The term “ecosystem services”
refers to the material and spiritual benefits and goods that we receive from
nature, or, in a broad sense, from all kinds of environment. The various forms
of such benefits have begun to be called services. Nature serves people by
producing the material and spiritual (intangible, non-material) prerequisites
for life. This is also the foundation of our aesthetic well-being. Does
humankind reciprocally serve nature, or only itself through nature, with the
intention of exploiting it? We see when nature suffers or flourishes, and we
also observe our own effect on its state. As much as our well-being is
dependent on nature’s services, nature’s well-being is dependent on us and our
civility, aesthetic welfare, aesthetic well-being, aesthetic wisdom, dignity,
ecosophia, ecosystem services, human nature, humanism, novel ecosystem, welfare
Using the term “services” brings
back the anthropomorphism passed over by natural sciences, which refers to a
similarity to humankind, to its point of view and language. I direct most of my
attention to this way of speaking and thinking that personifies nature. Does
using language that combines humankind and nature bring genuine fellowship and
closeness, and even love? Does the language of service therefore promote
understanding of our environmental relationship and a rapprochement or does it
lead back to a mystifying concept of nature and the establishment of a mutual
system of values involving a servant and the one served, benefiting one over
the other? Or perhaps a new age of humankind is arising or has already arisen,
the Anthropocene, in which matters and words combine: ecology and philosophy
become ecosophia, and aesthetics and
ethics become aethics?
The environment is seen as a
nature body resembling the human body, a living organism, a large ecosystem.
The widest is the Earth as a whole, Gaia, Mother Earth. In the scenery we see
faces, the back of a lake, the mouth of a river, the neck of the rapids, the
bosom and lap of the ground. Nature is also, like people, thought to express
emotions: a storm rages, the ground cries for water, plants and animals suffer
from dryness or wither from lack of nutrients.
Humanity is experienced and
understood as part of nature but simultaneously as conscious of itself, its
identity. Even as a part of nature, it is also always something else. What,
then, is the relationship between the human body and incarnated nature like?
There are three models. The first is encounter; we see the scenery face to
face. The second is the functional relationship depicted by the current talk of
ecosystem services or benefits. The third is leaving an imprint: our imprint on
the environment, the environment’s imprint on us.
To this, I will divide my
thoughts into three main parts: (1) the encounter between a human and the
environment, a basic case of which is a person admiring a view from a vantage
point; (2) symbiotic cooperation, that is, mutual serving; and (3) imprints,
making and reading them. I strive to point out the way of seeing that is
embedded in language, directing us towards thinking of nature and its parts as
a person, with a human form.
There are two parties: humanity
and nature. Proof of their separate identity is simply that nature, in its
different forms, existed before humanity and will continue to exist after it.
Humanity, on the other hand, cannot exist without nature. In the end, humans
are merely visitors in the life of the
The first form of an encounter is
a look and greeting. (“Hello, Forest." " Hello, Mountain.”, opening
words of a poem by Aleksis Kivi). Looking is active. We look at nature; nature
looks back at us. When we speak of looking at each other, we are shaping the
environment to be like a human. The nature looking back to at us has an eye
(lake, spring); the scenery has an expression (happy, gentle, melancholic). We
are in the scenery, physically and spiritually. The scenery touches and moves
us; on its face we read our internal world, our emotional states; the scenery
smiles, as in Ingmar Bergman’s film Smiles
of a Summer Night (Sommarnattens
For many in Finland, national
scenery brings to mind those pictures of Koli Mountains, where a traveller
gazes upon Lake Pielinen from the highest point, the peak of the Ukko-Koli.
Here lies the basic situation of our encounter with scenery: face to face, eye
to eye with the landscape. The scenery is personified. A you-me-arrangement and relationship is born.
