Written by  Alesha Allard

Connecting with Urban Nature Featured

We have all grown accustomed to the rapid pace of the 21st century, with everything in constant motion it can seem as though there is a disconnection being created between humans and nature. A looming question is; how do we share in a meaningful relationship with the natural world when it is so far removed from our daily lives? The beautiful truth is that nature is one of the main components of all of our lives. We pick berries, swim in the sea, listen to the call of the birds, bury our loved ones in the earth, and celebrate the harvest with our families and communities. It is possible that the key to a new relationship exists in the way we perceive and interact with nature.

For some communities this concept may come more naturally, the surrounding ecosystem is not a mere backdrop, but it is the cornerstone of society. A common thread in the ‘ancient wisdom’ for communities like the Potawatomi Tribe of Wisconsin, USA, and the Totanoca people of Puebla, Mexico is the driving concept to maintaining a lifestyle that encourages a balance between humans and all-natural elements. Young children are raised under these teachings, allowing them to grow to adulthood with a strong sense of unity and an intrinsic bond with the land. Robin Kimmerer, a member of the Potawatomi Tribe, wrote in her book Braiding Sweetgrass that anyone can “become indigenous to place ...[by choosing to] take care of the land as if our lives, both material and spiritual depended on it”. There is a definite form of inspiration which can be taken from her words; that appreciation of the earth is available to people of any gender, age, culture -- a new perspective is available to anyone who chooses to pursue it.

Traditional Totonac dance "Voladores". By: Aneta Přibová

Even in the most unlikely of places, when we cannot venture into the wilderness, the wilderness is brought to us. Take for example the urban setting, which is predominantly void of patches of wild earth. However, interspersed between sheets of concrete are carefully selected trees, bushes, and flowers. This suggests that there is an innate understanding of mankind’s appreciation and need for exposure to nature. In a study conducted at the Universiti Teknologi MARA it was estimated that within 3 years, 73% of the population of Malaysia would live in an urban landscape by 2020. A centrally located Perdana Botanical Garden in Kuala Lumpur has become a key element in fostering interaction humans and nature, creating a community atmosphere by enabling contact from person to person and opening a gateway for conducting environmental studies. The garden is regarded as a healing place, due to the evidence that spending time within its many pathways has a positive effect on both the mental and physical health of frequent visitors.

Opportunities for exploration of the natural world come in all shapes and sizes -- parks, gardens, forests, wetlands, and desert landscapes. We make a connection to the earth every time we look up at the sky, notice the first flowers of spring, or choose to take our footsteps down an earthen trail. We can take part in our activities alone, or with the company of friends, family, and children -- sharing with others in the joys of what we find just beyond the reach of our front door.

Aerial view of an unknown city. By: Aleksejs Bergmanis

The benefits of incorporating a perspective of integration with the earth are not limited. This practice allows for the growth of our own well-being as well as that of the planet. While the list of ailments facing the planet seems to grow every day, it is becoming more important than ever for people to develop a sustainable bond with the natural world. We have a choice to seek our own experiences, share them with those around us, and to live in conscious contact with nature. Creating a sense of unity with nature can be the key to not only stopping the damage to the environment, but also potentially reversing its effects.


Aereal view of Cuetzalan, Puebla, Mexico. By: Aneta Přibová


[i] Russell, R., Guerry, A. D., Balvanera, P., Gould, R. K., Basurto, X., Chan, K. M., … Tam, J. (2013). Humans and Nature: How Knowing and Experiencing Nature Affect Well-Being. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 38(1), 473–502. doi: 10.1146/annurev-environ-012312-110838

[ii] Ruiz, M. (2008). The four agreements. Thorndike, Me.: Center Point Pub.

[iii] Kimmerer, R., 2020. Braiding Sweetgrass. [S.l.]: Penguin books.

[iv] Razak, Mohd & Othman, Noriah & mat nazir, Nurul. (2016). Connecting People with Nature: Urban Park and Human Well-being. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences. 222. 476-484. 10.1016/j.sbspro.2016.05.138.

[v] Burton, J. (2019). Mental Health and the Human-Nature Connection http://loatree.com/2016/05/23/mental-health-and-the-human-nature-connection

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  • Comment Link Jane pátek, 08 květen 2020 13:49 posted by Jane

    I liked to know about the indigenous people's connection with nature

  • Comment Link Rene B. úterý, 28 duben 2020 08:59 posted by Rene B.

    Wonderful writing !

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