September 30, 2016
“We do not organize education the way we sense the world. If we did, we would have departments of Sky, Landscapes, Water, Wind, Sounds, Time, Seashores, Swamps and Rivers.” - David Orr, Author of Ecological Literacy
Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today's blog.
Merriam-Webster defines nature as: the physical world and everything that is not made by people. It also says, however, that nature can be: the way that a person or animal behaves. This addition, makes us wonder how much of our behavior is made by us, which would, according to Merriam-Webster, imply that our behavior is both natural and artificial. Understanding nature versus artifice sounds straightforward, that is, until you try. In the Syntopicon, Mortimer Adler writes, “The conception of nature which tries to separate the natural from what man contributes seems to depend upon the conception of man. Controversies concerning man's difference from other animals, especially the dispute about human freedom (considered in such chapters as Man and Will), bear directly on the issue of the naturalness of the things which result from man's doing and making.” Man simultaneously acts upon nature both internal and external to himself.
Vitamin N, a new book by Richard Louv, also tries to understand nature through immersion. He claims that all humans have an inherent connection to nature and the more we step away from this aspect of ourselves, the more barren we will feel. Therefore, instead of separating man and animal (as in the Syntopicon), Louv writes,
“Defining 'nature' isn't easy. To some people, nature is everything. To other's, it's the Grand Canyon or the wren outside the window. Science has tended to leave the definition of nature up to the poets. This lack of a clear designation is one of the prime reasons why scientific research on the impact of nature on human development has been so thin until recently and that such a high proportion of current research is funded by commercial interests.
“Here's one working definition of nature: biodiversity. That definition may not include, say, rocks – at least not directly – but it does describe the process: in order to survive, life needs other life, and it needs variety.”
He continues to claim that the more interaction with nature, the higher the satisfaction and sense of well-being one feels. Nature fills a primal need within us, one that we may not yet be aware of or able to understand. Furthermore, nature filters into nearly every view of ourselves as human beings. It is relevant when discussing our biology, psychology, creativity, imagination and religious structures. Louv continues: “Most religious traditions, especially in indigenous cultures, intimate or actively offer ways to discover the divine in the natural world.” Therefore, humans may be better able to understand their own nature while walking in nature. Added to that, physically moving in nature often improves memory and clarity of thought.
While a discussion of nature can quickly overwhelm, Vitamin N gives simple ways of interacting with nature. His book demonstrates that nature, while daunting, impressive and ubiquitous, is also necessary, energizing, thrilling and restorative. It is filled with ideas for all levels to gain access to nature. In it, he writes of a “hybrid mind” in which one can access nature to their own level, using both technology and the outdoors. Therefore, no one is left out or obstructed. Simply step into nature to the extent that it pleases you.
Therefore, coinciding with the National Parks 100th anniversary, I thought it fitting to place a couple of resources mentioned in Louv's book on today's blog. His book proposes many other ideas, 500 to be exact. There are also excellent suggestions for getting children involved with nature. For more from Richard Louv visit his website.
“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” - Crowfoot, Chief of the Siksika First Nation, 1890
Understanding Land Ethics from the master himself, visit the Aldo Leopold Foundation for more information: http://www.aldoleopold.org/home.shtml
Humans need to interact with nature, but wonder how to do so without changing it. Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics studies the same things: https://lnt.org/
Humans are always interested in navigation – internal and external – as a way of locating ourselves. Find out more about celestial navigation and navigation in general from AMC, Appalachian Mountain Club: http://www.outdoors.org/
The National Audubon Society's tips for getting outdoors: http://www.audubon.org/get-outside/activities
If you have no time or place to garden, create a seed bomb (try sticking to plants that are native to the region): http://www.gardenista.com/posts/diy-wildflower-seed-bombs/
Create, volunteer or learn about Homegrown National Parks: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/wildlife-habitat/projects/the-homegrown-national-park/
Learn about nature firsthand – from your own surroundings. Be aware of the first buds, birds or insects in your area each year. Check out National Phenology Network to understand more: https://www.usanpn.org/
Help for teachers and parents of K-12 from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology: http://www.birdsleuth.org/
Learn all about hiking from the American Hiking Society. There are also volunteer opportunities: https://americanhiking.org/
Become an environmental education advocate through the North American Association for Environmental Education: https://naaee.org/
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