We know the scenery by our head,
intellectually; we feel it mentally with our heart; we sense it with our touch
and other senses. Nature on one’s heart –
this is how Reino Kalliola (1909–1982), a famous Finnish naturalist and
nature-writer, entitled his collection of writings (1978). Think with the senses, feel with the mind – this was the motto of
the Venice Biennial 2007. The connections between feeling, knowledge,
recognition, and emotion were indicated in the Feel / touch / know / sense the landscape exhibition in Finland in Jyväskylä Art Museum and in the book
based on it (2012).
Traditionally, we have spoken of
the book of nature. According to this, nature in itself is a large book that we
read in order to learn and be inspired. The researcher is a reader of imprints,
who compiles a picture of the past from ruins, pieces that have survived, and
memories. Our survival in the struggle of life is a proof of, at the very
least, satisfactory natural literacy.
The cultural environment is
human’s writing on nature and on earlier layers of culture. It is human’s own
addition to nature. All agriculture and forestry and any kind of building
shapes and transforms nature, creates the language and writing of culture on
top of it. That’s why we need cultural literacy, too.
The service idea humanizes the
non-human. The personification of nature and the entire environment acts as an
aid to thinking but it also confuses. In the background, a mythical image of
nature acts, though to modern people mainly as an allegory and metaphor.
Personification has become literally illustrative. This manner of speaking,
which the actual natural sciences carefully avoid, is still common in
essay-like nature writing and lyric nature poetry, which emphasize the
interaction between humankind and nature. The operations of nature are
explained in human terms of intentions and goals, predictions and rejections.
Nature is seen as an understanding companion, conversational company, to which
we are connected by an emotional bond. Arnold Berleant describes this kind of
engagement as follows:
conception of environment as ecological affirms its meaning as a human meaning,
its meaning as experienced. As experienced, environment does not stand apart
but is always related to humans, to the human world of interest, activity, and
use. That is the human meaning of ecology.
It is not only organic nature and
its individual members that are seen as a partner; it can equally well be a
machine, building or an intellectualized home region, native land, and common
Natural and cultural sites that are regarded as significant to an individual or
group have begun to be “adopted,” which means a commitment to taking care of
them. In cases of displays and performances, some have gone even further,
involving “marriage” to Lake Kallavesi in Finland (two “ecosexual” artists,
Elizabeth Stephens & Annie Sprinkle), to the Eiffel Tower in France (Erika
Eiffel) and to the Berlin Wall in Germany (Eija-Riitta Berliner Mauer).
Thus, surprisingly, the natural
and cultural sciences, which are the foundation of ecosystem thinking, have had
to leave space for metaphorical thinking that sounds mythical. When language
takes control, nature becomes, in talking, the image of the human body and like
humankind, which reinforces an emotional relationship and empathy. For example,
one can feel sorrow for uncultivated fields being taken over by forest or for
deserted villages, while at the same time knowing that the residents who have
left may be happier elsewhere. Detaching from where one grew up may perhaps be interpreted as taking an initiative and being
energetic, as being ready to leave to
find a better life. The fields that have been left behind, covered in spring by
dandelions and in mid-summer by cow parsley, are certainly visually beautiful,
but in the eyes of someone who values farming, they are melancholy images of
work that has lost value and been wasted.
We can place ourselves above
nature, we can place ourselves under it, but we can also be alongside it. Just
as there is good and bad behavior between people, both exist between humans and
nature. Good behavior includes taking another into consideration, respect,
dignity, appreciation, and defending not only one’s own rights but also those
of the other. There are differences in how cultures regard the environment.
Culture itself is value neutral. There are environmentally friendly cultures
but also those that destroy the environment. Arne Naess, a Norwegian
eco-philosopher, visualizes us hundreds of years in the future, where we look
back to the present and see the Earth we have culturalized as ourselves, as our
In order to survive, humans have
had to shape their surroundings. The cultural environment is an image of its
handler. It looks like him or her, but not so much in the sense of external
similarity as with regard to attitudes and ways of thinking. It is this
spiritual likeness, catching the personality that portraiture strives towards
The fight for well-being has now,
in part, turned out to be nature’s loss. Wrong methods have led to the
pollution of the air and impoverishment and poisoning of the ground. Thus,
nature needs nurture, it suffers, it loses its endurance and is even dying. A
friend in danger is taken care of; we help him, and, in turn, he expresses
gratitude to the helper.
