For a very long time when I thought of nature, I would picture myself in the rolling hills of a national park I could visit – after which I could return to the comfort of my man-made home. My daily doses of nature, which included my back garden, grass verges and trees, didn’t have the postcard beauty of sublime nature so didn’t seem to deserve my respect and awe in the same way. In a sense, my encounters with nature were primarily an aesthetic accessory for my own enjoyment, they had no further purpose beyond their service to me. This focus on ecosystems as purely a service was again mirrored by my continuous contribution to gobbling up all the resources the natural world had to offer, with no remorse or consideration to who and what that was affecting.
Over the past few years, my understanding of the relationship between humans and the rest of nature has shifted dramatically. Before, I recognised nature as a landscape, acting only as a backdrop to my experience. Perceiving nature in this sense limits us in boundless ways. It holds romantic notions which have been documented through landscape paintings and other forms of art, but it has also contributed to our ability to distance ourselves. Rather than being tangled inside the web of nature, where we are components of something much greater, we become different from the rest of the world. Once humans are separate from the rest of nature, more important than the rest of nature, nothing but a curse on the rest of nature; I believe we are doing a great service of injustice to the interconnectivity and growth of nature (that is nature including us).
The stories that create our identity of how we fit in with the rest of our shared planet are important. It goes far beyond my short anecdotes of what I used to believe my encounters of nature were. We have inherited beliefs that our resource culture is more important than environmental integrity. That nature’s purpose, and the need for nature’s protection, should only extend to human material benefit. It’s about time we begin to question humanity’s place in the world.
To address this, one practice we can develop is our notion of place. Place identifies locations where humans and environments create and work on each other; recognising this as an active, social experience. This encourages us to find connections to our land and those we share it with. Rediscovering communities has the potential to heal our sacredness of both environments and relationships. It encourages a love ethic of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust. Attitudes that nurture and inspire us to protect our environments (and when it all gets too much, has the power to nurture and support our own personal mental wellbeing).
Whilst this is not the answer to everything, and multiple approaches must take place to tackle the problem from all angles and levels, creating this base can improve our resilience, understanding and compassion for the times ahead. I encourage everyone to try and rediscover your local space as not just a landscape, but a place.
Here is a short list of some spaces where you could start your discovery:
- Local community centres, gardens and parks – look at events and meetings they’re holding
- Volunteering opportunities – whether it’s local litter picking or with an environmental organisation
- Online communities – to meet, organise and share experiences
- Workshops, festivals and fairs / markets – learn new skills and information
- Marches and strikes – if accessible to you and they align with your beliefs
- Reach out to people you already know – go outside and open up a discussion
- Once connected – start your own initiatives!
Holly Owens, @_holly_owens
Feature image: Corra Linn autumn 2016 2 (c) Jennifer Porteous
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For a very long time when I thought of nature, I would picture myself in the rolling hills of a national park I could visit – after which I could …