Our Connection with Nature

By: Jo Dumbia 

It been established by nature lovers, naturalists, biodiversity specialists, and scientists that one of the root causes of the environmental crises is the lack of a close relationship with nature and that the relationship drives our behavior towards the natural world. For a long time, corporations have been effective using the emotions and the reactions that form relationships to drive consumer behavior, unfortunately, nature doesn’t have an advertising budget. Yet it is noticing nature, the joy and meaning that it brings, that builds the close relationship that brings pro-nature behaviors. Too often in our consumer world, nature is simply a resource for recreation, an opportunity for a selfie where we can celebrate ourselves.

Our efforts to form a relationship with nature are often misguided. Outdoor adventures are often assumed to improve people’s bond with nature, however, that has been found not so necessarily. Excursions, such as hiking, have been found to have limited benefits when compared to simpler engagement with nearby nature. Similarly, environmental education does not tend to increase nature connection and pro-nature behavior as facts and figures don’t form relationships and can even strip nature of its joy and meaning.

The division of nature to understand hides surprising and real connections that are the basis of life. Our microbiome — the myriad of microorganisms that live on and inside us — plays a vital role in our wellbeing. Our bodies have an innate and unseen union with the rest of nature, such that simply viewing flowers or touching an oak can be detected in physiological changes that help manage our emotions. 

Periodically, controlled, dissected, exploited, and ignored, nature disappears from our landscapes, our lives, and spring. However, unseen connections re-emerge in spring and relationships can be rekindled. This can begin without excursions, simply by noticing nature close to home, finding wilderness in an individual flower. A simple act that is repeated can build a relationship with nature that brings sustained benefits to mental wellbeing and feelings of living a worthwhile life. A relationship that unites both human and nature’s wellbeing. A society that celebrates and realize its place within nature will prevent a silent spring — a positive vision, not just a future denied the use and control of nature’s resources.

Just sit in one place in your garden for five minutes and you’ll be really amazed by what you see and feel, we rarely do that.

While many people understand that native plants are important, there’s often a large gap in understanding that pollinators rely on them. So, understanding how to attract, observe, and identify these essential insects is vital to our role in helping them survive and promote biological diversity within the species. 

But of course, you need the hosts plants as well as the nectar plants. 

Hosts? Yeah. Each butterfly has coevolved with defined plants. Those are the ones the female looks for to lay the eggs as the caterpillars only munch on the leaves of those plants.  And what about the bees? Well, they have also coevolved with native plants to serve each other’s needs. In the eastern United States, about one quarter to one third of native bee species are actually specialists of native plants. Without those specific native plants in our landscapes, we won’t have those bees to aid in the pollination of our food crops. 

And now, if you go to all this trouble of providing a wonderful flower buffet for these pollinating insects, you may consider not using pesticides because why would you want to bring them in and then potentially kill them. A good approach may be to grow more of a tolerance for insect damage and understand that it’s really a small minority of insects that do cause damage to plants, and in many cases don’t actually kill the plant.