The framing of every challenge is fundamental to the approaches we take to craft solutions, and one of our greatest challenges is our ever-diminishing recognition of how interlinked we are to nature, to Earth.
There is a growing global recognition that biodiversity loss, climate destabilisation and the struggling Earth’s climate patterns of extreme weather are in part a result of the deterioration of the human-nature relationship.
The truth is, we are in relational existence with all that is alive on Earth.
Unfortunately, part of what we have lost is the ability and openness to viscerally feel our interconnectedness to the rest of life. This impacts not only our psyche and well-being, but also Earth as a whole.
When we distance ourselves from nature through constructed environments and technology, we also reduce how we value nature. When we quiet the voices that know that Earth is not just a resource, but a habitat — our habitat, we also forget that Earth reminds us of what has meaning, value, and what is worth nurturing.
Why our innate connection with nature is essential to real solutions and sustainability
When it comes to the climate crisis, what if we’re asking the wrong questions?
There’s a tendency to focus on solutions, which is critical, yet perhaps misguided. A bit like finding a band-aid or bandage to stem blood loss without looking at what triggered the bleeding in the first place.
When it comes to the climate, it’s not enough to discuss the pros and cons of technology-based solutions versus nature-centric ones. We need to take a step back and examine our innate connection with nature and what implications our choices have on it — and what that means for us long-term, not just in terms of planetary health but also our mental and physical well-being. Only then can we have a real conversation about solutions.
The Biophilia Hypothesis states that as humans, we tend to affiliate with life and nature, which is tied to our overall well-being and personal fulfilment. One of the building blocks of the theory states that we inherently want to preserve the natural world. What’s more, exposing children to nature will fuel their inherent “knowing” of our innate connection to nature and the importance of protecting biodiversity.
So, what does it really mean to nurture and protect our innate connection with nature?
First, some perspective: Even when we think we’re talking about biodiversity, we often only focus on a tiny percentage of life, because it’s what we see and what we can relate to.
Our empathy with earthworms is close to zero, and yet they are a key part of a thriving soil and ecosystem that can regenerate itself and withstand climate variations while producing abundance. We need to broaden what we consider our kin and community to include soil, water, plants, and animals — because even including mountains and trees, as present and visible as they are, is often a struggle.
One solution is to spend time with our hands in the dirt, tending to plants. Even better if this extends to gardening to favour plants that feed insects, because they are essential to a healthy ecosystem. Either way, it will naturally enlarge our understanding of life and our relationship with the natural world to pave the way for us to better respect and conserve diversity as a pillar of planetary health.
Upward of 70% of humankind live in urban centres, where we pave over soil without a second thought, and consider our infrastructure as both keeping us safe and providing for us — but at what cost?
This alienation and disconnection have far-reaching implications. Notably, a lack of understanding of where food (and water) come from; of how nature provides for us. Food does not come from supermarkets, no matter how many people seem to have subconsciously internalised this and believe it to be true.
Many astronomy students have never seen the actual night sky, and in school, teaching the water cycle seems irrelevant as most children never see rain being absorbed into the Earth via the soil.
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In other words, the existing disconnect is systemic. We are inhibiting our ability to know, deep in our bones, that we are an integral part of Earth and nature and their ecosystems, and what that means. Often, we can at best intellectually understand that we are connected to nature.
The too-rarely-spoken truth is that we have no idea of the impact this disconnect will have on our psyche. However, this separation from nature that goes against our very beings causes deep grief and anxiety even if it is often not identified as the root cause.
To redirect our practices and lifestyles to enable reconnection, we can look to ancient practices, indigenous wisdom, and symbiotic coexistence. The knowledge of how to live in harmony with the natural world is not lost, merely overlooked. Technology, for all its benefits, does not help.
Technology versus nature: Two approaches to finding a long-term solution to the climate crisis
Many very smart people believe above all else in the ingenuity of humans. Their unflinching conviction that we can think and innovate our way out of the climate crisis is technically not misplaced — but again, what is the cost of such an approach?
Technology solutions exist, yes: Alternative energies such as wind, solar, and hydro; and many consider them complementary to climate financing and the funding of carbon sequestration initiatives.
But none of these approaches protect our innate biophilic connection, or biodiversity. What will the impact be on our deep psyche of living in a world full of solar farms installed for efficiency and not factoring in the importance of wildlife corridors and free movement in nature?
The opposing approach sees nature as a solution, as something to protect through regular practices including conservation and wildlife protection. We need to become stewards of our planet, learning to conserve land and water and biodiversity. Acting with environmental integrity is not just about solving the issue of climate change and the destruction of nature, but about maintaining and conserving a world that has given us so much.
The truth is, it isn’t either-or. But unless we want to wake up in a dystopian futuristic society that has urbanised Earth to such an extent that we have annihilated nature as we know it today, we must put nature at the centre of what we do.
We have to understand — no, remember — how interconnected we are, and how important wildlife corridors and free movement are not just to the life forms concerned but to us as a connected life form, too.
This means researching solutions such as porous asphalt, and making it a priority to consider nature when designing urban spaces and alternative energy solutions. With our human ingenuity, we can find a balance between technology and nature, restoring natural ecosystems while addressing society’s energy and agricultural demands in a truly sustainable and planet-conscious way.
The way forward: Honouring our innate connection with nature and embracing human ingenuity and innovation
It’s time to stop compartmentalising, and to act based on this core truth: The planet is not separate from us, but we are deeply interconnected with nature and a part of it.
To find a way forward, we need to spend time in nature to shift from knowing this intellectually to knowing it in our bones. That embodied knowing will unlock true innovation for a sustainable future for us and our children — and their children beyond that.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — Cover Photo Credit: Nathalie Vigini.