The distinction between nature and convention goes back to Anaximander, is well noted by Aristotle, and is the source of much social and political theory. It was not, however, until the romanticization of nature in the early modern period that nature came to be seen as an object of distinction and beauty that could be both interacted with and appreciated. Rousseau, Byron and Wordsworth exemplified this latter view.
   Changes in attitude in contemporary times, while built on an earlier romanticism, coincided with the first photographs of the Earth from space in the 1960s. These pictures conveyed the im-measurable beauty of the globe, and its finitude. For the first time, the boundaries of the planet were clearly visible. Consequently, it was recognized that the Earth is a fragile totality composed of a precarious balance of interdependent ecosystems, and that human survival depended upon preserving this balance. Contemporary public and media interest in nature and conservation emerged from this background of romanticization, spatial/global images and the increasing knowledge of the variety of species. That background produced knowledge of, and images of, particularity on the one hand and the globe as a universality on the other. These poles have been dealt with in and through unprecedented media interest, ranging from the highly scientific journals such as Nature and National Geographic to more amateur expressions such as Bird Watching and Country Walking. British television broadcasts on nature are internationally renowned; the most popular series have been Survival and Life on Earth. In the mid-1990s, increasing public interest in the natural world led to the introduction of the satellite channel Discovery; a large part of this documentary channel is devoted to topics concerning nature. As well as passive reception, active reception of media on Nature is now available via the Internet. This interactive medium offers a variety of possible interfaces. Earth Kids, for example, teaches children about ecological concerns.
   Ecological groups have merged with political concerns, as in the case of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. Such groups have attempted to draw attention to the value of the natural habitat and have used the media to great effect in their objections to government-backed activity, from the building of nuclear power plants to airport runways. Two thousand years ago, Horace wrote that, ‘You may drive out nature with a pitchfork, yet shall be constantly running back’, the implication being that, if the planet is to escape ecological disaster, public recognition of its fragility is clearly necessary.
   Further reading
    Attenborough, D. (1980) Life on Earth, London: Book Club Associates.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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