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Nature Is Not a Toy

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Amazingly, nuclear power is beneficial, unless arrogantly mishandled.

"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."
Richard Feynman, Report of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident
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If there's one unequivocal, absolute truth about nature, it's how immeasurably powerful it can be. From something as simple as a raindrop to as powerful as a hurricane, nothing happens in nature that doesn't have far reaching consequences, for better or worse. And the same can be said for the very forces that have shaped the universe since its creation, only such applications multiply by a immeasurable margin on the cosmic scale. However, as technology and civilization continue to advance, the resources necessary to fuel both increase as well. Naturally, as science will be quick to tell you, the best way to keep up with such demands is not only to look at nature for inspiration, but to harness its power, especially where energy is concerned.

There are two ways this can go down. The first is to simply safely handle such power by strictly adhering to the protocols and instructions given by those who've done the necessary work and research. This way, the end result is something that is undoubtedly immensely beneficial to civilization, and in some cases, actually quite harmless.

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The other is to ignore the experts, cut corners in the design, hire inexperienced staff, and/or completely overestimate your ability to control it. After all, you're harnessing one of the many natural forces in the universe that have governed it and everything in it, from the smallest atoms to supermassive black holes and all life in between, so there's no possible way it could go wrong and result in the massive loss of life, right?

This trope is not necessarily restricted to any one form of natural phenomenon. Nor does it matter if the person harnessing/manipulating the forces of nature does so with magic or technology. Whether the work involves the use of gravity, light, genetics, nuclear energy, etc., for any conceivable purpose, this trope will only apply if at least the benefits are discussed while the plot explores the consequences, or vice versa. And, for obvious reasons, it must involve a naturally occurring phenomenon within the observable universe (unless dark matter or dark energy is involved).

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A subtrope of Nature Is Not Nice. Can go hand-in-hand with a Green Aesop. When done without properly doing the research, it can result in a Space Whale Aesop.

Can lead into Tempting Fate and Gaia's Vengeance, especially if nature in the setting is sentient, or there's a nature deity around.

Expect mad scientists to be frequently involved and abusing the naturally occurring phenomenon, until or unless it crosses a line even they are uncomfortable with.

Compare Creating Life Is Bad for a similar aesop about playing with forces that some may say belong to God alone. Also the more general Science Is Bad and because Lightning Can Do Anything, harnessing its power can sometimes open the road to decidedly unnatural horrors.

Supertrope to The Power of the Sun.


Examples

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    Comic Books 
  • Storm of the X-Men first used her weather manipulation powers as a teen to end a drought in her village by making it rain for days. The village witch-priestess kindly but firmly chides her for her rash action, because while it saved their village it caused massive droughts and animal die-offs in other villages because the rain had to come from somewherenote .

