The Nature of Nature
Imagine a parking stall – hot, grey, dry, and dead. Parking lots are uninteresting, uninviting, and inhospitable to most plants and animals. They are begging to be forests.
Even the most meticulously paved parking lot has minor imperfections that spell its demise. In the heat of the sun, asphalt and concrete bake – they also expand and contract encouraging cracks to form and spread. If you’re in a cooler climate, the process quickens as water seeps into crevices and pries them apart with each freeze and thaw cycle. As cracks spread they create a physical edge on which dust, dirt, and debris can cling. Small stones fall between cracks and wedge them open. Organic matter like leaves from nearby plants gets caught on them and turns to soil. This process repeats itself. The wind carries small seeds. Some find pockets of soil, germinate, and shoot above asphalt like fountains of life. Their bodies create ever more surfaces for dust, soil, and seeds to accumulate. With the help of chlorophyll, plants capture sunlight and carbon in their bodies. Their roots penetrate below asphalt and turn into columns of soil when they die. This process repeats itself. More plants grow and some of them flower. Insects visit flowers then birds visit insects in search of a meal. Birds deposit nutrients, and sometimes these nutrients come prepackaged with seeds. This process repeats itself. As cracks grow and soil accumulates, perennial grasses partially replace annual pioneers. Next, grasses are partially replaced by woody shrubs. Flowers, grasses, and shrubs colonise concrete, Life it gaining a foothold. Leaves shade the earth and protect it as a layer of soil holds onto water. Small shrubs succeed to larger ones and larger shrubs to trees. With trees come new species of animal. Things are interesting now. There is so much more life. So many more possibilities. The parking lot has become a forest. This process repeats itself.
Nature As A Verb
Nature’s not a thing but a process – not a noun but a verb. Nature is a progression from simple to complex, from fragile to antifragile, from few to many. It’s what Paul Krafel, in his book ‘Seeing Nature‘, might call an upward spiral. Nature creates conditions conducive to itself. The goal of nature is to continue by using its past creations to assemble its future ones. – it’s playing an infinite game.
Trees, shrubs, water, birds, cracks, and asphalt; none of these are nature. They are artefacts of nature – they are natural. Nature is ancient and predates biology – it also extends beyond it. That is to say that nature has created the conditions necessary for biology and, in turn, has used biology to create the conditions for language, culture, and technology. These too are the artefacts of nature