Nature in Modern Living

For over 99% of human existence, all aspects of life were rooted in the natural world. Gathering food, play, education, social interactions – all occurred in, and were influenced by, the natural world. Modern society has certainly made impressive technological advances since these hunter-gatherer times but what are we missing when disconnected with nature? Research is increasingly showing the psychological benefits of spending time in nature and the harm done by generations of children growing up with little time in the natural world (see, e.g., The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv). We also find ourselves in a sustainability crises that can be traced to humans’ current disconnect with nature.

Why do we spend so little time in nature?

Part of it may be the many competing demands for our time and attention. But another reason is that we, as a society, have forgotten how to be in nature. We go outside and find ourselves itching to check Facebook on our phones. This is partly out of habit and partly because we are blind to the wonders and excitement of being in the wild outdoors, lacking the knowledge and experience to appreciate them. Go into a forest – what would you do there? Would you know what plants, insects, and animals pose a threat? Would you know what plants you could gather for food? Would you know how to build a shelter? Would you know what different patterns of bird activity mean about the activity of other animals in the forest around you?

These may seem like questions that are irrelevant to you, your profession, or today’s society in general. But without this connection with nature, the natural world is an abstract entity that we have little intrinsic interest in protecting. One question that motivates me is how best to teach people the knowledge and skills they need to feel safety, comfort, and enjoyment in the natural world, so that they can develop ecological mindsets that promote sustainable behavior.

Why does nature connection matter?

The media has been giving mindfulness meditation a lot of attention recently – initial evidence suggests that it improves cognitive functioning, decreases stress, increases psychological well-being, and increases workplace performance among other benefits. Research is beginning to suggest that time in nature has similar effects. Thus, one reason that nature connection matters is because it will improve individuals’ quality of life. But this isn’t the only reason.

As we collectively face a global sustainability crisis, we need to set the stage for the emergence of ecologically-minded, entrepreneurial, and sustainable leaders. Research suggests that the best way to do this is through a deep connection with nature. Thus, I am developing programs that instill this ecological mindset in both adults and children. I am also exploring the extent to which such ecological mindsets benefit leaders in complex organizational environments that lack explicit connections to nature or sustainability.

Nature Initiative in
Rockbridge County

If you see the value of nature connection for yourself and your family, join us in a new nature initiative.

Our goal is to bring adults and children into a closer relationship with each other through a closer relationship with nature. We will hold events in local outdoor areas in Rockbridge County to give people the knowledge and skills needed to bring an ecological mindset into daily activities, even when not in the wilderness.

We will offer programs such as:
– Nature-based mindfulness workshops
– Forest school for children and families
More about this →

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Interested in learning more about any of these projects or getting involved? I'd love to hear from you.