Ian Spellerberg : we depend on nature far more than you might think!

The survival of humans depends on nature; the living environment, the plants, the animals, biological diversity and the ecological systems. Nature provides us with food, fibre, water and oxygen. We depend on ecological systems for clean water, good soil and for clean air. For example, a tree removes dust, toxic chemicals and carbon dioxide from the air and replenishes the air with oxygen. Have you ever thought how many trees are required to keep one person supplied with enough oxygen to stay alive?

We all depend on nature far more than you might think. Indeed I believe that empathy exists between humans and nature. This will come as no surprise to some people from certain cultures and some religions. Many scientists believe that we depend on nature not just for food and fibre. One of my favourite scientists is a man called Edward Wilson. He has talked about ‘biophilia’ for a long time. That is the love of nature or biodiversity. If you have any interest in what bonds us to nature then do read at least one of his books, I recommend ‘Biophilia’, Edward O. Wilson, 1984.

The love of nature and empathy with nature is within us all.  Without contact with nature we suffer. That is not a new idea and it has been illustrated by some very moving research published in ‘Last child in the woods: saving our children from nature-deficit disorder’, Richard Louv, 2005. Richard Louv (co-founder of the Children and Nature Network) found that children who spend more time outdoors are better adjusted to do school work and live happier lives. Perhaps this is not all that surprising given that so many children and adults benefit from the many pleasures offered by nature including health and psychological benefits.

What’s keeping us away from nature?  Being dependent on many hours of television, video games and smart phones keeps us away from nature and in doing so comes with many risks. For example, recent research in the U.K. points to unadjusted children who spend many hours inside with video games (Ian Burrell, The Independent, Wednesday 28 August 2013). It seems sad that we allow some children to grow up not knowing where milk comes from, or live a life never having experienced the simple joy of picking an apple from a tree or a strawberry from their own container garden. It’s hard to imagine that some people have not explored the great outdoors and or have not been moved by the beauty and scale of the landscape before them. The sound of nature is good for us all.  Whenever I see a student outside walking while totally focused on their smart phone, I long to cry out “for the love of nature listen to the bird song, the wind in the trees and the buzzing of the bees”.

What to do?  Here are just three suggestions. Change children’s birthdays to ‘earthdays’. Take your child to plant a tree on their ‘earthday’.  Gardening should be compulsory at all levels in all schools. Reading, writing and arithmetic and I.T. means very little if you don’t understand nature. For the love of nature, find time every day to commune with nature. Close your eyes and hug a tree. Walk barefoot on newly cut grass or amongst rock-pools.  Listen to the birds and tend to your own garden. Explore the wonders of nature but don’t conquer nature. From back gardens to national parks, nature can offer more than you could ever imagine. Your well-being depends on it.



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