“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.” –Robert Louis Stevenson

 

For most of our history on this earth as human beings we have been closely tied to the natural environment, relying on it to provide food, shelter, and materials for daily life. Because of this, we learned that the environment had to be taken care of if we were to survive for long in any one place. Many cultures showed a respect for the nature around them that we no longer seem to today.

The more disconnected we have become from what is around us, through industrialisation, technology, and shop-bought food, the more we have disregarded the planet, creating ever-increasing pollution, waste and exploitation of finite resources both in our own countries and in others. Not only is this destroying the environment and causing the extinction of thousands of species, it is also threatening our  own lives through creating unhealthy living conditions and food, depleting soils, poisoning seas and rivers, the air and the earth, and causing a change in climate that will affect millions.

We are no longer at the famous minute to midnight, but maybe just 30 seconds away from total planetary catastrophe. And even though much is talked about by world powers, still not much has yet been done.

I have always had a theory that, the more disconnected we become from Mother Earth, the more we do not care about what is happening in the natural world. The more people become the proverbial ostriches, stuffing their heads in the ground – or in this case, mobile phones and other screens, the less they see the truth.

I really feel that the human race as a whole needs to reconnect with nature again. It needs to reclaim its heritage among the trees and in the water. How many people are able to name the trees around them, or the plants? The Oxford Junior Dictionary decided, in 2007, to replace words such as ‘acorn’ and ‘magpie’ with ones such as ‘broadband’ and ‘celebrity’, reflecting the change in both the nature of childhood and our culture. Despite protests by such esteemed writers as Margaret Atwood, Robert McFarlane, and Michael Morpugo, as well as a petition to get the words reinstated, the changes have remained [1].

There is a bit of a fight-back going on in places to re-wild our children again. McFarland has teamed up with artist Jackie Morris to produce a ‘spell book’ of these lost words with the aim of getting it into every school in the UK. And let’s not forget the growing success of forest schools, as well as the number of ‘normal’ schools who now have gardening and even livestock lessons for their pupils.

But there are also other great reasons why we should be spending time outdoors rather than glued to the latest box set. It has been shown in various studies that being out and about in nature is very good for us. In particular it is good for our mental health, making us feel calmer and happier. In addition, it has a positive effect on depression, anxiety and ADHD. Physically, it has been shown to improve high blood pressure, respiratory and cardiovascular conditions [2]. So by reconnecting with our oldest friend, Mother Earth, we can not only help to stop her destruction, but also to heal ourselves. It’s so easy to do and, what’s more, a walk in the woods does not cost any money!

First steps:

  • Watch the video below.
  • Just go for a walk in a nearby park, wood, hill, or by the sea.
  • Make a note of the plants, trees, birds and animals that you see. Take photos if possible and then try to identify them by looking them up either in a book or online.
  • If you have a garden, make an area where you can grow something you like to look at or eat. Study the structure of the soil and the creatures that live in it.
  • Take up natural photography as this will get you out and about.
  • Join a online nature forum or a local wildlife group. They often do educational walks or have volunteering days.

 

 

 

[1]  https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/13/oxford-junior-dictionary-replacement-natural-words

[2]  http://www.bbc.co.uk/earth/story/20160420-how-nature-is-good-for-our-health-and-happiness