Thus, for at least 95% of humanities existence we had been integral, necessary parts of nature. With the emergence of western-styled culture we gradually began to become more and more dependent upon our culture and less and less on nature.
With the advent of the Industrial Revolution only 250 years ago (less than 2% of our time on earth) we ramped up that attachment to culture at the expense of our understanding of nature.
Today, the western cultural tradition has almost lost contact with nature and has become almost entirely dependent upon culture. Even that part of nature that nourished us (food) has been acculturated by the process of genetic modification, the addition of pesticides and herbicides, and on to the ways in which we obtain our food. Most of us no longer have anything to do with the planting, sowing and reaping cycle; we obtain our food from supermarkets. What is of even greater example of our detachment from nature is our water supply; we drink from plastic bottles, not from natural springs.
This massive swing away from nature has affected us in more than physiological ways. Our psychological, emotional and spiritual states have also suffered. So much so that one commentator, Richard Louv, has coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder, which he describes as describe “the psychological, physical and cognitive costs of human alienation from nature, particularly for children in their vulnerable developing years.”1
Yet, we have a chance to recover from this disorder. Fortunately, we humans survived for over 98% of our existence understanding and being part of nature. There are many examples of people and communities attempting to re-discover our natural place in the earth system.
When we begin to re-discover nature we also re-discover our soul(s) which is not really surprising, if we realise that soul is our nature.
We are fortunate to have a number of examples and guides emerging to help us recover and re(dis)cover our natural selves and our place in nature. In the western tradition we have the works of Richard Louv (already mentioned) and also many others, such as: Joanna Macy, Bill Plotkin, Thomas Berry, David Korten and Chellis Glendinning. In the country in which I now live (Australia) we have the example and writings of John Seed. There are many many others.
Then, of course, we have the example and teachings of indigenous peoples from all over the world. In learning from indigenous peoples we, from a western heritage, must be careful not to steal or take as our own the practices, rites, or mysteries that do no belong to us.
We do not need to. All we need do is enter the forest and…
…Stand still. The forest knowsNotes:
Where you are. You must let it find you.”2
1. Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods, Workman Publishing, New York, 2005.
2. Final two lines from the poem “Lost” by David Wagoner, quoted in Bill Plotkin, Nature and the Human Soul, New World Library, Novato, California, 2008, p 29