The Great Outdoors! How many times I hear about people and organisations, including my own, spouting about the benefits of the outdoors – it’s not hard to realise that getting outdoors is good for your health, reduces stress, develops confidence and so much more. Yet I can’t fail to notice that it’s all about US. Humans that is, and what we can get from the outdoors and the natural world.
Does ‘getting more people outdoors”, necessarily square with building an appreciation and care for nature?
Over a long period of time, with good teaching and mentors, I have come to realise a fundamental fact. We as humans have blindspots – blindspots that exist because we can only experience what our brains have been trained to see, smell, hear etc. In practice this means that even if we walk past a big old tree every day, should it be cut down, many of us would have a feeling something was missing but not be able to say what was different. Without a repeated experience of nature, we are no longer aware of it.
This happening all the time. Can we benefit from nature whilst it not being just about us? Yes we can but building an authentic care for nature, means valuing nature at least as an equal partner. When we go to the great outdoors (little or great), let’s consider that we are entering many homes. How much do we know about who lives there before we go and enjoy ourselves?
Our culture, ‘the way we do things round here’ does not have nature at its centre – instead our cultures is human-centric, it’s all about us. The systems that support us – political, educational, scientific, family, religious in most places, do not value nature highly.
At what point will we change our mind-set? Can we rely on people who have particular blindspots to make decisions about how we value our relationship to the natural world. If you can’t ‘see’ what would be lost, you can’t value it and be motivated to do things differently. Demanding a high value of nature at all levels of society is necessary not dogmatic. At present our dogma is not valuing nature.
It’s relatively recently, after many direct experiences in nature that I have begun to ‘hear’ and ‘see’ more – and there is so much going on everywhere. Birds and plants have magically appeared! Yet I am told they were always there………..our world is home to many. Simplistically, the way we have constructed our world – both inner and outer – is a top down model – with humans at the top (with its own pecking order) and probably the smallest creature at the bottom. This isn’t about a food chain – I accept that everything needs something else to die in order to live. This is about the top doing what they like to the bottom, and who has the power. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? This is the way we do things round here.
In my view, if we flatten this model so that humans now sit amongst the living world, we begin to rediscover one of the oldest models that have existed through time. An ancient map that is modelled on an expert’s understanding of nature – a complex ecosystem of which each part has a necessary place that creates strength and resilience for the whole system. Its complex but not complicated.
So how can you change your world view? – nature connection.. we need to get behind a renewed set of values – nature rights. Fresh thinking.
If we want our culture to begin to value nature we need to reflect on how our ways of thinking perpetuate our behaviours. A present we have a very strong ‘well-being’ agenda – lots of interest in how to achieve well being, happiness, and nature’s part to play. Again nature as a vehicle for well-being, not as central to our wellbeing. It seems absurd that we continue as if we are separate from nature. We do need to see more people enjoying the great outdoors, and every child having a direct experience through out school of nature, yet how can we do this as if nature has rights.
To connect with nature requires us to slow down, have a quieter mind and to open up to a world beyond ourselves and understanding, and to decolonise our minds. The great outdoors, offers us so much – but with that privilege comes responsibility.