By Sally Wagoner
It is human to care for things that we know and that we love.
Perhaps that is one reason why our Earth is suffering so, as many humans do not have a personal relationship with nature.
When nature is viewed as something outside of our lives or outside of the human species, it is much easier to take it for granted and for profit. When nature is acknowledged as a complex web of life within which we are embedded and upon which we depend, it causes us to be conscientious of how we alter or use nature to fit our needs.
And when we learn to love nature, to develop that personal relationship with the animals, plants, waters, forests, sky and earth, we then care for it like the family that it is: with respect, with compassion, and with a desire to have it be healthy and sustainable for our future generations.
“It’s nature’s way of telling you something’s wrong….” wrote Randy California of the band Spirit in 1970. (Click here for the song “Nature's Way” on YouTube).
Try listening to this song, with its haunting melody and lyrical premonitions, while watching the apocalyptic fires in Australia that have killed a billion animals, some to the point of possible extinction. Or seeing how glaciers are disappearing at a rate much quicker than predicted, raising ocean levels and warming the atmosphere. Or even while looking in your own back yard and noting the meager number of butterflies and bees. If you are of my era, you will remember the plethora of fireflies sparkling in the dark night as a child.
Residents of Newaygo County already have a love for the nature that abounds all around us. Whether your Indigenous roots go back centuries here, or if you are a newcomer from more recent history, this area has drawn us for its beauty and diversity of life. But this beauty that we know and love is not immune to the rippling effects of environmental changes that may occur in the next county or in the next hemisphere. How we live our lives within nature’s web today affects how well we live tomorrow, and what we leave for our children in the future.
So how do we begin, or expand, that personal relationship with the natural world around us? How do we relate to all these amazing living beings with in a way that doesn’t objectify them, but leads us to love them as family, and work with them in a manner that is respectful and sustainable?
“It’s nature’s way of receiving you, it nature’s way of retrieving you….” continues the Spirit song, insinuating the way is already in motion.
People much smarter than me teach us how to nurture this relationship: go outside, breathe, look, touch, listen and learn. The paths of farmers, poets, scientists and shamans have merged at this place where we step from the often daily routine of ignoring nature, or viewing it as merely a resource or commodity – and journey into a world of wonder and reciprocity.
But don’t take my word for it. Consider how the following people have crossed that threshold, and who now urge us all to learn how to live and relate to nature in a way, perhaps the only way, that will stem the devastations that are affecting our Earth and our own human lives:
* Dr. Monica Gagliano, Research Associate Professor in Evolutionary Ecology; author of “Thus Spoke the Plant: A Remarkable Journey of Groundbreaking Scientific Discoveries and Personal Encounters with Plants”. Click here for Plant Speak Podcast.
* Dr. Robin Kimmerer, Citizen Potawatomi , Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology; author of “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants”. Click here for Our Plant Teachers Podcast.
“It’s Nature’s Way” hopes to inform the citizens of Newaygo County on issues of interest and necessity about our environment from both the global outlook and its local impact. The intention is to help all of us grow a more personal relationship with our web of nature and all its manifestations so we may learn how to care for it in the best ways possible – not only for the survival of our children and grandchildren, but for the healthy sustainability of our Earth as well.
Upcoming article: Loving our Local Web at Brooks Oak-Pine Barrens Nature Sanctuary
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