“Nature-deficiency syndrome”

How do you stay close to nature, when you are living in a city and the only vegetation you see are the bare trees lining your street? On the other hand, some might argue, you are always surrounded by nature – there is no way to be out of it – you are breathing air, you are drinking water, you are part of the foodchain (mostly, you are on the top of it), there is a sky above you (except when you spend most of your waking hours in an office, in a flat, under artificial light). Of course the question is still out there: what do we mean by nature exactly? Where does is start? Outside the city borders? Do cornfields already count as nature? And what about the man-made fishing lakes? The man-made forests with the same species in neat rows? How do we define nature? If we narrow it down to some natural place that has no human impact then it would be almost impossible to find even a square kilometer of it…but if we can’t even define it, what are we going to protect? And when we have the chance and visit this so called “nature”, how are we gonna connect with it? Most of us spend only a few weeks (if that) each year at a beach or in the mountains or in the rainforest – but we are only visitors, waiting to be entertained. Yes, there are some moments when we feel touched or moved by certain sights, by some natural wonders – but is that enough to last for the rest of the year, until our next vacation comes along?

But putting definitions aside, I feel like experiencing withdrawal symptoms – not getting enough sunlight (ok, it is winter in Europe), not seeing enough wild animals (occasionally the calls of wild geese penetrates the gloomy November afternoons, as they fly over the city, but most of the birds are gone or stay silent), not being surrounded by wild forest, not being able to see the sunset because of the tall buildings …And I wonder: what does it do to our psyche? Is there a “nature-deficiency syndrome” that most of us suffering from without even recognizing it? We did everything that we could to protect ourselves from the whims of weather, from the chance encounters with wild animals, to break free from the natural cycles of days and seasons, and now it seems that in the process we succesfully cut ourselves out the tapestry of life. How can we keep that sense of connection to the web of life in an urban setting? How do we fight the feeling of floating around in an artificial bubble? How can we keep the passion that we feel toward the forests and all of its inhabitants when we are so far away from it? Lost in distractions, worried and depressed, how do we find what is real?

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