I was sitting in my grandads living room when the tv spontaneously came on when someone switched on an extension cable. The image that landed on the screen was a stock photo view of a pristine snow-topped mountain lake like the one above. I gazed at it longingly. In a state of searching in my life right now, everything I see acts to somehow pull me onto yet a new course, everything is a sign. Maybe I just need to go far away and have an adventure, I think to myself. I feel a bit like a weathervane perpetually calibrating right now, searching for a stable course yet utterly at the whim of the winds. And this image, thrusting itself into the course of my vision in that moment, was yet another gust.
But as I thumb noncommittally through the logistics of it, I realise to access this kind of view would take literally thousands. The flights, the renting of a car to bring me to such remoteness, finding accommodation, camping gear, camping licenses. All of it. It dawned on me all of a sudden how elitist the idealised image of Nature is. (I used capitalised nature to reference nature the construct, as suggested by Timothy morton in Queer Ecology.) Who gets to actually access this totally glamourised view of a pristine Nature?
But I don’t imagine there was ever a time when it wasn’t expensive to haul yourself to some remote corner of the world, if anything it’s gotten cheaper. But then it’s the fact that this image of Nature now exists in our visual references as a place that might offer adventure, a place where we might disconnect from the discontents of urban life in. That if we go far enough away from our roots we might ‘find’ ourself. There is something about self realisation wrapped up in longing for Nature. It represents peace and simplicity, something that feels increasingly hard to locate amongst the frantic neoliberal scrambling for meaning and self actualisation. Nature, on the contrary, just is. It doesn’t try to be, it doesn’t need to perform or compete, it is the perfect vision of serenity and balance. However these are all characteristics we have projected on it. Nature has become a vessel to hold everything we see an antidotal to our modern ailments of western life under capitalism. And so of course we pine for Nature to sooth us as we continue to live under neoliberal structures that keep us in a perpetual state of searching. But what an irony that this yearning is precisely what causes us to emit excessive amounts of energy and carbon emissions to eject us to the opposite end of the earth. As our dream in the west of boundless and unlimited mobility continues, commercial flights and exhaust emissions continue to further pollute the atmosphere. But great lengths will be taken to ensure that the mountain lake view will not suffer the consequences of this polluting, at least not noticeably. And so Nature requires more and more manicuring to maintain it’s image of prissiness while the pollution to fall of out this searching that is planted in us continues to pile up in countries in the global south as well as the communities concentrated around extraction sites, or around waste management sites. All to be able to keep the image of Nature clean and maintain the stock photo views of the mountains and lakes.
I think it is interesting to deconstruct how our idea of Nature came to be reinforced in our own lives. A conception we most likely inherited from our parents and strengthened in our cultural upbringings. Advertisements for train services urging us to get away, Easyjet selling us an escape, my mother lamenting about how the cities made her feel trapped. More reflecting on this to be done.