3. Notions about nature
The rationales we employ on behalf of anything, including nature conservation, reflect our attitudes and values. Our attitudes and notions toward and valuation of those places classed as heritage sites are revealed in the many traditional arguments used to defend those places. Moreover, our attitudes and values profoundly affect the manner in which we treat something.
Many claim that heritage sites are important to maintain because they provide inspiration for the artistically and intellectually inclined. In the process, these designated areas add to and help shape culture, and are the inspiration for painters, photographers, writers and  musicians find their inspiration.
They also serve to inspire those in the intellectual arts as well. Philosophers, for example–especially environmental philosophers–who seek a wildness experience to be a contemplative catalyst or cognitive genesis for the really big questions of philosophy: What is the meaning of the universe where we all came from; what we are all doing here; where we are going; what the character of our existence is, and what our moral place in the world is. Heritage sites are the only muses for art, but rather that they are excellent and unique ones, and that to lose any such inspirational kindling would be tragic.
One of the central themes of conservationists is to be a friend of the planet and to live at peace with ecosystems.  The friendship concept is embodied in 'Friends of the Earth', the largest international network of environmental groups in the world, represented in 68 countries. Peace with ecosystems is at the heart of  Greenpeace. a non-profit organisation, with a presence in 40 countries across Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. As a global organisation, Greenpeace focuses on the the most crucial worldwide threats to our planet's biodiversity and environment.
At a local level, where most people interact with nature, a spiritual view of the local environment emerges from trying to read and express various signs of the workings of nature, in relation to our position in the grand scheme of things. For example, the Koran has much to say about 'signs' which, through the imagination, point to the deeper significance of everyday life.
  • "In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of night and day; in the ships that sail the ocean with cargoes beneficial to man; in the water which God sends down from the sky and with which He revives the earth after its death, dispersing over it all manner of beasts; in the disposal of the winds, and in the clouds that are driven between earth and sky; surely there are signs for rational men." (The Koran 2:163)
  • In a similar set of holistic notions, St Francis of Assisi praised God "for our sister, Mother Earth, which brings forth varied fruits and grass and glowing flowers", and ended with praise to God "for our Sister, the death of the body." Neighbourliness on the part of a stranger is signed, as an important element in the evolved pattern of human behaviour, in the parable of the good Samaritan. A sunset seen above an urban skyline can be both a scientific and a unifying spiritual experience.
Religious ideas, about origins and values in nature cemented families in the past, but are now lost or diluted within minority subcultures, unattached to the major world religions, who are left to develop their place in an idiosyncratic cosmology.
Moral and spiritual teaching has always relied heavily on visual imagery in the formation and realisation of a society's attitudes, values, and beliefs, and their transmission, as signs of what it is to be human, from one generation to the next. An experimental meditation is being developed based on images of the natural world which the painter Graham Sutherland used to compose his Great Tapestry at Coventry.
Examples may be gathered through local appraisals of the influential role played by the visual arts and architecture in the formation and maintenance of religious and spiritual values in all societies since prehistoric times. However, there is no generally accepted educational framework to use neighbourhood notions about nature to link communities and environment to a larger scheme of spiritual values. In particular, classroom examples are needed which highlight spiritual reasons for promoting a particular course of local development.
Spiritual appraisals take a world view that is rooted in the imagination and passes beyond the limits of ordinary life. They start from the postulate that the material cosmos in some way expresses or manifests a deeper spiritual reality, expressed through human consciousness.
Humanists such as Julian Huxley have seen an apparent progress in cosmic evolution towards increasing consciousness and control. That is to say, we are part of a development from the unconscious simplicity of the Big Bang to the conscious, diverse and complex carbon-based life-forms of the planet earth. Our unknown future carries the possibility of understanding and controlling the cosmos itself.
Attempts to provide biological explanations of consciousness are far from convincing, and are certainly not established by scientific study. The ultimate personal expressions of consciousness are through the arts. The author Henry Rider Haggard, for example, through his fertile imagination, kept returning to the possibility that the material universe does express a spiritual reality. The purpose of cosmic evolution may be the emergence of some form of conscious relationship between that spiritual reality and entities in the material cosmos.
Science is not irreligious. It does not entail that there is no spiritual reality, no God, and no purpose in the cosmos. Many of the greatest scientists were strongly motivated by their religious beliefs. The sort of highly ordered and emergent universe that science discloses is compatible with, and almost overwhelmingly suggests, the existence of a creator of enormous wisdom and power. Religious myths depict the way in which that reality makes itself known in the material universe. Religious rituals establish appropriate responses to that reality. Religious symbols express its fundamental character.
  • Some religious thinkers take the view that modern science can help to clear away some elements of literalism, ignorance and myopia which still disfigure religion by providing a new and better understanding of the material universe. Spiritual notions extend the this scientific world view through ideas which define a realm of spirit, from which the material cosmos emerges, and to which it will return. Religion has an irreplaceable role to play in relating human life to that wider spiritual context. Our age offers the possibility of relating the scientific and religious perspectives in a mutually enriching way.
Taking Christianity as an example, from the beginning it attempted to present a cosmic vision of a spiritually ordered universe, whose purpose would be somehow completed by a future full knowledge and love of the creator.
The myths of Christianity show:-
  • how God ordered the universe and produced a conscious moral agency;
  • how God expressed the essence of divine nature as self-giving in the life of a particular human, Jesus;
  • how God disclosed the ultimate goal of the universe in the resurrection of Jesus.
The cosmic vision of the first Christians was that the spirit who was the creator of the cosmos had acted in human history to initiate the liberation of human lives from pride and egoism, and their union with the divine essence of self giving. In other words, we are part of the whole cosmic process from the Big Bang, and have emerged as conscious agents which can consciously unite the material to God, its spiritual source and goal.
  • The cosmos and all life in it, will eventually cease to exist. But the Christian view has always been that the fulfillment of God's purpose lies beyond this space-time, even though it must be approached through it. God's goal for the cosmos is that everyone who has ever lived will have the opportunity to share in a trans-historical knowledge and love of God in a 'new creation'. From a Christian viewpoint, this Cosmos is the place where souls emerge in the material and temporal realm. But they were always intended to find their fulfillment in the eternal realm, which is the spiritual reality of God.