Nurturing Hope through Nature
In wilderness lies the hope of the world– John Muir
I am currently researching into the role of hope in the human condition and amidst the current world context. As I read, listen to and dialogue with others, one common theme arising is the importance of nature for nurturing the human spirit.
Neurologist and Author, Dr. Oliver Sacks believed in the importance of nature to both our physical and mental health. “I cannot say exactly how nature exerts its calming and organizing effects on our brains, but I have seen in my patients the restorative and healing powers of nature and gardens, even for those who are deeply disabled neurologically. In many cases, gardens and nature are more powerful than any medication.”
One study found that taking a walk in nature alleviated depression in 71% of cases, while walking in a mall decreased depression in 45% of cases, and increased it in 22%. In another study, memory and attention increased after people spent an hour in nature. The data appears to support what we have long known in our bones – our connection with the natural world is vital for healthy human flourishing.
The Earth is slowly garnering more of our appreciative attention than it has had in some time, fortunately. We have: Earth Hour, Earth Day, protests by school children inspired by Greta Thunberg, the Extinction Rebellion holding peaceful marches in London and a new BBC documentary by David Attenborough entitled, Climate Change: The Facts. We now know, beyond any doubt that biodiversity loss impacts us all.
Speaking at the 2018 Global Climate Action Conference, San Francisco, CA, last September, Harrison Ford exclaimed, “Nature doesn’t need people. People need Nature.”
Rachel Carson; scientist, ecologist and author of The Silent Spring, was quoted as saying, “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
Artist Janet Laurence is currently showing her exhibition, After Nature, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia with the aim of creating intimacy between nature and the exhibition’s audience so that they might be stimulated to care for our planet and recognise the deep-rooted interconnectivity of it all.
“We have to get back in touch with nature in order to care for it. We’ll all be lost if we don’t
do that, there’s an amazing groundswell of activity happening, of caring for the planet happening, but how can we deal with this enormous global capitalist force that’s still so powerful? And it’s almost incomprehensible how it’s still so powerful. So I do believe it’s going to take probably something almost disastrous to break that…Because I’m involved in what I think of as an activist practice and because by acting we get hope, I don’t feel overwhelmed by those forces myself, but I know they’re there.”
Since December last year, motivated by a desire to ensure that I experience daily mini-mindfulness-moments (the 3 M’s) with Nature, I started taking a picture a day of wherever I happened to be. This ritual gives me a few moments free from the rush of daily business, and makes sure that every day I appreciate and reconnect with the beauty and majesty of nature, as well as delighting in the extraordinary ordinariness of our planet.
Small tactics like this can be helpful to increase our interactions with Nature in our lives, to give us time and space to breathe, and to notice the world around us; from the birds as they flit from tree to tree to the hustle and bustle of the ants and the buzzing of the bees going from flower to flower.
What practices do you have to keep your connection to our living planet strong and spirited?
The world is vast and beautiful; it is time to heal it as much as we still can, time for hope to bring about action, and action to bring about change.