To conquer or co-operate? The natural question

By Mark Dowd
September 22, 2009

Channel Four is running a series called "Daredevils" and the trailer for Monday night's offering ran like this:

"In sub zero temperatures 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Dutch Daredevil Wim Hof attempts to run a full 26-mile marathon clad only in shorts and a pair of sandals."

The latest in a recent line of "nature extremity" documentaries had our hero preparing for his feats of daring-do by taking midnight dips in freezing canals and meditating in a meat freezer.

Cut to the commercial break and the latest car ad shows a sports car enjoying total solitude on top of some Spanish sierra as the luxury vehicle effortlessly negotiates hazardous mountains passes. Falcons and hawks circle admirably above. The message is clear: man can "triumph" over nature.

Except there's one problem: it's all based on a big deception. Our despoiling of nature through our consumption of resources is the very thing which is threatening to tip the forces of the natural world against us. World leaders meeting this week at the UN on climate change have been warned of the gathering pace of floods, tornadoes and droughts impacts of which already weigh heaviliy on many parts of the world.

So instead of viewing these TV docs and ads as glittering entertainment, I pose a thought. Is it a response by our collective subconscious to defy, to fight back and resist a process which we know, deep down, could mean real trouble in the decades ahead? And if the honest answer is, at least in part, "Yes", wouldn't the grown up approach mean coming clean with ourselves about our real limits as a species and trying to "fit in" and "work with" rather than against "nature?"


(c) Mark Dowd is campaign strategist for Operation Noah ( He is well-known for his TV documentaries on the environment and other issues.

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