The Great Disconnect

More and more I’ve been realizing something rather obvious: People who have a positive association with nature, or those who have an association at all with nature, are those who want to protect and preserve it the most.  The outside world is alien land to many Americans who sit in an office all day, commute to and from work alone in their car, and then sit in front of the television at night, only to start all over again the next day.  It’s a real travesty, not only to our Earth, but to human beings.  A dissociated human being is a depressed one and an isolated human being can be a dangerous one.  I’m sure Paxil, Zoloft and all the other pharmaceutical companies know this all too well.  Perhaps they’re even in cahoots with the car manufacturers and TV networks, or is that way too conspiracy theorist?

I’m on a mission to understand why certain people thrive outside and gratefully take in the air, the scenery, the vista, and the imperfections with true respect and adoration versus those who are too “busy” to take a simple walk around the block.  Is it the car that killed us?  Is it suburbia?  Do we simply work too much and are exhausted?  I think it’s a combination of factors, plus a number of other variables, but whatever the reason, the Earth is suffering.  More and more people are attached to their independent lives than the greater community, and if you’re not a part of the greater community, well, you’re not missing out on anything because you don’t even know it exists.  Therein lies the paradox if you will: the exact community we need, both in human and nature form, cannot be experienced or appreciated when one is hidden away, isolated and depressed.  However, that same person desperately needs community and nature in a critical way in order to break out of the psychological pattens they’re in.  That’s my opinion anyway.

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2 thoughts on “The Great Disconnect

  1. I think you are right that this disconnect comes from the physical separation of people from natural things, but that is more of a consequence of a larger issue: how people view the world. From the start of Europeans settlement of North America, the wilderness was viewed with fear of the unknown dangers and awe at what was perceived as “God’s Majesty.” Eventually industrialization cleared out this notion and replaced it with the view that nature was a vast, exploitable resource that could make people rich and allow them to lead good lives of leisure.

    It is that sentiment that persists today. Nature is seen only as having value in what can be taken from it. This is even seen in so called outdoor enthusiasts that can only enjoy nature if they are zooming through it on a machine or shooting something from it. Not to say that these are necessarily bad things, but it shows how the utilitarian view of nature manifests itself even in nature.

    For these people, I think it takes direct, uninterrupted contact with nature to cure them of their views. If they were made to, say, camp in the wilderness for a week without the trappings or conveniences of modern life, I think their view would change. Sure, after a day or so they would be bored crazy and probably experience technology withdrawals, but after a while the power of nature can’t be ignored and they would come to notice and appreciate many subtle things they didn’t before.

    The same could be accomplished in a garden. I know of few more visceral connections to nature than to actually grow, care for, and get a harvest from the earth without the use of fancy machinery that again disconnect the user and increase the utilitarian view.

    • I agree wholeheartedly. It’s a challenging topic I’ve been thinking about for some time and I love having such wonderful feedback. We do indeed, on average, view nature as something to exploit rather than something to admire and appreciate as-is. The Tragedy of the Commons, if you will. Even Obama spoke at his State of the Union on Tuesday of getting as much oil and natural gas out of public lands as we can moving forward. This broke my heart. It’s not at all what I want to hear, but, sadly, most Americans think: Domestic energy and cheer without thinking of the ramifications of such development. That’s not to say we should push energy production and pollution off to other nations, which we do – we should consider the Earth as a whole. That seems to be the most challenging part of all of this.

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