Nature nurtures us and vice-versa
Last week I went to an unusual evening talk at the Art Gallery Ontario. Richard Louv (famous for Last Child in the Woods) and David Suzuki (famous for just about anything he does) were conversing about the integral part time in nature plays in human health & sanity. I found this event unusual because there was no catchy title or debate format. It turned out to be just a couple guys sitting in comfy chairs at the front of the room uniting their sometimes deeply personal nature anecdotes to recent trends in health and the environment.
Studies on the impact nature has on human cognition have surfaced in recent years, such as those conducted by Dr. Berman from the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, most recently featured in a Globe and Mail article here.
These studies have revealed new findings such as the ability for nature to calm and increase empathy. A recently published book called Your Brain in Nature is an excellent source that summarizes some of this work.
You might be interested to hear the definition of nature is malleable. In fact, many people find working in a small garden nature enough to satisfy them. There was a study that showed positive regenerative mental acuity from just looking at a forest photo!
In their talk, Richard Louv cited a Sierra Club program where Inner City Outing kids and their Sierra guides put on backpacks and head out into urban neighborhoods to find nature. This nature may be a crack in the sidewalk where dandelions and ladybugs have staked their claim or the tree by the bus stop. It exists all over the place – maybe it is not in great shape or contiguous enough to provide much health benefit for us but it is a start. It was suggested that we each build on our own little pieces of the nature – that we take these little islands of green in our cities and yards enhance habitat value with native plants. We can take this bizarre system of land-ownership that does so much to break-up and cut-up natural areas and do our part to make bigger islands and then corridors for nature.