"When we are connected to nature, Irwin, we can really feel how every living thing is dependent on the others. We cease to feel isolated and begin to feel a part of this great orchestra. Just thinking about the work of a tiny ant, his place in world, gives me a deep respect for him. Do agree, Little One?" "Oh yes, Sir, I do agree! When I am out in nature I can see how every every living thing is part of a bigger picture! It give me a sense of awe and wonderment. Do other things happen, too, when we connect with nature?"
As Dharma explained it, that feeling of awe we get when we experience nature, can make us kinder and more generous. Awe serves a vital function for both humankind as well as for us frogs. By experiencing that sense of being a part of something greater, we diminish the emphasis on the individual self. Awe may encourage people to forgo strict self-interest and, instead, to improve the welfare of others. Connecting to nature can also improve our memory. help us recuperate, and may even improve our sense of smell. Humans have a meaningful right to connect with nature but with that, says Dharma, comes the responsibilities to protect and support her; to be good stewards so that other generations can enjoy this same right.
Researchers have found that humans from every walk of life and from every culture are hard-wired to not only love but to also need nature. The human's inborn affection for nature may explain why most people want to live with a particular view of the natural world. When people withdraw from nature, they suffer. So much so that Australian professor, Glenn Albrecht, coined the word "solastalgia." Taken from the Latin word "solacium" which means comfort...as in solace...and the Greek root algia (pain) to make his new term. He defines it as, "the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault.” I know for me that when I don't spend as much time as I'd like experiencing the beauty of nature, I don't feel as well; I get cranky and out-of-sorts.
Nature brings our senses alive. Scientists have found that humans actually have the ability to track by scent alone. Some humans rival bats echolocation or biosonar abilities and tend to be more prevalent with humans who have grown up in either very rural or inner-city surroundings...places where they had to be more conscious of their surroundings. Nature can improve our creativity, as well. Spending as little as one hour in nature can improve memory performance and attention span by as much as 20%. Workplaces that are designed with nature in mind experience more productivity from their employees and have reduced sick days. Hospitals that have patient rooms looking out on a view of nature, even if it's just a tree, say their patients require less pain medication, shorter hospital stays, and have fewer negative comments in their nurse's notes.
Nature can reduce depression and improve psychological well-being. Nature also improves the sense of social bonds when humans interact with animals in the wild. Researchers at the University of Rochester report hat exposure to the natural environment leads people to nurture close relationships with fellow human beings, value community, and to be more generous with money.
"Wow!" I exclaimed when Dharma finished up my lesson. "I always knew that nature was important to us critters...our very lives depend on it, but I sure didn't know that nature could do so much to improve the lives of humans, too!" "Yes, Tadpole, Mother Nature is powerful. She gives us all so much and only asks for respect in return. Unfortunately, these days not everyone is aware of that. Some humans abuse Mother Nature and believe that nothing they do to her will hurt her. They aren't aware that these actions are having a profoundly negative effect on her, some that cannot ever be undone. I hope, my boy, that in your interactions with humans you'll work to spread the message that the mother of all of us needs love and deserves respect." "I will, Sir. I promise!"
Dharma stayed and helped me clear the table. But after he left, I sat and pondered his lesson. I knew that there was much I wanted to do. Perhaps I'll start by writing a book for children, giving them ways in which they can help protect Mother Nature. For they are her future. Children can be a powerful voice for change, as we've recently witnessed. Kids are awesome. And so is nature. Together, they can be unstoppable; giving us all hope for a better, kinder, saner world.