Alongside nursing language,
service language has appeared. We speak of ecosystem
services. We speak of how nature offers us recreational, well-being,
health, food supply and material services. Respectively, we must nurse, take
care of, and protect nature so that it would feel well and could fulfil its
service tasks. This is a mutual dependency. We search for those customs of
working together this kind of language refers to.
Docent Ossi Naukkarinen, an
aesthetician at the Aalto University,
School of Arts, Design and Architecture in Finland, has returned to the
source of the term tact (or discretion) and sees the ideal
cooperation of humanity and nature as finding the same rhythm.
It is, however, nature that provides the starting rhythm. Sculptor and
Professor Laila Pullinen (1933 – 2015) says of her material, stone:
feel that I let the spirit of the material out when I find the language that it
speaks. Stone, for instance, has the kind of magic that it cannot be chiseled
against the grain. You first need to find in which direction it wants to be
cracked. In walking around and sculpting and polishing the piece, I find the
correct angle in which it will be responsive to my hand. The stone advises the
sculptor through its own being.
As servants of each other
The whole of human life is based
on goods and services provided by nature. Some are produced directly by nature
in a state of nature, but nowadays an ever increasing number are produced by
the cultural and built environment. Cultural services, like education and
teaching, art, leisure activities and recreation, are built on an essential
natural foundation but distance themselves from it and develop into their own
species. On the one hand, all kinds of shaping of the environment impoverish
but, on the other hand, increase the richness and diversity of the environment.
Nature serves humankind but
humankind also serves nature, interactively. At its best, this is mutual
caring, while at its worst, it is the subjugation, forcing and suffocation of
one by the other. Besides functioning interaction and mutual dependence, one
also finds a reluctant service relation, a refusing of the role of servant and
even outright opposition. To win the struggle for existence, humankind has had
to fight stubborn nature and tame its wildness: frosts, drought and wetness,
barrenness, predators, and insect pests. Nature has had to be conquered, not
only with rationality but also by violence and cunning. A love-hate
relationship has unavoidably remained.
The services obtained from nature
are either material (food, raw-materials) or intangible. Typical non-material
services are recreational services, among which aesthetic services must also be
counted. Of these, beautiful landscapes and impressive natural phenomena, such
as rainbows and the aurora borealis, which produce sensory experiences, are a
surface aesthetic. Deep aesthetic services, in a conceptual sense, are the
harmony and dynamism of a system, an unbroken life cycle. Understanding the
behavior of an ecosystem produces intellectual pleasure, while admiration or
even surprise at the functionality of a multi-dimensional system tempts one to
think of a higher intelligence hidden behind it, which then appears in common
for its part, serves nature not only by protecting it but also by developing
and refining it, producing something that nature itself is not able to do. This
creates a cultural diversity in the environment, not as an intrinsic value but
for our own benefit. Our goals are varied. The aesthetic motive of our actions is the preservation, promotion, and
creation of beauty, the means being the practices of applied environmental
aesthetics and the ethics that support it. The neologistic term aethics is sometimes used to refer to a
combination of aesthetics and ethics.
Side by side
are a part of nature but, as we manipulate nature, we are always distancing
ourselves from it and keeping a critical distance from it. Parallel to and in
place of nature's system, we develop our own systems, a built and designed
parallel nature. By its activity, humankind serves the ecosystem, which
responds by producing well-being for it. In a friendly relationship, nature
gives thanks for protection, environmental care, building protection. All of
these are activities that take the environment into consideration and honor it.
