here) during the #futureofnature conference was that the most difficult word to define in the English language is nature.

What is nature?

Have we integrated and/or meddled with nature to such an extent that there is no longer a clear-cut definition?

As we tinker with genetics, and begin writing genetic sequences for living systems, are we losing nature?

I’m actually finding it quite difficult to define nature, after all the talks I’ve listened to today. So I’ve turned to the dictionary to see what they have to say. gave several definitions (they obviously couldn’t make a decision either)

1. The material world, especially as surrounding humankind and existing independently of human activities.
2. The natural world as it exists without human beings or civilisation.
3. The elements of the natural world, as mountains, trees, animals, or rivers.
4. Natural scenery.
5. The universe, with all its phenomena.
Thing is, how much of our world is existing independently from humans? We have managed to infiltrate so many parts of our planet; even when we don’t live in a certain area, our actions in other places has an effect on them. The effects of burning fossil fuels increases the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. This rains down onto oceans as carbonic acid. And it is this acid that causes corals to become bleached. So even though we don’t live in the oceans, our actions still have an effect. This is just one example.
So, I challenge you: can you come up with a new definition of nature? And how do you see this definition of nature changing as time goes on?
Image credit: Image credit Carnotdigital, Wikimedia Commons.
Go to the orginal article here or listen below