Nature connection is as natural as breathing

You’ve likely figured out by now that The Unplugged Club has an ulterior motive, beyond turning you into a clandestine tree hugger. 

It’s even beyond encouraging you to put down the flat world of screens to discover a new awareness, curiosity and sense of wonder about Nature outside your door. 

Here’s the secret motive: The more people are familiar with and know about Nature, the more they will care about it and take action on Nature’s behalf. 

From coffee farmers to spiritual connection

Researcher Jessica Eise has taken the idea that familiarity generates concern to its logical conclusion and connected the urge to climate action with a spiritual connection to the natural world. 

Eise is an author and assistant professor of social and environmental challenges at The University of Texas at San Antonio. In this fascinating and insightful article she describes how she was motivated to explore this connection after talking with Colombian coffee farmers during her dissertation research. 

She couldn’t help but notice the quiet but reverent way they talked about their land and soil. 

She became intensely curious and began her research when she returned. The first “hobby” study of 28 people revealed the themes:

These individuals believed in a profound connection to one another and the natural environment, and they felt uncomfortable trying to express themselves publicly, or to others, for fear of misunderstandings, inability to find the right words, or a gnawing sense that no one would take them seriously. As a result, many reported staying quiet about a belief that is growing unobtrusively, if often silently, within the hearts of millions of Americans.

As a result of this research and the questions it raised, Eise started a second larger study.

The research is ongoing, but of the 370 participants to date, 59 percent report that the statement “People are a part of/one with nature” most closely matches their beliefs. This far exceeds the 38 percent who selected “People are stewards of nature,” and the mere 3 percent who believe that “People and nature are separate.” Ninety-eight percent of subjects report feeling a moral or ethical obligation to care for Earth.

To repeat: 59 percent say “People are a part of/one with nature” most closely matches their beliefs.

Yet, we’ve become an indoor species spending 90% of our time indoors and 7 hours per day on screens – not outdoors with Nature. 

Little wonder we feel disconnected from life

What I found eye-opening is that Eise credits the glorified scientific process with creating the disconnection between humans and nature, unintended collateral damage of the accepted science-spiritual dichotomy. 

She acknowledges that ancient acceptance of the innate interconnectedness of life and Earth across cultures, communities and religions is not new. 

What is relatively new is the unceasing desire to stomp this connection out in the name of rigorous standards of “science” and “modernity.” A practice that has—through rationalization, rhetoric, culture, violence, oppression, earnestness, and cruelty—been highly effective in erasing, silencing, and belittling nature-centric beliefs and knowledge systems in many parts of the world.

To be clear – and I agree with her – she isn’t rejecting the need for rigorous scientific research and questioning. But she is questioning why we can’t have both:

I do not want to live in a world that does not contain rigorous, statistically literate scientists. But neither do I want to live in a world that rejects wonder, possibility, compassion, connection, and the varied and often mystical ways of knowing.

Science doesn’t speak well enough – or loud enough – for Nature

Her point is that if we’re going to take meaningful action on the climate, we need a new approach to the science and politics of climate change because what we’ve been doing ain’t working. 

There is, in fact, nothing new at all about seeing the interconnectedness of life and Earth. It is, perhaps, as natural as breathing. And maybe, all this time, we have in fact just been suffocating ourselves with an imposed and limited worldview of what science and society should be.

Unplugging then is the first step to reconnecting with Nature, on the way to climate action.

So, publicly and proudly hug a tree today.

And see where that takes you.

3 Resources for You

How the Environmental Movement Can Find It’s Way Again – Surprising argument by essayist and author Charles Eisenstein that carbon is not the one material and metric to focus on, but water, which ties directly into ecosystem health. Water plus nature-centered spirituality? Wait – what have the indigenous people been saying all along? 

7 US National Parks with the Most Incredible TreesYes, and they are threatened by climate change so get out to see them. 

How to Restore a Million Acres of Strip-Mined Land? Bring in the Elk – Fascinating conservation project. A follow-up story four years later said the herd was growing slowly.

Bonus: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation Elk Cam

Note: Turns out the Awe app I listed last week is currently not available for iPhone and iPad. Thanks to Leanne for that catch. 

2 Questions for You

Reflections, questions and ideas to break the digital spell.

1st Q: How closely does this statement “People are a part of/one with nature” match your beliefs?

2nd Q: Do you feel uncomfortable talking about your belief in a profound connection to the natural world, can’t find the right words or worry no one would take you seriously? (Raises hand.) You’re not alone in this one.

Hit reply and let me know what you discovered this week. I’ll use some of your feedback in next week’s newsletter (first name only.)

Reflection Feedback

From Cheryl: “We can never have enough of nature.” – Thoreau

I absolutely agree. One can never have enough of nature.

Fortunately, I live in Cape Town, South Africa, with beautiful views along the coastline, majestic mountains and secret gems. Our birdwatching club can access certain areas not always available to the public.

I love spending holidays in the Kruger National Park as well but it’s a bit far to travel.

1 Action for You

One small step to start the change.

What’s one small action you could take this week to unplug from screens or reconnect with Nature? 

Hit reply, let me know how it goes and I’ll include feedback in next week’s newsletter.

Nature View

“Nature is the source of all true knowledge.” – Leonardo Da Vinci