“In radical situations, we learn a lot about ourselves and how we behave when pushed to the limits. But also, being so close to Nature in this way gives us a special insight, like a window through which we can see ourselves, embedded in Nature itself. We don’t feel that we are the dominant species on this planet; we are just another part of the workings, just like the other animals, the plants, the soil, the rocks, the air, the sea, the waves and everything else.” –
Dr. Tony Butt in his article “Dancing with Nature” reflects on the the benefits of connecting with nature through recreation and how this helps provide a humbling perspective of our own relative insignificance and insights on the bigger picture.
But what happens when people cant and don’t connect with nature? and how can encouraging people to re-establish this connection inspire a regression toward living a more socially and environmentally sustainable future?
Photo above: My younger brother and I land locked in Canada. Not getting overly radical… but up close and certainly humbled by the undiscriminating forces at play as water sculpts away at the Rocky Mountains some where along the Ice fields parkway between Banff and Jasper National Parks…
In these present times across the supposedly more developed countries of the world our society and the lives we lead have become so further and further “enriched” through technological advancements at such a rate its hard to keep up, let alone pause for a moment, catch a breath…. and remember how we ever managed to get by without all of these comforts and conveniences.
Within the space of my own fleeting moments of existence computers have seemingly gone from being room-sized calculators to a pint-sized necessity incorporated into everything from telephones to automobiles. They have also gone from being a tool of the trade for scientific research, accounting and business in general to a seemingly must have necessity for leisure and social interactions alike.
As this whirl wind of technological innovation advancement and adoption has unfolded it has inevitably influenced every aspect of the ways in which we now live our lives. But is this for better or worse? And what does our collective future hold when what we now consider to be a cutting edge, high tech essential will in the blink of an eye become yet another digital dinosaur destined for landfill.
In his book “Last child in the woods” Richard Louve explores some of the flow on effects of our societies obsession with technology and in particular the impacts it is evidently already having from developmental perspective on the “wired generation”. Louve highlights the disconnect technology has created with nature and explores the flow on effects attributable to this phenomenon including rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. In his subsequent work “The nature principle” Louve continues to evolve these ideas systemic from what he refers to as “nature deficit disorder”. He goes on to offer an optimistic vision of the future stating “that through “tapping into the restorative powers of nature, we can boost mental activity and creativity; promote health and wellness; build smarter and more sustainable businesses, communities, and economies; and ultimately strengthen human bonds.
How tho do we attempt to evolve the lives we lead to be more connected with nature when on a global scale such a massive proportion of our populations live like sardines in the highly centralized model of the modern concrete jungle??? As family sizes have dwindled and populations boomed urban planning and housing has evolved to accommodate the ongoing consolidation of city suburbs. As houses are replaced by blocks of units so too blocks of unit are quickly replaced by towering sky scrapers. With this inevitably comes the traffic, chaos and an utter sensory overload that ultimately stands to disconnect people and erode at a sense of community. And so people seek to escape from this reality… into isolation and into technology… via headphones and telephone screens to avoid making eye contact with the same bus/train load of people they share the commute with every day, but don’t know their names.
Its no coincidence that in two of the most urbanized cities in the world… Hong Kong and New york, there remain reserves of natural space. As Louve points out connection with natural space is vital to both the physical and mental health of humans. Some modern city planning schemes attempt to align with this reality but how do we even begin to regress forward when our existing cities infrastructure reflect such an anthropogenic denial of our most basic human needs?
The existing built spaces we inhabit have incorporated such an intrinsic denial of things like the very climate out side that they often rely on extremely energy intensive heating or cooling…
To paint a differently the same/contrastingly comparative picture… Take the cold of Canada and the Heat of Abu Dhabi for example.
In these two drastically different locations the development that has occurred in the past 50 years is largely dependent on the provision of energy intensive heating or cooling. This creates create “oasis” like buildings and living spaces that whilst currently cost effective to operate due to prevalent access to cheap fossil fuels in the greater scheme remain a burden to our planet.
How do we begin to embracing evolving back to a bright green socially sustainable future?
In an interview published in the ever amazing magazine Dumbo Feather Jason Roberts shares insights that highlight the interrelated reality that our current ways of living are not only damaging the environment but also the social capital of our communities.
“There’s a book called Bowling Alone, by Robert D. Putman, which talks about two major reasons: air conditioning came out, and television. People used to sit outside on the porch when it was hot and talk to each other. Facebook, those things, are surface. You’re missing that meaningful social interaction that occurs, really, at the block level.”
Check out the rest of the interview on Jasons Robers “Better Block” project!
Sometimes the most inspiring stories come from perhaps the least expected places. The ted talk below is one such example…
“Ron Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central LA — in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs. Why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”
And soo… with all of that said….and my ramblings ranted…
I mostly just wanted to highlight that regularly embracing recreational pursuits that keep people outside, active, healthy and connected with nature and each other only stands to form a solid corner stone to living more conscious, healthy and examined lives.
At the end of the day…It all starts with us as individuals, within communities and how we each choose to spend out days.
Talk to people on trains.
Get to know your neighbors…