Aesthetics of Urban Forests: Overcoming the Objectification

The more we are developing into an urban society, the more alienated from nature we are becoming. Not only does departure from nature lead to departure from ourselves, it also changes the way we perceive nature in urban environments. How? Find out more in this blog by Luka Mesec, student of forestry from Slovenia.

Urbanization started after industrial revolution and is still increasing at a rapid rate. People are massively moving from the countryside to cities and drastically changing their lifestyles. If we let ourselves imagine a businessman from a big city, spending most of his days in his office, and an organic farmer from the countryside, who’s in close contact with nature throughout his working day, we can easily see how the process of urbanization is drawing us away from nature.

Human beings lived in the realm of nature for hundreds of thousands of years and human mind developed in the presence of nature. That itself is the reason why we try to stay linked to nature in our day to day reality, otherwise we would live in barren urban environment among buildings and other constructs. To keep the connection with nature alive, we grow urban forests.

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From the earliest stages of human history aesthetic relation of man to his reality and surroundings has been an important part of our society’s development. With urbanization, our perception of nature is becoming more and more ambivalent: on one side nature is the real and good that contrasts the society as the artificial and destructive, and on the other side nature is something wild and threatening which we have to domesticate to protect ourselves.

Furthermore, the more urbanized and alienated from nature we are becoming, the more we’re objectifying it. It seems that nature, especially urban nature, is being turned into an aesthetic object.

Urban trees should not be perceived as aesthetic or art objects. Art objects do not possess features such as metabolism, regeneration and evolutionary history. A tree is a living subject which together with other subjects creates a living, dynamic and complex whole – an urban forest. An urban forest is therefore a living system which includes living subjects. Most of us agree that urban nature is simply beautiful, but there’s so much more to its aesthetic value than meets the eye. There is just something so “primal” that awakens in us when we gaze into the forest.

This blog post is authored by Luka Mesec and is part of the #EFUF2016 blog competition.

Photo credit: Douglas Rodgers

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