A Virtual Nature Community?

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.

Deer Skull with Pedernal, Georgia O’Keefe 1936

Others still might enjoy the photography of artist like Ansel Adams.

Thunderstorm, Yosemite Valley: 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.

Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

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?

This is a great question and one that my nature connection mentor Duncan Murdoch explores in his recent article “Technology and Nature: The Power of 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!


Resources

  1. Jacqueline Suskin, Every Day is a Poem
  2. Georgia O’Keefe Museum
  3. Ansel Adams Gallery
  4. Duncan Murdoch: Technology and Nature
  5. Netflix: The Social Dilemma
  6. Jaron Lanier: website
  7. Duncan Murdoch: The Nature Connection Guide

23 thoughts on “A Virtual Nature Community?

Add yours

  1. I like spending time in nature, but I also have a collection of nature photographs on Pinterest, featuring places that I am not likely to go, at least not anytime soon. So, I can definitely see a benefit to enjoying nature online as well as in person.

    1. Hi Susan, What a great idea on how to use Pinterest to collect nature photographs. I have heard of other bloggers using Pinterest to organize content that they might use for future posts. You are definitely on to something here!

  2. fascinating stuff, Mark. I am probably a ‘sitting in awe’ type – but I also have a photo each of a couple of places on my walls which help to re-present the actual physical space. As I have just re-visited one of those special places, I can say the connection or re-presentation is not as strong but pretty good. Thanks.

  3. two more thoughts not totally unrelated – I am attending virtual meditation community sessions on zoom and the mutual presence is certainly felt by all even if – as I sometimes do – I am not only on mute but also switch the camera off. And in a similar vein, I am attending a course on energy healing – the tutor talks of her own disbelief before she tried it – that the effect of tuning forks works – across time and space even. (I am sitting a bit on the fence with that one but can’t deny some effect which could be via her talk and my response with prior knowledge.) Thanks again -,

    1. Hi Barb, I have attended some virtual meditation session and it is an interesting experience. Not quite the same as sitting with others, but can feel connected. Duncan, who I talk about in the post, holds virtual forest bathing walks. When I join him I am outside. But other may be inside and experiencing the walk through his camera.

    1. Yes! The balcony can be a great spot. One of my sit spots is just outside the front door. Another activity that Duncan and I were talking about the other day was observing what was happen in a square meter of less of space. So much can be happening in even a little area. Bugs are the best!

    1. Hi Dave, I agree it is pretty cool exploring places you have never been through pictures. I appreciate all the ocean and underwater photos.

  4. I’m all for connecting with nature lovers of every persuasion. The way I see it, the more we connect with nature and each other, the better off we’ll all be.

  5. I like that leap in comparing the mycellium network and the WWW. It’s nice to share information, photos, poetry, and a love for nature with others who like to share the same.

    1. One other thing that I have been reading recently is people drawing the parallel between healthy ecosystems and healthy communities. There is so much to learn.

  6. Thank you for all the links, Mark. I’ll be looking at these over the weekend. The mycellium network sounds fascinating.
    I’m all for something that allows people who love and enjoy nature to keep in touch to share thoughts, feelings and experiences, especially for those who are confined to their homes. I also agree that there is so much we can see in a small space on our doorstep . . . and even inside our homes. We’d be gobsmacked to learn of all the creatures who live indoors with us! I love my spider tenants. 😀
    For me, nature is such a big part of my faith. It allows me to experience the sacred – even if it’s just weeding or planting potatoes. That connection with the earth and the feeling of belonging is vital.

    1. Hi Lesley, Thank you so much for sharing! I appreciate your comments about how connecting to nature allows you to experience the sacred. And there is something wonderful about time.in the garden!

  7. Hello Mark and other Fellow Nature Enthusiasts,

    However we enjoy and absorb nature in our own lives, one thing we likely have in common is a desire to protect nature and/or share our love with others (through writing, creative arts, photography, or sharing stories of the deer we see in our yards or the birds we see at our bird feeders, etc.

    Here’s my story.
    When my son was about 8, he created “The Helping Nature Team” and make up little business cards to hand out to people. They said something like this:
    Join the Helping Nature Team!
    Recycle
    Pick up litter
    Feed the birds
    Don’t pollute
    Walk or bike, rather than drive
    Don’t hurt animals

    So, by considering yourselves part of an Online Naturalist Community, I also invite you all to be honorary members of the “Helping Nature Team.” My son is 17 now, but would still be thrilled by this idea.

    🙂

    1. Hi Lizzie, this is great! I love this idea. We should talk and figure out a way to share his story and mission if he is still interested.

  8. Mark, I think we started our nature blogs at roughly the same time and on the same mission with our own ways of doing so. It’s a pleasure! I think its important that we know that we are not alone. I have a degree in Social & Environmental issues and my biggest concern is how detrimental apathy can be. It’s pernicious. I will fight for hope until my last breath. Maybe I play too many video games where I have to save the world and its gone to my head, but every good sci-fi story and video game illustrates a common theme, you often times can’t do it alone, you need a good team.

    1. Hi Melanie, I agree that making changes societal changes is a complicated and difficult process and we need people who are willing to lead the charge! I think that we each have our own strengths that we can bring to the cause and through a diversity of skills and knowledge we can make a difference. And sometimes a good story, or video game, is what is needed! Be well and thanks for your comment!

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