The natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To be alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human. To damage this community is to diminish our own existence.
Thomas Berry 1914 – 2009
I’ve been thinking recently about the work I used to do in ‘Adventure Therapy’ – using ‘wilderness’ experiences to facilitate personal development with troubled young people. And I’ve been wondering how much it is our modern urban lifestyles, lived at such a remove from nature, that have prevented so many of us from recognising how our normal everyday behaviour is destroying the very life-systems that support us. For our age of cheap fossil fuel energy, provided to us for free by ‘ancient sunlight’, has enabled us to create an entirely unsustainable way of life on our planet – and one which is as disconnected from nature as it can get.
In recent years, as scientific understanding of converging environmental crises has deepened, a whole new branch of academic study has become established in “eco-psychology”, encompassing a range of theories and practice from Nature Deficit Disorder, Nature-Therapy and Eco-Therapy to Conservation Psychology and related studies of Human Ecology. Some of these have developed in mainstream academia whilst others have sprung from less orthodox New Age concepts and ideas. Some are directed towards understanding how humans relate and interact with the natural world whilst others have emerged in response to a grief felt by some who have understood the enormity of our losses in wild nature. But whatever their focus – or the scientific rigour of their origins and practice – all seem to share a common awareness of the inadequacy of modern reductionist approaches to scientific study when thinking about the inter-connectedness of the natural and human eco-systems of our one and only planetary home.