Humankind doesn't have a very good record when it comes to the way we deal with things we either fear or don't understand. More hate-based wars have been fought because of this than probably anything else. In fact, throughout our long and rather bloodthirsty history, the majority of our worst crimes against ourselves and the world around us have been brought on by our inability to overcome just how much we fear what we don't understand. What we don't destroy we seek to control or beat into submission in order to make sure it is unable to challenge us.
While not generating quite as strong feelings of antipathy, those things which seemingly have no intrinsic value, or use, manage to risk our ire to nearly the same extent. So woe betide anything or body which manages to not only have no apparent use, but that also confuses and scares us. In his treatise The Tree, first published 30 years ago and now re-printed by Ecco Books, an imprint of Harper Collins, the late British author John Fowles (1926-2005) postulates that for the majority of us the natural world, and, by dint of what the two have in common, the spirit of creativity fall into that category.
According to Fowles one need look no further than our relationship with forests in general, and trees in particular to find proof of this sentiment. Even before the Christian church began its campaign against earth-based religions by spreading the belief that evil dwelt in the dark places of the forests, we were turning against the untamed world around us when we made the switch from hunter gatherers to a more agrarian trade-based society. Early civilizations were just as inclined to see nature as a force to overcome and be controlled as later day ones. Supplications were made to gods and goddesses in order to ensure bountiful crops and men enacted rituals binding them to the land so their divinity over it was ensured.
It was the industrial revolution of the 19th century which combined our fear of the dark and unknown with the utilitarian attitudes we hold today that completed our separation from the natural world. Up to then the majority of people still looked to the land for their living as we were primarily an agrarian society. With the coming of industry and its need for raw materials, any thought of nature existing merely for the sake of existing went out the window. If something wasn't of use, if it couldn't feed the maw of industry in some manner, it had no purpose at all and was deemed extraneous to our needs.