Media Democracy

Exodus

When humans traded log cabins for laptops and huts for strata housing, they may have lost more than they gained.
Death of Nature

Our entire evolutionary span is a result of our ability to work with and within natural systems and patterns. Until recently, humans have necessarily fostered an intimate relationship with other forms of life. So what happens to us as human beings when we remove an essential part of our relationship with existence? What happens to our ability to cope when we break away from nature?

Psychically, the human/nature relationship started to crack when Judeo-Christian stories overtook pagan creation myths. Instead of being created from nature, humans came to believe they alone were created in the image of God. This gave them the freedom to exploit nature without recognizing its value beyond human use. Nothing on Earth but humanity was sacred.

But, back then, humans still lived within nature, still tended the soil. The physical break is happening now as populations become more urbanized and rural communities continue to become obsolete. Now nature is something that is out there, something to go and see – a family vacation destination. Can our brains really handle this?

Another trend is happening, simultaneously: The worldwide rise of anxiety, despair, self-harm and general malaise. Children as young as three are diagnosed with depression. Could this have something to do with the loss of nature in our lives?

Ecopsychology is an expanding area of therapy where nature and a healthy mind are inseparable. Three years ago, Vivienne Grace was living in Vancouver when she found herself overwhelmed by the tragedies she saw happening in the world, and it was taking a toll on her mental health. But she found a new perspective on life when she started to reconnect to the seasons, to lunar cycles, to food systems.

She no longer shoulders the weight of the world's problems. "The world will be fine on its own," she said, "it's our own lives that we need to get back into balance." For Grace, balance means nurturing a spirituality that comes from honing a relationship with nature. For her, you can't have one without the other. "Nature is spirituality," she said.

Spirituality cannot be gleaned from countless hours in front of the TV and computer. A life spent indoors cannot create a completely healthy person. The World Health Organization predicts that mental illness will be the leading cause of death and disability by 2020, second only to heart disease. The world and all of its occupants need to heal.

The breakdown of our mental health is partly because of selective ingratitude. We are happy to gain material things while we ignore the fact that they are made from natural resources. And it's ignorant to continue blindly devouring the planet's systems without expecting consequences.

The world is not here because of us, we are here because of it. Life won't end if humanity does. But we have the capacity to thrive for a long time if we can respect the role nature plays in keeping our minds and bodies wholesome.

Photo: Jon Stich, The Lovely Idea.

44 comments on the article “Exodus”

Displaying 11 - 20 of 44

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Pamela

This essay raises some solid points about the consequences of our disconnection from nature, but I think the blame on Judeo-Christian stories is ill placed. A careful reading of the Genesis creation story will reveal that Adam and Eve were instructed to have "dominion" over their environment and to "subdue" it, which is not to be confused with having their way with nature in a destructive way. Let us bear in mind as well that in the Genesis account, God surveys his work and "saw that it was good." Why would he allow his human creations to destroy the edenic landscape after pronouncing it as "good"? I believe that the underlying commandment in the Judeo-Christian "myth" is that we be worthy stewards of God's creation. But it is through our disobedience and willfulness that the problems set in. To present the Judeo-Christian perspective as a negative cause for our malaise, is to, at the very least, misrepresent its intent.

Pamela

This essay raises some solid points about the consequences of our disconnection from nature, but I think the blame on Judeo-Christian stories is ill placed. A careful reading of the Genesis creation story will reveal that Adam and Eve were instructed to have "dominion" over their environment and to "subdue" it, which is not to be confused with having their way with nature in a destructive way. Let us bear in mind as well that in the Genesis account, God surveys his work and "saw that it was good." Why would he allow his human creations to destroy the edenic landscape after pronouncing it as "good"? I believe that the underlying commandment in the Judeo-Christian "myth" is that we be worthy stewards of God's creation. But it is through our disobedience and willfulness that the problems set in. To present the Judeo-Christian perspective as a negative cause for our malaise, is to, at the very least, misrepresent its intent.

Anonymous

I think the most important thing humanity needs to realize is that it is not people who run the Earth, it is the Earth that runs us, and if we push our luck, we will be put back in place in a rather unpleasant manner. It is already happening.

Anonymous

I think the most important thing humanity needs to realize is that it is not people who run the Earth, it is the Earth that runs us, and if we push our luck, we will be put back in place in a rather unpleasant manner. It is already happening.

