About Human Nature

Disconnecting from nature is one of the biggest challenges humans are facing today. aware_ gives a guide on the importance of reconnecting with human nature.

There is a meme floating through social media which reveals an ugly truth: The scrabbles of the logos of six mega brands – for example the big M – are juxtaposed to six leaves of different trees. Then you are asked to name as many as possible from both sides. And sadly, but not surprisingly for most of us, it will be the same: Facebook, Lacoste, Nike – easy. But then? Oak? Maple? No idea. And therein lies the problem: We replaced soothing mother nature, that calms us, teaches us and is a part of us with huge aggressors for our mental and physical wellbeing. So, the question is, how can humans reconnect to nature? And why is this so important? 

„One of the biggest challenges for humans is that we have lost the “nature” in our human nature,“ wrote activist Julia Butterfly Hill 2021 in the essay titled “The Disease of disconnect” for Atmos magazine (Atmos). The activist had spent 738 days on the redwood tree Luna in 1997 in protest of deforestation to prevent logging by the Pacific Lumber company. “Up here, I learned not only that I can survive on a tree, but that I can thrive here,” she said at the time (Deutschland Funk). In nature, we humans thrive, too. 

Scientists suggest we may seek out nature not only for our physical survival, but because it is good for our social and personal well-being. And that experiencing nature even in brief doses leads to more kind and altruistic behavior (Greater Good Magazine). But in order for humans to be well, nature also needs to be well. Nowadays everyone is at risk from the loss of habitats and a warming planet. The climate crisis, wildlife emergency and Covid-19 pandemic show that the existing relationship between people and the rest of nature is broken (Finding Nature).

human nature

„As I climbed, a realization came to me that the wounds we see on the Earth and with our human family exist within us first – then we act it out on the Earth and each other. I realized in that moment that every single issue we are facing are the symptoms of one disease: the Disease of Disconnect,” Hill writes in her essay, getting to the heart of the problem: We have distanced ourselves from nature, no longer seeing ourselves as part of it, but juxtaposed with it. 

This is a big problem – also explained by the philosopher Andres Weber in an interview (SRF). He stopped talking about “nature”, because it is problematic to see “that out there” as an opposition to oneself. “But there is no such opposition, we simply cannot draw a line. We ourselves are a part of nature.” 

In the 1990s, American sociobiologist Edward Osborne Wilson developed the theory of biophilia, which holds that over the course of evolution, humans developed an affinity for the many forms of life and the habitats and ecosystems that make life possible (Deutschland Funk Kultur). By being attracted to nature, we sustain it. However, at one point, we have begun to alter the original nature, molding it into a concrete jungle. As a result, we have lost important places for positive memories to heal.

All guides in the same direction – we need to reconnect with nature, make it a part of ourselves again instead of an enemy that we are working against. So, here is a simple guide how to start the reconnection to be able to live in the human-nature symbiosis again that will let us bloom:

  • Nature connectedness comes through simple, yet meaningful engagement with your surroundings. Try to experience it through all senses, listen to the birds, smell the flowers along the road. Enjoy the calmness, find back to nature as the habitat it provides to you in a conscious way.

  • At the same time care about it as if it was your friend. Support conservation charities, protest deforestation, donate to organizations who fight against bee extinction.

  • Use nature as your gym – run outside, join outdoor yoga classes or hiking groups. Meet your friends outside and enjoy your free time in nature. Instead of a favorite café, find a favorite spot to read in the sun in your local park, at the river, a lake – whatever you prefer.

  • Invite nature into your home – plant a little jungle in your kitchen, full of herbs. Fill your living room with a little more serenity of potted plants, and if you have a balcony – plants will almost turn it into a small garden. Make space for nature – let birds come to your birdfeeder and plant flowers for bees.

  • Walk barefoot, collect mushrooms or berries, watch the sun rise or set.

  • Adapt to the seasons – they are there for a reason. Buy strawberries when it is their time to grow in the region you live in and harvest in autumn.

  • Do not be afraid of nature – we learned to fear it, even though it is the most natural space we can possibly be in.

As Hill says it in her essay: “We don’t only have to restore the planet, we have to restore our relationship with the planet,” – this would be a start.

– by Leonie Wessel

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