Otherwise nature is insubordinate or, if dominated, it disintegrates.
increasingly large part of the environment is designed or made by humankind to
suit its purposes. The urban environment is the most processed; not only its
buildings and streets but also the gardens, parks, and city woods. Our
responsibility extends both to urban nature and to the buildings and other
artefacts. Cultural ecology and evolution become alternatives to and
replacements for natural process. They all overlap, mix, and merge into one.
Humankind has an increasingly important influence. Its footprints reach back to
natural ecology, often as a form of disturbance but also in acts of repair.
everything untouched by humankind ecologically healthy? Nature's own
disturbances, extreme phenomena, and direct environmental catastrophes mean,
for example, the uncontrolled increase of some species, earthquakes and
tsunamis, drought or excessive rain, even ice ages. The state of the
environment is dynamic, self-correcting to a certain amount, and adaptable, not
own ecology can be compared with a positive all-is-well aesthetic, a cultural ecology with a critical
aesthetic, because one thing or another can always be found that needs to be
improved and developed. The aim is the mutual well-being of humankind and
nature. This is thus a matter of the mutuality of interests. Humankind is
self-evidently dependent on nature, even if not as greatly and directly as
previously. What about the other way around? Is
nature dependent on humankind? At least cultural nature, the agricultural and
urban environment, can thank human activity for its existence, appearance, and
character. There is a symbiosis between the parties, an
interactive relationship, an interdependence.
is a party to ecosystems in which its effect is increasingly central. It brings
with it new types of well-being, cultural, social, and economic, that do not
belong to wild nature. We can speak of novel ecosystems and their beauty.
This is a matter specifically of the functional, operational beauty of systems.
Aesthetic welfare services
Welfare can be examined from the
point of view of both humankind and nature. One expression of this kind of
thinking is precisely speaking about the well-being of nature and the
environment. Our conception of what is best for nature is often a narrow mirror
image of our own well-being. We think that we know from the model of our own
experience what is best for plants, animals, and even inanimate nature.
Aesthetic welfare, which Monroe
C. Beardsley examined in his congress lecture in Uppsala, Sweden in 1968,
refers not only to the taking care of the preconditions of our needs involving
beauty but also to the pleasure arising from the fulfilment of these needs. A
welfare state sets foundations and standards for the well-being of its
citizens. It arranges and ensures the material, institutional, and social
preconditions for happiness and a good life. These include work and income,
safety and education, the possibility to practice physical and intellectual
culture, and leisure pursuits and recreation. Society cannot ensure realization
and subjective satisfaction, which, possible or not, remain the responsibility
of each person.
Freely following Beardsley’s line of thought,
the environment has aesthetic wealth or capital from which each person can only
take a part for his or her own use. Use presupposes not only sensory
sensitivity but also conceptual competence and skill, which can be taught and
learned, thus permitting one to realize one’s own possibilities. Prerequisites
are given by aesthetic education and culture. Nature itself, the whole
environment, guides by its reactions through trial and error. The experience of
welfare thus cannot be ensured or proven from outside. However, such
preconditions as a beautiful and stimulating environment and cultural offerings
and leisure-activity possibilities can and should be ensured. The framework of
welfare – clean air, silence and peace, communications, town and country
planning with all that is involved – are primarily the responsibility of
society. The realization of the welfare of the individual on this basis
requires each person's own action, knowledge, skill, and sensitivity.
Beauty is, on the one hand, the
source of our well-being and, on the other hand, its result. The aestheticality
of the environment is a means, too,
something that maintains and produces human well-being. The health effects,
both physical and mental, are particularly important instrumental values,
whereas actual aesthetic well-being, like art, is a value in itself. The
aesthetic environment has many kinds of instrumental values but they are,
however, secondary to intrinsic ones.
Environmental design and product
development that take nature's well-being into account create cultural
well-being. Renewable natural resources and the recycling of these resources
are preconditions for the sustainability of a system. Through its solutions,
design can support sustainable development. The extension of the useful life of
things and products by repair and maintenance is one way to save natural
resources. Programmatic “trash design” leaves a product's previous stage
visible and, by its roughness, reminds us of the process's continuity, that at
the end of one life cycle another starts. This is also represented by
ecological nature care in which signs of deliberate planning are left. That
which seems abandoned can actually be intended.
