Let’s find a common culture of nature

We are republishing this article as part of the seventh edition of the France des Solutions process of which The Conversation is a partner. From 14 to 20 October, find solutions in 50 media outlets across France!

Before you start reading this text, close your eyes and join a natural space that is dear to you: a beach, a forest, your garden… Do you think you can still go there? Not sure in the context of the biodiversity crisis.

Habitats, species and individuals are disappearing by leaps and bounds, and human activities are the direct drivers of this disaster. The platform publicly reaffirmed this last May in Paris, by publishing a disturbing new report on the state of biodiversity.

For the first time in history, these experts added that without a fundamental change in our world views, values, and political and economic models, we will not be able to achieve any of the sustainability goals that have been adopted over the past few years. Even those natural spaces that are dear to you will undoubtedly disappear.

Less and less nature experiences

Our lifestyles discourage us from taking walks in nature… And even children, at an age when contact with nature is most important, are playing outside less and less.

During childhood we build our mental frame of reference, this set of concepts and values ​​by which we will later evaluate what is good or not. However, this frame of reference integrates nature less often into our daily lives.

We even forget that our fathers and grandfathers attached more importance to nature: we often consider the place we give it good and sufficient, without imagining that it is weaker than a generation or two before. This is what psychologist Peter Kahn, Jr. calls “generational environmental amnesia.”

removing nature from our cultures

The loss of connection is collectively reflected in our vocabulary. In the 2015 edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary, some useful words to describe nature have disappeared – such as canary (Canary) or Black Berry (BlackBerry) – in favor of common words that designate new technologies (such as Blog where… Black Berry). In general, culture in English (movies, novels, popular songs) over a century has tended to ignore the exact words of plant or animal species.

We find this trend in the development of Disney films since 1937. Although nature has not disappeared, we notice the emergence of feature films since the 1980s where plants and trees are absent from most films. Outdoor landscapes: cartoons like Wall-EAnd Basil, a private investigatorAnd Hunchback of Notre DameAnd Monsters and companyor ratatouillePractically eliminating green spaces.

Is this a sign that nature is losing value in our eyes?

An inexhaustible source of imagination

This means forgetting the wide range of services that nature provides to human societies: from food to the purification of air, through water. Without it, we would not know the same living conditions.

Let’s take some direct examples. For example, nature benefits us. Psychologists and neuroscientists confirm: being in a green space restores our mental attention, reduces our stress, and also helps us recover more quickly from operations or diseases.

It’s also a great stimulator of children’s imaginations: remembering when you were playing outside, all those stories you could tell yourself with a piece of wood, the challenges you put yourself in to cross a river (inhabited by crocodiles!), the joy you had when you invited your parents to “have tea”, Prepared with a little pebbles, dirt, water, a little grass, and a few leaves…

Nature offers an infinite number of possibilities because it was not “made” by man. She is open to all challenges and all fantasies. As environmental psychologist Louise Chawla reminds us, a child who plays outside freely and unfettered gains confidence in his own body by challenging himself and testing his skills; Gain capacity and independence.

Finally, in a more intimate way, entering into an experience with nature, in its cognitive but also affective or emotional dimensions, we can undoubtedly be reconnected with this non-human organism that we neither control, nor understand, these beings in a complex and dynamic way. This “wild part of the world,” as the philosopher Virginie Maris calls it, is finally savage all around us.

Let’s dare to talk about nature!

We all have experiences of nature, which we generally reserve to our private domain. Talking about nature and biodiversity, in our modern society, often represents a dreamer, an artist, a child … a person who is not very serious. Daydreaming by the sea or disturbing the deafening silence of birds on the Great Grain Plains is “too emotional.”

However, a world without biodiversity would be a world that knows only one musical style… A world without words to describe and talk about nature, it is a world of progressive oblivion.

Why don’t we take a collective responsibility to restore nature to our common culture? We all have effects and experiences from it. Instead of keeping it to ourselves, why not share it with our children, loved ones, and friends; Then our colleagues and neighbors … increasingly wide circles? In the same way we share our latest musical discoveries, our latest devoured novel, or our latest video we discover!

Through all of these testimonies, these transmissions and these engagements, we will be able to help that nature and biodiversity return to the public space, in the collective visions of “what we cherish.”

There may still be time

Because, the good news, biodiversity is an extreme reaction: Once we take care of it, in time, it can be restored. When you stop putting pesticides in your garden, the butterflies return within a year or two; When the European Union collectively decided to ban the fishing of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean, their numbers increased in just a few years, so much so that fishing was able to resume this year.

But we have to act fast before everything is gone. This is my suggestion for this new school year: let’s get back in touch with nature in our daily lives, and not feel like we’re wasting our time there; Let us talk about it, as much as we talk about our other discoveries, positive or negative.

All this will contribute to the re-creation of a common culture of nature, the return of nature to our collective history; Which will encourage us to worry about it again, and stop destroying it.

In 1968, Roman Garry wrote that by not worrying about the fate of elephants and other species that were not useful to us, we would become robots. So, without further ado, let’s recreate the culture of nature! He will recover… and we can live.

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