Concerns about our fraying connection with nature, and the tricks our brains play on us are on the increase. But will this awareness merely help us exploit ourselves, each other and the planet more “efficiently”?
In the Feb 5/6 Australian Financial Review, a hack called Deirdre Macken has a piece called “Natural born thrillers.” In part it reads
Educators, urban planners, health professionals and environmentalists are beginning to examine the so-called nature deficit disorder and are finding that the absence of nature causes many modern anxieties. For children, in particular, a life lived indoors can stunt cognitive, emotional and social development.
The idea that we need nature to maintain mental and physical health is an extension of the belief that we need exercise and fresh food to remain healthy. It’s just a small step along the theory but it takes us into new territory.
According to Richard Louv’s book, The Last Child in the Woods, children don’t just benefit from nature, they need it. They need it for their emotional well being, for their sense of perspective, observation skills, creativity, risk-taking practice, observation skills and attention practice.
There is no doubt an element of “Pope still catholic” to this, at least for the kind of person who reads this blog. Meanwhile, Canadian biologist and all-round good guy David Suzuki (The Legacy, page 83) comes closer to the nub of the issue here… (emphasis added)
We should know that there are forces impinging on us that we will never understand or control. We need sacred places where we go with veneration rather than to seek resources or opportunity.
Because, y’see I’ve been reading a lot about “cognitive biases” and more recently about “nature deficit disorder”. And after a while I began to wonder – is this actually all about getting the human cogs in the Machine to run more reliably and “sustainably” (sic)?
Why are we worried about thinking straight, about urbanised Western infants getting their ration of redeeming and renewing capital N “Nature”? Are we just Green Confucians, advising the emperor on precisely how dry the peasants can be squeezed before they congregate with their pitchforks and their torches (mixed metaphor there, but you know what I mean).
Is this just another example of “improved means to unimproved ends?”
I suspect that my answer to this question is “yes”. I am very interested in other people’s answers. Please pitch in. And I do have an idea of what my “improved ends” would look like, but that’s a different blog post…