Lucretius, philosopher and poet, was a Roman during the last century BC. He was one of the earliest of the intellectuals credited with strong and abiding views on nature, its properties and characteristics.
In On the Nature of Things, two of his assertions were as impactful at the time as is their consistent relevance to stand the test of time: “Air, I should explain, becomes wind when it is agitated,” and ”The supply of matter in the universe was never more tightly packed than it is now, or more widely spread out.
“For nothing is ever added to it or subtracted from it. It follows that the movement of atoms today is no different from what it was in bygone ages and always will be.
”So the things that have regularly come into being will continue to come into being in the same manner; they will be and grow and flourish so far as each is allowed by the laws of nature.”
Apart from the destructive effects of man’s interventions, Lucretius’ views do not seem to have been disproved.
However, there are much broader and more meaningful aspects to what ‘Mother Nature’ has provided. The range and variety of nature throughout the world are staggering.
To the best of current scientific knowledge, there is nothing in the universe that remotely approaches the wonder and beauty that we enjoy on Earth.
Arguably more directly relevant to us as South Africans, is the veritable microcosm of what the world offers, right here ‘on our doorstep’. We have a coastline, beaches and oceans that compete favourably with the best on our planet. Rivers, forests and mountains of considerable beauty and allure, invoke awe among many and provide healthy outdoor activities of immense variety.
Vegetation types range from desert to sub-tropical, reflecting the strikingly different climate and weather types experienced.
The fynbos of the Cape Peninsula is unique in the world for its unequalled variety and abundance that draws botanists from all over the globe. SA is profoundly blessed in the natural assets department.
It is a tragedy of alarming proportions that a frighteningly big proportion of our inhabitants have no appreciation of the riches of nature that surround us … and how fragile the ecological balance has become.
It has often been said that we are the last generation that can prevent irreparable damage to the environment, and the annihilation of many species of plants and animals.
These negative realities underline the awesome wonder and beauty reflected by intellectual giants of science, literature and art:
“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” — Frank Lloyd Wright
“The earth laughs in flowers.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” — William Shakespeare
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” — Albert Einstein
By definition, nature consists of everything not created by man. It seems to be perversely incongruent that man should be the architect and facilitator of the destruction of his most valuable asset … and, very important it is to appreciate that it was not by chance that this gift was bestowed upon us.
May we treasure, preserve and conserve our greatest gift.