NaturalistWeekly.com seeks to build a community around nature connection. Recognizing that each of us may have a different approach to connecting with nature, we want to explore and support the diverse ways that people engage with the natural world.
Some people may connect with nature through the work of poets like Jacqueline Suskin.
I walk the trail to the garden, Sticks splitting beneath my boots. For months I thought the strange call of the grouse was a generator. Then early on morning I saw his shaking feathers, his throat taut with passion. Excerpt from "Along Highway 299" Jacqueline Suskin, Every Day is a Poem
Others may find nature connection through the work of artist like Georgia O’Keefe.
Others still might enjoy the photography of artist like Ansel Adams.
Or, you may enjoy sitting quietly on the bank of a lake and let the sights, sounds, and smells of the natural world bring you into deeper connection with yourself and place.
Whatever your approach to nature connect, we want to honor it and build a community of people connecting to each other and the earth.
But can we really use the internet to build a community around nature connection?
In this article, Murdoch distills down this potentially controversial topic into two main points that demonstrate if the internet is harnessed in a meaningful way, it can provide us with a system to share information, protect the earth, and build community.
To begin, Murdoch references the research of Susan Simard. Murdoch proposes that the internet has the potential to benefit humans much like the mycelium network found in Simard’s work. Simard discovered through her research that there is an underground fungi network called the Common Mycelium Network (CMN) that allows trees to “talk” to each other and share information about resources and potential threats. Being connected to this network is actually a benefit to the trees and being disconnected can be detrimental. If we draw a parallel between the Common Mycelium Network and the World Wide Web, it can be argued that being connected through technology could provide humans the same benefit. We can use the web to share information that can benefit our collective well-being.
Next, research has shown that connection to nature through technology is better for our well-being than no connection to nature at all. For this point, Murdoch highlights the work of Peter H. Kahn, Jr., Rachel L. Severson, and Jolina H. Ruckert who found that participants in their study using “technological nature windows” reported benefits to their psychological well-being and cognitive function. In a follow-up study, Kahn also found that participants reported a lower level of stress and greater heart rate recovery when exposed to a technological nature window versus no window. So even looking at pictures of nature has benefits to our well-being and overall health.
This is not to say there are no challenges with encouraging the use of technology for nature connection. As has been recently highlighted in the Netflix film the Social Dilemma and the writing of Jaron Lanier, the way social media networks have been constructed are inherently dangerous for our mental health. Therefore, a thoughtful and conscious approach should be taken.
Murdoch suggests that we should use technology as a way to educate ourselves about nature and its benefits. He also suggests that we should limit our time with technology and make sure it is not a substitute for time spent in actual nature with actual people.(4) Technology, if used intentionally, can be a way to enhance our connection to nature. It is a balancing act. But one that has the potential for great benefit if done with care.
Bringing this conversation back to this website, it is my hope that we can land in that sweet spot between the benefits of technology and supporting real life experiences in nature. The approach will be one where the sharing of ideas, promoting engagement with nature, and a supportive dialogue is paramount. NaturalistWeekly.com hopes to provide interesting blog posts that will spur your curiosity in the natural world, our Instagram will be an assortment of photographs collected during our daily explorations, and our Twitter account will share nature news and events. We hope that through this approach we can support each other in connecting to nature and the planet.
So let’s connect, learn from each other, and spend time outside!
Many thanks to Duncan Murdoch at The Nature Connection Guide for his support on my own journey toward a deeper connection to nature!