Futility of Controlling Nature


Much of Louisiana’s history mostly in modern times is peppered with controlling nature to suit man’s commercial purposes [read John McPhee’s Control of Nature for more]. The Army Corps of Engineers unfortunately bounded by legislative intent draws much ire. However, they are as much to blame as the next person stamping his authority on a fragile ecology. Man’s control of nature stems from affixing an economic value to nature’s resources and adapting them for his personal use. Nature conservancy for the sake of preservation or aesthetic appeal hardly finds takers in a fertile and plentiful landscape of Louisiana. The lazily meandering muddy Mississippi drains much of continental United State carrying tons of sediment to the Gulf Coast. Nature entertains itself in a cyclic dance over thousands of years of reclaiming land and giving it back. It must not have envisioned the rise of a dominant species such as man to alter its natural cycle and attempt to achieve the impossible i.e. control or even alter the course of natural evolution. For proponents of the fact who believe in the natural order of things irrespective of man’s role in this world, it would be a worthwhile experience to see the impact of human presence in an otherwise fragile yet resilient environment. You need not go far to see this impact.

Living in Mumbai and dealing with the phenomenon of “annual floods” that brings the city to a screeching halt causing tremendous loss in both economic and emotional terms offers you enough justification. Even passionate Mumbaikars didn’t know of the existence of the river Mithi that is supposed to be a city river. We dismissed it as one foully oddity in the city center and a place for us to pollute so we can live in relative ease elsewhere. We always considered the mighty sea as the city’s focal point. Take a walk after any major festival especially Ganpati immersion, you would get a classic example of a city’s continued apathy toward its natural environment. The brashness with which we pollute our cities deservedly gets us cloudbursts and flash floods. Those who fail to see a connection are simply in a state of denial. If man hadn’t intervened, Mumbai would still be a group of seven islands in nature’s blissful arms. Of course, the economic potential wouldn’t then be realized and any progress has its costs, right? But each time the costs are borne by Mother Nature. Never can we envisage partaking in few of the costs that might be a direct result of civilization.

Why the sudden shift from New Orleans to Mumbai; because I see much in common in the existence of the two metropolises on two sides of the earth. They exist where realistically no city should. I wouldn’t argue for complete abandonment of these cities but definitely would argue for more respect to nature and the natural environment it exists in. Attention to a more sustainable living wouldn’t undermine the city but instead elevate its position in the list of some of the greatest cities to live in. After all, that is exactly what we aspire for, right; to live in a city that makes living enjoyable and does not engage in a constant struggle with nature. Like it or not, nature always win. She always has more time and energy that we can ever possibly dream of. It is just a matter of time before she decides to crack the whip.