Health Connections to Nature, the Earth and to Each Other

By Michael Wilcox

We live in a high tech world often forming connections to each other through social media, text messages, e-mails and other electronic means of communication. While speeding up and allowing more communication, it also seems to detach us more from each other and especially from nature. Richard Louv has written extensively about the concept that humans can develop  Nature Deficit Disorders in that we experience an atrophied awareness and diminished ability to find meaning in life that surrounds us. The life that surrounds us in this context would be in nature in which we can experience meaningful kinship with other species. The author E.O. Wilson believes that our attraction to nature is hardwired within us. Wilson postulates that we have innate affiliations to other species and the natural landscape; that we need direct experience with nature. Having diminished contact with nature can affect our health negatively in a holistic sense: spiritually, mentally and physically.

The point is that planet earth provides us with a beautiful “green gym” that provides us with many outlets to experience nature. This month we will, as a country, be celebrating the 100th anniversary of our national park system which provides some of the most beautiful and spectacular interactions one can have with nature. In recent years I have been fortunate to be able to go to many national parks including backpacking in the Grand Canyon. These parks have histories of their own and provide windows into the geology of the planet (Grand Canyon) or into Native American cultures that long ago disappeared (Mesa Verde). The Sierra Club also has a plethora of different kinds of trips one can take to experience nature as well. However, you do not need to travel far to experience nature as one can experience it simply by riding a bicycle or walking on the Duck Creek bicycle trail in Davenport/Bettendorf for example. Our local Sierra Club Chapter, the Eagle View Group, also has a variety of different local outings through the year as well.

This detachment from nature in my opinion also contributes to the lack of concern or indifference we seem to have with our impact the earth’s climate. If we are not out in nature it dims our awareness of the wonders it presents us with. Louv believes we need to strengthen our relationship with nature not only through our concern with the earth’s land and water, but also preserving and growing the bonds between all humans.

Breaking down the barriers to nature and getting immersed in it provides a psychological safe haven from the pressures we experience in life. So we need to balance our time that we are connected to each other through technology with time being outside to experience earth’s “green gyms.”  As Louv has written:

“In Western society, drugs and alcohol are more likely to be used to blunt pain to block the static and noise-the excess, often meaningless information   that comes our way everyday. By contrast, the high achieved through deep  green exercise opens the senses; this high is about transcendence, about natural ecstasy.”

So get outside into the bounty of nature the earth provides us with. Doing so will allow you to relax, reflect, recharge, recommit and renew your spirit!


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