‘People shouldn’t be apart from nature, but a part of it’ – Campaigners

May 22, 2024 | News

There is a campaign to include humans as part of the definition of ‘nature’ in UK dictionaries. Change the definition and change our connection, they say


The Collins Concise Dictionary definition of “nature” reads like an old relic: “Plant and animal life as distinct from human beings.”


Collins’s position is not unique. A growing number of activists believe that definitions such as this one ignores the often damaging impact of humans on the planet’s ecosystem.

They’re now trying to correct the balance with the #WeAreNaturecampaign, which asks major UK dictionaries change their entries for “nature” to include humans.


Lawyers for Nature is a group of lawyers, researchers, and campaigners who work on behalf of nature. They have partnered with British B Corp Interiors Brand House of Hackney to launch the initiative.


Jessie Mond Wedd, a campaign consultant, explained that “at the moment nature doesn’t have a say in the decisions we make which are scientifically proven as driving climate breakdown and destroying biodiversity.” “Our view, is that we have separated from nature and view ourselves as exceptional instead of interdependent on nature. This is a root reason for our behaviour as a specie towards our natural world .”


Campaigners asked academics, artists, activists, politicians, and schoolchildren to define nature. They found that the majority of their answers included humans.

Take my hand: Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor, England. Photographed by Neil Burnell


Ben Goldsmith, an environmentalist, said: “Nature shines all around us. It is a living tapestry.”

Robert Macfarlane defined nature as “the entangled web planetary life, of which humans are an inextricable part.” Naturalist Chris Packham stated that “nature is the entire living world, it, them, you, and us.”

They believe that a broader meaning of the term has the potential to affect thinking and decisions on issues that impact the environment, by recognising the fact that damaging actions also harm humankind.

We are witnessing a rising collective remembrance, and a yearning to connect. This is only the beginning


Definitions sent to the Oxford English Dictionary, which accepted a small concession. One definition of nature, ‘the entire natural world, including humans’, is no longer considered obsolete.


In an open letter, the campaigners hope that their victory will be a step towards OED amending its main article. They also ask other major UK dictionaries if they would like to follow suit. Signing a petition is an opportunity for the public to join the campaign.

Frieda Gormley, co-founder of House of Hackney, said: “We’ve forgotten our connection with the natural world. We’ve forgotten that we are part of it and that we depend on it. This is a story that contains hope. We are witnessing a collective remembrance of the past and a yearning to connect, and this is only the beginning .”


Image: The Mud Maid in The Lost Gardens of Heligan by Tony Hisgett/Flickr



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