Go in to any supermarket and you will find shelves and shelves of stuff displaying the tag “all-natural.” We think that “natural” things are better then “synthetic” or “artificial” or, heaven-forbid, “man-made” things.
That’s nonsense, of course. First of all, what exactly do we mean by “natural?” After all, petroleum is natural. It is organic, in the sense that it is made from once-living things. But no one would consider petroleum products like plastics to be natural. It’s a good thing we have all that plastic, though, because our natural cheeses and natural meats and natural vegetables have to be wrapped in the stuff so they can arrive in our refrigerators still fresh!
People claim that vaccination is not natural. The Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines are both made from RNA. What could be more natural than nucleic acids? All living things have nucleic acids in them. Stimulating an immune response by the body is the most natural of all healing methods. Herbalists claim their potions improve the body’s immune system. Bully for them. I’d like to see them immunize people against viral diseases. I’m sure echinacea works great against polio and smallpox.
There’s an outfit called Pandora—not the music service—that sells jewelry. They are a big, international company. They recently decided not to sell “natural” diamonds any more. They will replace them with synthetics, that is, lab-created stones.
This is a good thing. Diamond mining comes with a whole host of social and environmental problems. We’ve all heard about “blood diamonds.” Perhaps you saw the Leonardo di Caprio movie Blood Diamond. Let’s just say we all know that many, many poor and impoverished people are made poorer and more impoverished by our society’s insatiable need for the perfect stone.
It doesn’t have to be this way. A lab-created diamond is made from the same material as a “natural” diamond. They are just as beautiful. You cannot distinguish the synthetic stone from the “real” one. Of course, there will always be those who insist on the authentic, Earth-grown diamond, precisely because it is not made by the hands of men but by Mother Nature.
I would tell those folks to go out and ask Mother Nature for some broccoli. Seriously. You won’t find broccoli growing wild anywhere. Broccoli is a product of human patience and ingenuity. The source plant is natural, but the cultivated plant, the one we buy in the grocery store, is not. (It is still good for you, of course.)
I would like to see if anyone can find cheese in its natural setting. You can’t, of course. Cheese is manufactured by people. But it qualifies as one of those so-called natural foods. And don’t get me started on milk. Humans are the only species that consumes the milk of other species. Milk is the food for baby cows and baby goats and baby sheep and etc. But we suck that stuff down, either in its (mostly) pure form or as butter, cheese, yogurt, kefir, ice cream, you name it. Totally natural, man.
Essential oils are all the rage. To get essential oils, you have to process a plant. Typically they are crushed and the extracted liquids are then distilled to get the oil. Distillation is the same process we use to make booze. And gasoline. Totally natural, man.
Humans are products of nature so human-made products are natural, too. At this point the word natural is almost meaningless.
I say Lou Rawls knew what he was talking about:
(Music and Lyrics by Sandy Baron and Bobby Hebb)