This project is about Nature’s brand image. One might surmise that “Nature,” being 100 percent all-natural, can’t have any brand image. The facts suggest otherwise. Try it for yourself: tell a friend that something seemingly 100 percent natural is actually “96 percent natural.” Not a great difference, apparently, yet a profound unease arises. That unease is the subject of the many provocative essays and remarkable graphics on NextNature.net
by BRUCE STERLING
The project is a study in why we feel uneasiness when the Nature brand is violated. It’s also about the exciting new-and-improved varieties of unnatural unease that have come to exist quite recently. It explains why this sensibility is spreading, and what that implies for who we are, and how we live with Nature.
Now, when Nature is slightly artificialized — say, by installing a park bench under a tree — we rarely get any dark suspicious frisson about that. The uncanny can only strike us when our ideological constructs about Nature are dented. We’re especially guarded about our most pious, sentimentalized notions of Nature. Nature as a nurturing entity that is harmonious, calm, peaceful, inherently rightful and all-around “good-for-you.”
This vaguely politicized attitude about Nature never came from Nature. It was culturally generated. Nature didn’t get her all-natural identity-branding until the Industrial Revolution broke out. Then poets and philosophers were allowed to live in dense, well-supplied cities, where they could recast Nature from some intellectual distance. Before that huge effusion of organized artifice, people lived much closer to the soil.
These farmers rarely spoke of “Nature” in the abstract. They were too deeply involved in a lifelong subsistence struggle with natural events, such as inclement weather, bad harvests, weeds, pests, and blights. They certainly never mistook their existing state of affairs for the Biblical Eden: their theological utopia in which Nature was always harmonious, calm, peaceful and good-for-you.