Forest fire is nature’s renewing ecological act and, as such, is aesthetically
There are material and spiritual imprints visible in
matter that remain in one’s mind and memory. An imprint is left when traveling;
it is created when working, thinking, and speaking. It is fading or lasting,
external or internal. An imprint extends from a brush to a violent blow that
leaves a scar or disability. Everything leaves an imprint, vanishing or
healing, or a memory. The human face is a mirror of personality and of a way of
living. The face of scenery is the image of its maker, designer.
At least two imprints are created at one time, one
from planning to the building site, the other to the place where the raw
material is taken from. The aesthetic connects to the ethical. What are the
rights and responsibilities of a human? Does nature offer the materials or are
they just taken from it? What does sustainable development mean? Who or what
develops? Is concern for the environment a general concern, lamenting and picturing the end of the world,
or everyday caretaking for the partner, the environment?
One can see furthest to the past when looking up at
the starry sky, in principle all the way to the Big Bang. In his work, The World without Us (2007), Alan
Weisman has made a thought experiment starting from humankind suddenly
vanishing from the earth. He shows how the human imprints would vanish in
hours, days, years, and centuries, thousands and millions of years. The last to
vanish would be radio signals moving in space.
The first footprint of astronaut Neil Armstrong is
still present as a concrete dent on the surface of the moon. Are it and other
marks left from his moonwalk a cultural heritage to be preserved? This question
is posed by Professor Eugene C. Hargrove, an environmental philosopher.
The symbolic meaning included in the imprint is what makes it a heritage, a
human sign for the first time outside its own habitat on another celestial
body. It recalls everything that made
this possible and what it represents. The footprint is not merely that of a
certain person but, more abstractly, that of humankind, as this is referred to
in the first official words of Neil Armstrong, the person stepping on the moon
on 21, July 1969: “This is one small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind.”
Humans leave an imprint as a species and as humankind,
but everyone also leaves an imprint as an individual and a social agent. The
most memorable are significant scientific and artistic acts, actions in leading
positions in government, business life, or politics. Writing a biography
necessitates tying the imprints together, perceiving one’s career, one's life
path. The course of events is reconstructed from details; the past is built
The user’s imprint is left as objects, clothes, and
dwellings. The imprint of a hand and of fingers is a very visible sign for
identification but, at the same time, it also points to the skill and style of its
originator. We can imitate, walk in someone’s footsteps, but this does not call
for the same kind of creative ability and is, as such, more like dexterity and
The scenery is the image of its creators, and the
culture our common imprint. Imprints have value properties: beauty and
ugliness, good and bad, skill and incompetence, meticulousness and
indifference. What is beautifully made between humans is a model for what is beautifully
made between human and nature. A beautiful act enhances well-being and
enjoyment. A valuable life is a life lived honorably, one that has left a
positive imprint. A human has found balance with himself but also with nature.
4.1 From eco-culture to eco-civilization and wisdom
An environmental culture is a system of relationships
between humans and the environment at any one time. As such, it is
value-neutral. Cultures are environmentally positive, negative, or
value-neutral. A civilized environmental relationship, environmental civility,
is value-positive. It signifies good behavior towards the environment,
responsibility and care, respect and esteem, while preserving the dignity of
the other. Environmental wisdom or ecosophy is a positive attitude based on
this kind of knowledge and feeling. Wisdom is to receive services from nature
without overexploitation, preserving and developing nature’s ability to serve.
The question is not, however, only of thinking about benefits but rather of
accepting the other as itself, for its uniqueness.