    Literature 
  • The Belgariad: Garion once magically summons up a lightning storm against an army. Two years later, he gets a furious dressing-down from Belgarath the Sorcerer, who's spent all the intervening time smoothing out the meteorological Disaster Dominoes Garion's weather manipulation caused.
  • Circle of Magic: In the first book, Tris attempts to experiment with her weather powers as a way to control them on a larger scale, since she's at Winding Circle to learn to control her powers better. But she gets caught by Niko, her mentor, and told of the dangers of messing with nature, especially since her powers are so chaotic that people have died from not being able to control them. A big theme of the series as a whole is that nobody is allowed to use magic to mess with nature, because doing so can bring disaster to their world at large.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Splice: Genetic engineers Clive and Elsa created a pair of veriforms named Fred and Ginger for the express purpose of having an easily available source of enzymes and other medical research. When the two specimens prove to be a success, they take their research of gene splicing a little further by introducing human DNA into their next creation, Dren, and take her away from the labs of the pharmaceutical company they work for to prevent them from being discovered. Because Clive and Elsa neglected to keep an eye on Fred and Ginger, they fail to realize Ginger became a male in the interim before the two specimens fight to the death. It's a trait Dren inherits, and after her transition into a male, Dren subsequently rapes and impregnates Elsa, and kills Clive and one of their bosses before Elsa kills Dren herself.
  • Jurassic World: Henry Wu at one point offhandedly mentions he could have utilized and manipulated the dinosaurs' genetic code to make them look and behave much more accurately to the genuine article, but Masrani wanted something more thrilling, and was coincidentally unaware that Wu and Hoskins were already conspiring to create a living biological weapon. Thus the Indominus Rex was created, and because of her incredibly high intelligence, combined with her ability to camouflage and hide from thermal radiation, she eventually broke out and went on a rampage that destroyed the park.
    • Somewhat inverted in the novel, where Wu expresses concern over the dinosaurs and thought it would be better if he had made them more sluggish to potentially avoid human fatalities. It's Hammond who insists the dinosaurs fit the public's perception of them, as fast, featherless beasts. And as Malcolm later points out, Hammond and Wu severely overestimated their ability to control the animals, as they've not only been successfully breeding, but have already been escaping the park and making it to the mainland. And that's just before the park gets completely destroyed.
  • Spiderman 2: Otto Octavius endeavored to create a clean source of infinite energy to power all of New York, and in that pursuit he made multiple breakthroughs in the field of robotics and fusion. This resulted in the creation of a reactor capable of forming a mini-star, and the four robotic arms, each with highly advanced AI and composed of the heat and magnetic-resistant material necessary to control the star's magnetic field. However, during the nearly successful demonstration in his home in New York, he neglects to account for the possibility of the star's magnetic field inducing currents on the metals within his own home (or arrogantly assumed it within his ability to control), and the resulting accident kills his wife, and fries the inhibitor chip preventing the arms' AI from controlling him. The second time he tries it, he regains enough of his humanity to pull a Heroic Sacrifice before the star's growing magnetic field tears all of New York apart.
  • The Titan: Rick Janssen is one of 14 volunteers undergoing human test trials in the hopes of being the first to establish an interstellar colony on one of Saturn's moons, Titan, to combat Earth's overpopulation crisis, and is joined by his wife Abigail (a medical researcher) and son Lucas at the research facility Rick is sent to. While the initial tests results were promising, under increasingly intense training tests (to force the human body to adapt to the moon's atmospheric conditions and environment), things start to go wrong when Zane, another test subject, has a mental breakdown while Rick begins shedding his skin when taking a break at the bottom of the pool. After Zane suffers a second mental breakdown and kills his wife, while Rick suffers complications from his recent corneal surgery, Abigail confronts the project's manager and lead researcher Martin Collingwood. When he refuses to give a straight answer, Abigail later sneaks into his office, and discovers that all 14 tests subjects were having their DNA infused with the DNA from various different animal species. By the end of the film, Rick is the only surviving test subject that was successfully sent to Titan, the others having perished during the trials or killed in the confrontations with military police (after having slain some of the police as well).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Chernobyl: As it turns out, nuclear energy is actually quite safe and one of the most ecologically friendly sources of energy if handled properly. However, between the inherently flawed design of Reactor 4, the inexperienced operators, and the arrogance of the plant's higher ups in the face of an increasingly obvious and dangerous life-threatening event, practically ensured the disaster to occur sooner or later. And in the process, doom thousands to horrific fates...

    Western Animation 
  • Batman Beyond: Shriek was an excellent audio engineer whose inventions allowed him to manipulate sound waves in a variety of different ways, from demolition to outright psychological manipulation. Unfortunately, brilliant as they were, they began proving to be too expensive to build and, as Derek Powers points out when Shriek tries to land a legitimate job at Wayne-Powers, impractical. Derek instead enlists Shriek as a hitman in an assassination attempt against Bruce Wayne, but is foiled by Terry. In the ensuing fight, Terry briefly manages to use Shriek's own inventions against him by turning on every machine in the factory they're fighting in, making it impossible for Shriek to locate him at first. Shriek adjusts the disks on his suit to mute all other sounds except for Terry's footsteps, but this backfires on him rather spectacularly when one of the disks gets struck by Terry's Batarang and massively amplifies all audio input, rendering Shriek completely deaf.

    Real Life 
  • Keeping dangerous exotic pets always comes with a high risk of eventual injury or death, not just to the keeper but any family members and friends that actually bother to stick around (as in one famous case, a woman found out the hard way when her pet chimp mutilated her friend's face, leaving the poor innocent women blind). A lion can severely injure you even if it's just playing with you and gets a little too rough with its claws and teeth. Anyone who's ever been clawed by their pet cat accidentally while it's playing can just picture what damage a lion would do in that situation. Herbivores can be dangerous as well, as people have been hurt by their pet deer and the like. Deer may be timid and only eat plants, but they're still bigger than you and have hard hooves and if male, antlers, and not all Herbivores Are Friendly. Nature is not a toy, so please just get a pet cat or dog instead.
  • Encountering the thousands of animals species in their natural habitats can be a rather breathtaking experience and reward in its own right, but there’s a very good reason why many wildlife agencies, park rangers, and other experts strongly advise visitors to take precautionary measures. At best, the animal will simply ignore you, and at worst (and most likely), will perceive you as either a predator or prey, and attack as a result. So when you’re out hiking, camping, fishing, whale watching, and so on, keep your distance, pay attention to your surroundings, and take any other precautionary actions as advised by local authorities. It’s for the animal’s safety and well-being, as well (and especially of) your own.

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