The myth of nature connection

For over fifteen years I have taught thousands of people nature connection through the simple, graceful act of foraging for wild food plants.

And there is a myth doing the rounds that I want to challenge today.

FACT: Humans are animals. Biologically we are already connected to nature. Whether we live in the countryside or on top of a high rise block in a city.

Using the word ‘Nature’ disconnects us from the ecosystem.

The language we use frames our experience of the world. Let me explain.

Years ago I spotted on George Monbiot’s website a quote by Lord Byron:

‘I love not man the less, but Nature more.’

And my heart sank. Even George hadn’t got it. Didn’t actually realise by having that quote that he was in effect reasserting that humans are separate from nature.

That Nature is somehow other, over there, outside ourselves.

For all George’s wise words and often seering insight he was still stuck in the very paradigm of disconnection, that is causing humans to pillage the earth.

I know from visiting traditional cultures, people whose way of life and way of being is on the verge of extinction, that they experience their relationship with the ecosystem in a very different way.

It felt like all the nature this-and-that classes were missing a fundamental principle these traditional cultures took for granted.

From those days of wandering the globe learning from these ancient people, there was a common thread that many teachers had somehow missed.

When people talk about how they want to get more in touch with Nature. Or want to reconnect to wildness, to the ecosystem. Maybe even rewild themselves.

I believe what they are actually saying is:

‘I want to feel my connection with the rest of Nature.’

They want to move their experience away from something outside themselves and bring it home.

Back into their bones. Back into their heart. Feel it ‘under their skin’. In a good way.

I have a daughter, grand children and a partner who I feel deeply connected with? I would, quite literally, die for them.

Dramatic right? But bear with me.

When someone is away from a person they deeply love. They often feel a tug in their feelings, a sensory connection to them even though they might be thousands of miles away.

They miss them.

That experience, that feeling is not outside of us. It is an internal experience. A feeling experience.

It’s the same when people talk about nature connection. I believe (backed up by years of experience), that all this talk of nature connection is actually…

… an inside job.

I’m wary of calling it a truth or fact, because I don’t like making any kind of absolutist claims.

My teachers and mentors were very clear on one thing. Do not believe anything a teacher claims just because they are a teacher.

Instead be open to the possibility of what is being taught. Then validate it from direct, personal experience.

If we don’t, we simply become blind followers who give our power away to some external authority that claims to have the Truth.

To truly feel connected to Nature and the ecosystem we have to start learning how to feel that connection.

That can be hard in a world of flickering and pinging technology. A world that just flat out does not want people to feel. Anything.

We are barraged at every step of the way with trinket temptation. Buy this. Drink that. Pop this pill. Feel better. Look better. Be better.

Rarely does better ever come. So on to the next quick fix to fill an emptiness that no human should ever feel.

The consumer culture, like a predator, hunts us at every turn.

The more we consume, the more resources get ripped from the earth.

Until maybe, sometimes because of a life crisis, we start questioning the myths we have been taught by the dominant culture.

The questioning leaves us with a deep sense of loss and maybe grief. We might feel we have been tricked and hoodwinked.

Slowly the yearning grows stronger. We seek here and there for answers. And all the time we are sold and sold again some quick fix nature connection course or hip wild experience.

Thinking, maybe: ‘This time I will fill the void of isolation from the world.’

And for a few days, maybe a few weeks after the course or event ends – we have.

Then that after-party sparkle fades. It was just a momentary band aid and we are back where we started.

It doesn’t have to be like that.

It isn’t necessary to disappear to the wilds and live feral. Although that is fun for a short time. But it isn’t necessary.

We can do it right here, right now – where we find our feet. Whether we live in a city or ‘in the sticks’.