Cultural diversity is an addition
which humankind has brought, parallel to natural diversity. Both represent
wealth being offered. A humanistic point of view emphasizes the positive
actions and possibilities of humankind. Humans increase the richness of nature,
though they may also reduce it. Animals and plants are bred and their numbers
regulated, at the same time artificial structures and environments are
developed, which nature does not produce alone and from itself: road networks,
data communications connections, entire communities and societies. Humanity’s
aesthetic possibilities tied to moral duties are eloquently expressed by
Frederick Ferré, a constructive postmodernist as a philosopher: “The meaning of life is to be
both a maker of beauty and a destroyer of beauty in order to make more beauty.
That really is the rhythm of the universe.”
The Dutch aesthetician Jos de Mul declared when speaking of environmental
matters: “Not going back, but going forward to nature.”
According to him, nostalgic return-to-nature-type Utopias, sought from
the past, will not succeed. Instead we must look to the future. We can promote
the implementation and development of ecosystem services. This is a task for
active, applied environmental aesthetics. The Italian Pagano's idea of cultural
evolution is linked to this. To generalize, there are two directions: a return
to a simpler, more natural life that merges with nature and, on the other hand,
a going forward to one suited to humankind without knowing precisely what kind.
Alongside nature-centred ecosystem thinking, an increasingly culture-centred
ecosystem thinking based on humankind has visibly developed. The humanistic
outlook trusts humankind's possibilities and its responsibility for its
environment, and regards itself as a refiner but also as a guard and preserver.
Beardsley, whom I referred
to above, notes that there is competition rather than opposition and conflict
between values. In practical situations, goals that are, as such, regarded as
being good must be placed in order of importance, prioritized, and, in that
case, the environment's aesthetic values may have to make way for health,
economic, and security viewpoints. What means could be used so that aesthetics
– in a broad sense, beauty values – would have a better chance in this
competition? The first condition is to show their concrete importance to our everyday life, its material and
immaterial goods and services. The aim is not the supremacy or absolutism of
aesthetic values but to give them a reasonable share in the totality of values
and in the life model that arises as a result of many kinds of compromise.
Unlike material, aesthetic
ecosystem services are generally public. As public goods, they are freely available
without charge to be enjoyed by all. By concentrating on intangible,
intellectual goods instead of material things, nature would be saved. A
landscape is not worn down by looking at it but peripheral activities, like
moving around tourist sites, nearly always lead to wear and, in the worst
cases, can destroy valued sites.
Environmental aesthetic civility and guides to the good life
Environmental civility and wisdom
are about how to live in harmony and peace with the environment. A balanced environmental
relationship and a life derived from it can well be seen as similar to good
human relationships and polite behavior. It recognizes nature’s rights but also
human rights. Losses, as such, cannot be compensated by money or in other forms,
but perhaps something valuable, in another sense, may be gained instead. The
natural environments and earlier cultural environments are exchanged for
something that is regarded as more valuable. A civilized environmental
relationship means good manners: generosity, uprightness, respectfulness,
taking the other party into consideration, caring, empathy. Civility is
knowledge, skill, and competence, a respectful attitude. Wisdom is more than
that; it requires sympathy and understanding, civility of the heart, seeing
totalities, and recognizing the common good.
One intermediary between the
environment and humanity is investigative and model-giving art. Environmental
eco-art is of two kinds, that which is ecologically made and that which
promotes ecological values by its example or its declaration or warning. Large
environmental art and building projects have aroused criticism because of their
detriments, even when they have had a positive effect in raising ecological
consciousness. The best known and most discussed are surely Christo's massive
packaging and covering projects. They have been implemented mainly for
documentation; permanent changes in the landscape were not intended.
refer to two examples of confrontational or documentary environmental art realized
in Finland, such as the Finn Ilkka Halso's Museum
of Nature series of photographs
and the Latvian Kristaps Gelzis' environmental artwork Eco Yard 2000: 100 m2 fenced-off land safe from urbanisation.
of Nature by Halso is a series of photographic manipulations.
