Ryan Daniels | ?Nodding at nature

Daniels, Straight Up | Why human progress should be more organic

· December 9, 2013, 7:26 pm   ·  Updated December 9, 2013, 10:52 pm

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Ryan Daniels
Daniels, Straight Up

On a recent walk through the concrete blocks of midtown Manhattan, a steel-glass beehive of cuboid uniformity, the last thing on my mind was nature.

The city is a monument to man’s triumph over his wild origins, the apex of a greater societal trend. Record-breaking towers and subway tunnels take root in a piece of rock with streets carved into perfect rectangular blocks, seemingly by some superhuman measuring-stick, some divine ruler.

Even Central Park, the 840-acre blotch of green on Manhattan’s black and white maps, is little more than a tamed allotment of our deciduous biome. Fields are methodically trimmed and hills and ponds carved, presenting Mother Nature as a housewife.

Indeed, the world’s boldest engineers, architects and financiers have sculpted the island for centuries, putting a nail in the coffin of human wilderness.

But as I admired the myriad flashy stores, billboards and restaurants surrounding me, I was surprised to see a desperate return to our rustic, muddy origins. Food sources boasted to be the most organic, clothing stores boasted to be the most “chemical-free.”

And what’s more, this recent au naturale fad is just the tip of the iceberg of a quietly growing trend that embraces our primitive beginnings. In the name of human progress, it’s about time we all acknowledge and adopt this trend.

The human motivation to improve our lives and livelihood is ancient, and probably innate. We’ve been molding and modifying Earth to promote our prosperity or just to make life easier. One could argue this trend dates back 12,000 years, when we first conquered nomadism.

The ensuing millennia have been a rat race of refinement and renovation in binding the dangers of wilderness to accommodate our every need and comfort.

But somewhere along our progressive path, we became a little too removed from our biological nature. Most recently, an incredible e-industry has emerged to make our lives just slightly easier, with cutting-edge developments like smartphones, smart watches and even smart glasses. They aspire to weave yet another silk thread in the developed world’s cushy cocoon.

But on a smaller scale, products are beginning to improve our lives while keeping in mind natural necessities. And here is where that larger “back to our green roots” trend can be seen.

Some forward-thinking offices have adopted fleets of standing desks (some going as far as treadmill desks) as a response to the realization that we weren’t meant to sit all day. The Squatty Potty also fights back against our tendency to sit, but for a different reason. The toilet-side stool helps users mimic our natural squatting position, as research has shown this reduces constipation and colonic diseases.

Others have nodded to our circadian reliance on the sun. Airplanes have installed “ambient lights” that mimic the sun, casting bright hues during the day and dark ones at night. A computer application called f.lux does the same thing with backlights on laptop screens. High-powered “Wake-Up Lamps” act as sun-like alarm clocks, illuminating in the morning to leave users waking up refreshed.

Scientists have even recently noticed that our under-exposure to germs at a young age results in autoimmune disorders or weakened immune systems later in life.

In the age-old race to improve human life, it seems like we’ve recently overstepped. So, in that same pursuit, we need to renege our neglect of biological dependencies. Progress should no longer be seen as automatically divergent from our wild beginnings.

I’m not suggesting anyone should return to the great outdoors. Instead, I think that our best alternative is to merge our natural history with our inevitable strive toward human progress. However, outside of New York City (ironically), very few people are embracing the products and research that acknowledge our organic origins.

In order to try and improve our lives, as well as the entire concept of progress, we should join this trend quickly. As this happens, another innate human phenomena will kick in: our desire to conform. After centuries of neglect, the idea of amelioration as influenced by nature will become popular in the developed world … and you don’t want to miss out.

Ryan Daniels is a College senior from Philadelphia. Email him at ryanjdaniels1@gmail.com. “Daniels, Straight Up” usually appears every Wednesday.

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