Only within the geologic moment of time represented by the last two hundred years has one species--homo sapiens--acquired significant power to alter the nature of the entire world. The evidence suggests that the Earth itself is becoming an artifact: from creating savanna through fire to contaminating the globe with industrial pollutants and radioactivity to engineering new and radically different plants and animals, human activity initiates and perpetuates pervasive modification of the global habitat. Although this power is both unprecedented and profound, little is truly understood of the long-range impact of this manipulation.
Even the definition of nature is a human product, and reveals more about culture than about the web of life. The premise of Humanature is that nature is an illusion created by culture. Nature is a fiction dramatically reinforced through a tradition of environmental management. Does a plastic tree satisfy our cultural need for visible biota? Can and should an ocean beach be artificially maintained as a vast expanse of fine sand? Can we control the weather? Does "nature" have value because of the increasing demands of the urban environment? Are human-made rocks better than the real thing?
These and other questions resulted in a major series of 16" x 20" color photographs and a book that interprets and documents the ever-increasing management of nature. Humanature is an attempt through photography to focus public debate on how nature is culturally perceived--and managed. The fundamental health of the ecological system is in part dependent upon our cultural perception of the landscape. The myths defining the "natural" landscape can disguise attempts to reconcile the enormous degree of influence our actions demonstrate. Pristine photographs that celebrate the beauty of the natural landscape disguise the conflicts threatening the health of the environment. The paradox is that these beautiful photographs offer "proof" that the earth is alive and well, that human's influence is not pervasive, and that the vast, monumental landscape is unaffected by ecological manipulation. In fact, however, the landscape is dramatically human-altered and managed. Landscape has not only become real estate, but also architecture.
Photographed sites include images of human-made flies; albino rainbow trout; pristine, human-made lakes; artificial forests; man-made waterfalls; a human-made tornado; human-made trees and rocks; and artificial beaches--all constructed and disguised as "nature." Additional photographs include controlled burns, designer forests, and managed wildlife, among many others. A creative essay incorporating the history and idea behind the management of nature accompanies the published photographs. The University of Texas Press published Humanature.
"The control of nature is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man."
Silent Spring, Rachel Carson, 1962