The natural objects and sites are placed on display like museum pieces,
surrounded by massive constructions. Their scale extends from a covered river,
rapids, and part of a cornfield to individual trees. In an imaginary culture in
the near future, a world dominated by technology preserves the nature it has
conquered as reserves and sample pieces. The place of the past is in the form
of a natural and cultural heritage in a museum cabinet. As Christo packaged, Halso
framed and encased.
Yard 2000 by Gelzis is (was) a work of environmental art in
which a wire-net steel fence enclosed an area of 100 square meters of wasteland
that had survived in the middle of the city of Helsinki. Opposed to each other
were nature and culture, perhaps also the countryside and the city, permanence
and development. The work, which should have lasted for 5 years, from the start
of 1995 to 2000, lasted, although forgotten, until the end of 2014, almost 20
years. Now, however, it has lost its battle and is destroyed; it has vanished,
leaving no trace, the only memory traces are photos and written documents. The
urban environment has conquered wasteland-nature. The struggle has ended in the
loss and destruction predicted in the work's name. The area is being
metamorphosed into a built park lined by office-buildings and dwellings.
After these dark, even dystopian
vistas, what of optimistic, visionary utopias that became real? They too exist,
or existed: the garden city Tapiola in Espoo on the outskirts of Helsinki,
which was then compacted, contrary to its original idea; and Oscar Niemayer's
Brasilia, the capital, which expands without control as differently named
satellite towns. Beardsley, an esteemed and devoted professional aesthetician,
stated of the original, aestheticized Brasilia, governed by aesthetic values
only, that “enormous and desperate social needs were left unmet, and a
government ruined itself, in the effort to realize a (perhaps) magnificent
aesthetic dream.” The fate of utopias seems
to be lost because of their unyielding self-sufficiency.
Shadowed by threats, the second
phase of ecosystem services is in front of us. In fact, it is already around
us, our cyborg-like connection to the environment, imposed by a technological
culture that increasingly takes the form
of artificial nature and virtual reality. New culture should not, however,
destroy the old but move in step with it. A human, humane nature, in which we
play a constructive and not a destructive role, could still be created. Plural natures
could arise with which it is possible to construct endlessly varied systems of
relationships, that is, cultures, including the characteristically aesthetic
ones like the capital, Brasilia.
Conclusion: nature as human, human as
The candidates for the Ars Fennica Award in late winter 2014 emphasized the mythical
relationship between human and nature. Riitta Ikonen, one of the artists in the
Contemporary Art Museum Kiasma exhibition,
photographs still lives of people, including herself, in clothes and
accessories provided by plain nature. Subjects pose for the camera in their
plant clothes. They can also be seen in another way: nature's spirit or god has, in a way familiar
from folklore and religions, taken human form, become a human.
A human mythologizes herself, empathizes with Nature,
places herself in it, adopts the role Nature has given her, puts on Nature’s
costume, identifies herself with Nature’s mythological character. At the same
time, such a human is clearly a character in a play.
Just as the human presents herself as nature, so do
the nature spirits of folklore and even higher gods take the form of a human.
The encounter occurs at the same level. Even then, a certain distance remains. The
dresser clearly knows she has dressed in
the form of a character and shows this to the viewer. The idea has been to
separate nature and character, but they still intertwine or mix.
In conclusion, sometimes human nature has a balanced singular meaning (human+nature, humannature); sometimes it is bipartite and holds a
tension between human and nature (human: nature); sometimes it foreshadows a
clash, human contra nature (human vs.
Yrjö Sepänmaa is Professor of Environmental Aesthetics
(Emeritus) in University of Eastern Finland in Joensuu. His present research
interests are theory and practice of applied environmental aesthetics and
Published June 7, 2016
I would like to thank my reviewer for constructive
comments and remarks.
 Arnold Berleant, “An Ecological Understanding of
Environment and Ideas for an Ecological Aesthetics,” Chapter 2 in Xiangzhan
Cheng, Arnold Berleant, Paul H. Gobster, Xinhao Wang, Ecological Aesthetics and Ecological Assessment and Planning (Zhengzhou,
China: Henan People’s Press, 2013), pp. 54-72, ref. on p. 70.