Javier

I mean, I'm not too sure that I can get behind a psychological approach that calls for getting back into touch with nature as a means, as with Vivienne, of simply withdrawing from social concern (and, it should be noted, of nullifying a spirit of antagonism against the forces that are unquestionably destroying both nature, whatever therapeutic properties it may hold, and the natural resource-base on which humanity is dependent for its very continued existence).

I imagine that Herbert Marcuse, for one, would be very disappointed with this 'progression' of 'critical-green' thought.

Javier

I mean, I'm not too sure that I can get behind a psychological approach that calls for getting back into touch with nature as a means, as with Vivienne, of simply withdrawing from social concern (and, it should be noted, of nullifying a spirit of antagonism against the forces that are unquestionably destroying both nature, whatever therapeutic properties it may hold, and the natural resource-base on which humanity is dependent for its very continued existence).

I imagine that Herbert Marcuse, for one, would be very disappointed with this 'progression' of 'critical-green' thought.

JACOB AGEE

I feel that towards the end of that article the writter got off track he/she should have kept with the whole t.v. computers,playstations and whatever else that big corrporations shove down our brains to make us numb out to the social defromations that are happining will in the end destroy what little society that we have left as a city or a rurel farm communtiy we need to come together and try taking back our thoughts

JACOB AGEE

I feel that towards the end of that article the writter got off track he/she should have kept with the whole t.v. computers,playstations and whatever else that big corrporations shove down our brains to make us numb out to the social defromations that are happining will in the end destroy what little society that we have left as a city or a rurel farm communtiy we need to come together and try taking back our thoughts

juniper

i must agree that people are losing touch with nature. i am in law school in pittsburgh but grew up in vermont, and a huge part of my teens was spent roaming through the green mountains, getting out on the lake, going into the woods, parks, rivers ... i feel fortunate to have grown up in a state where a connection with the natural world was, well, natural. i am shocked at how many people i attend school with, most of whom are 5 or so years younger than i, won't walk two blocks to the store, let alone go for a hike or a swim in a beautiful stream or brook. people tell me they are bored, or uninspired, or lack creativity; i truly believe this is symptomatic of a life indoors and a disconnect between the natural and the human ... which does not really exist it is a false dichotomy, but i think a real one that contributes to so many of society's problems. the depression the author cites is one symptom, but obesity, boredom, lack of inspiration, human impact on the environment, are others - as people become more removed from the world in which we live, it becomes easier to ingest foods that are far from natural, take in far too much television and live in a state of hyperreality, or exalted hyperreality, vicariously through images, rather than actually getting out and being in the world. knowing space is a damn hard bargain, but earth is our dancing place and it is due time people returned to a mentality where natural and human are not divisive, or dichotomous, but complementary and similar ... if it takes ecopsychology to encourage awareness, so be it - but i think that is nothing other than advocating for a state of mind - and that state of mind is necessary if we as humans will persist. natural parks have walls around them, wilderness is something "out there" - but maybe we all should remember that those boundaries are false - nature, wildness is all around us, even in our concrete jungles. we need only look, experience the beauty and simplicity everywhere ... not walk hypnotically by (or not walk at all).

juniper

i must agree that people are losing touch with nature. i am in law school in pittsburgh but grew up in vermont, and a huge part of my teens was spent roaming through the green mountains, getting out on the lake, going into the woods, parks, rivers ... i feel fortunate to have grown up in a state where a connection with the natural world was, well, natural. i am shocked at how many people i attend school with, most of whom are 5 or so years younger than i, won't walk two blocks to the store, let alone go for a hike or a swim in a beautiful stream or brook. people tell me they are bored, or uninspired, or lack creativity; i truly believe this is symptomatic of a life indoors and a disconnect between the natural and the human ... which does not really exist it is a false dichotomy, but i think a real one that contributes to so many of society's problems. the depression the author cites is one symptom, but obesity, boredom, lack of inspiration, human impact on the environment, are others - as people become more removed from the world in which we live, it becomes easier to ingest foods that are far from natural, take in far too much television and live in a state of hyperreality, or exalted hyperreality, vicariously through images, rather than actually getting out and being in the world. knowing space is a damn hard bargain, but earth is our dancing place and it is due time people returned to a mentality where natural and human are not divisive, or dichotomous, but complementary and similar ... if it takes ecopsychology to encourage awareness, so be it - but i think that is nothing other than advocating for a state of mind - and that state of mind is necessary if we as humans will persist. natural parks have walls around them, wilderness is something "out there" - but maybe we all should remember that those boundaries are false - nature, wildness is all around us, even in our concrete jungles. we need only look, experience the beauty and simplicity everywhere ... not walk hypnotically by (or not walk at all).

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