 On biological and cultural
ecology, see Piergiacomo Pagano, “Eco-Evo-Centrism: a new environmental
philosophical approach,” EAI. Energia,
Ambiente e Innovazione, 2-3 (2014), pp. 93-99, ref. on p. 97.
 Quoted by Juha-Heikki Tihinen in his essay “Arcs and
Curves – on the significant form in Laila Pullinen’s art,” in Arcus Lucis. Laila Pullinen. Valon kaari.
Ljusbåge. Arc of Light. (Rauma, Finland: Teresia and Rafael Lönnström
Foundation, 2013), pp. 29-36, ref. on p. 32.
 See Emma Marris, Joseph Mascaro, Erle C. Ellis,
“Perspective: Is Everything a Novel Ecosystem? If so, do We Need the Concept?”,
in Novel Ecosystems: Intervening in the
New Ecological World Order, ed. by Richard J. Hobbs, Eric S. Higgs, and
Carol M. Hall (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2013), Chapter 41, pp.
345-349, ref. on p. 348.
 Monroe C. Beardsley, “Aesthetic welfare,” Proceedings of the Sixth International
Congress of Aesthetics, Uppsala 1968, ed. by Rudolf Walter Zeitler (Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Figura
Nova, Series X), Uppsala, 1972, pp. 89-96, ref. on p. 89. Also published in The Journal of Aesthetic Education 4, 4
(October 1970, Special Issue: The Environment and the Aesthetic Quality of
Life), pp. 9-20; an enlarged version, “Aesthetic Welfare, Aesthetic Justice,
and Educational Policy” in The Journal of
Aesthetic Education 7, 4 (October 1973, Special Issue: The Arts Cultural
Services, and Career Education), pp. 49-61.
 Paul H. Gobster, referring to Joan Nassauer, in his
“Aldo Leopold’s Ecological Esthetic. Integrating Esthetic and Biodiversity
Values,” Journal of Forestry,
 Zsuzsi I. Kovacs, Carri J. LeRoy, Dylan G. Fischer,
Sandra Lubarsky and William Burke, “How do Aesthetics Affect our Ecology?”, Journal of Ecological Anthropology 10
pp. 61-65, ref. on p. 63.
 Eugene C. Hargrove, “The Preservation of the Moon and
Other Celestial Bodies in the Solar System,” a paper presented at the Seventh
International Conference on Environmental Aesthetics, Celestial Aesthetics: The Aesthetics of Sky, Space and Heaven at
the Valamo Monastery, Heinävesi, Finland, March 27, 2009. (Published in Finnish
2012.) See Hargrove’s article “The
Preservation of Non-Biological Environments in the Solar System” www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/nlsc2008/pdf/2162.pdf
 Jos de Mul, “Earth Garden. Not going back, but going
forward to nature,” a lecture given at International
Conference Environmental Aesthetics & Beautiful China, Wuhan,
University of Wuhan, May 21, 2015.
 On environmental aesthetic civility, see Yrjö
Sepänmaa, “Environmental Civility: Culture, Education, Enlightenment, and
Wisdom,” Theoretical Studies in
Literature and Art 6 (2013), pp. 139-145.
 “Eco Yard 2000” was part of the international
exhibition of contemporary art, Ars 95
Helsinki (February 11 – May 28, 1995) organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Finnish National Gallery. The work
slowly deteriorated, but was allowed to stay on its site for almost 20 years
until the end of the year 2014, when its traces were removed from the new park
 Beardsley, op.
cit., p. 89 (see Note 7).
 Riitta Ikonen (with an essay by Leevi Haapala), in Ars Fennica 2014 7.2./20.4.2014, edited
by Kirsti Karvonen (Helsinki: Henna and Pertti Niemistö Art Foundation, 2014),
pp. 23-28. Ars Fennica e-book: www.arsfennica.fi/2014/ArsFennica_2014.pdf