We humans are a funny bunch- we like to have an emotional connection to things. If we love it, like it or it’s useful, it’s important to us. It matters.
Similarly, I believe strongly that if people can see something amazing in nature, if they experience the earth and sea in all their glory more often, that they feel a greater connection to it and perhaps they will want to save it.
I have never met a person who hasn’t been moved by the sight of a whale, of the impossibly pure blue of lagoon water or a dolphin slicing through a wave. I have never met a person who hasn’t sighed out loud at a vista presented to them as they stand upon the top of a mountain or haven’t just stopped to gaze even just a little at a neon sunset. In short, nature moves us if we connect to it.
Now let us now just take one aspect of nature- the ocean- and look at our behaviour here.
Throughout time, the sea has been integral to our very humanness- it has sustained us, allowed us to travel, trade and learn, it is a part of our DNA, yet unless we work in or around the sea, we simply forget it’s importance. We know more about “space” than we do “sea”. Over 85% of it is unexplored and we are continually discovering new species. Yet, perhaps because of its mysteriousness or because of it immensity we simply don’t care that much about it. The birthplace of life on this planet, due to this disconnection, has become a garbage dump.
To say plastic in the ocean is a problem would be akin to saying a whale is just a big fish. (Wrong on all kinds of levels.) Plastic not only takes years to decompose, as it does it leaves toxins in the sea posioning the waters and it becomes a deadly meal for huge amounts of sea life. Marine biologists say it is rare to do an autopsy on a big fish, sea bird or turtle and not find plastic in the gut. And here is the really awful thing- when the animal dies from ingesting the plastic, the body eventually breaks down, releasing the plastic into the water to kill again. And they say sharks are the perfect killers!
How does the plastic get into the water? Mainly because we use the sea as a trash can. I would be here all day outlining ways we throw waste into the ocean- from littering from cars to deliberate dumping of large tips into the sea- but- all come from a disconnection we seem to have to nature.
A friend of mine, a scuba diving instructor said this to me: “Seeing what is down there changes people. They get that what they do on land has a direct affect to what happens to the creatures they see in the ocean when they dive. The biggest change I see in my dive students is that they start to get angry at the rubbish they see down there.”
To me then one of the greatest and surest ways to halt the rate of destruction of the planet is to get people OUTSIDE. To get them out of the big concrete box into the big green and blue rooms! To get them more connected with a specific part, the sea for example, and that doesn’t even mean they need to get their feet wet!
Walking along a beach, being part of a beach clean up, going sailing, going whale watching- none of these really require you to get very wet! For those that want to connect more deeply try swimming, surfing, diving, snorkeling or all manner of sea based activities that will get you up close and personal with where your human DNA lies!
Next time you want to convince someone that the earth is worth saving, don’t preach. Instead, take them outside. Show them. Help them fall in love with the planet again. After all, we save what we love.
I get out into nature a fair bit. I am not however, one of those “crazy-eyes” who need a regular jolt of adrenalin to make life worth living. I don’t need to jump off a canyon with a small parachute, ski wildly off a vertical side of a mountain, disappear for days down a canyon or even kayak down a waterfall to get my jollys outdoors.But judging by the comments I get, you would think I was doing that kind of thing.
My husband and I go off into the ‘big green room’ as we call it to go walking and camping and yes, we carry everything in. We do our homework, carry enough water and food, have good gear, know how to read a compass and we do self-guided walks that normally last between 3-5 days on average. Sometimes the environment is challenging (yes, sometimes it snows out there) but we are prepared. Nothing scary.
Yet, when we tell people where we are going the most common reaction is: “I could never do that. Aren’t you scared?”
Well, um, no.
I began to ask them why they thought I should be scared. The answers could be divided into three categories. Firstly – the “something might get you”.(Snakes, spiders, a rock falling, nasty person) Secondly- the “you could get lost” (And run out of food/and fall of cliff/ and never found). And finally, the “you’ll get stinky and dirty”. (No showers, no GHD, no dishwasher, so many germs).
So, let us look at these one by one.
I am from Australia. Yes it’s true we have more things that will kill you than almost anywhere else, but thankfully most of them aren’t available to get you all on the one day and in the one place. You are more likely to be struck by a car than by a snake in this country. To reduce this fear, understand where you are going and find out what hazards if any are likely or possible. This is normally a very easy thing to find out. Check online or with a ranger before you go. Obey any signs you see- if it says “Don’t stop, avalanche risk”- dont stop and take a photo. If it says “Don’t swim here, saltwater crocodiles” well, unless you do want that big adrenalin hit, take your need to beach ball elsewhere.
Secondly the ‘you could get lost” issue. When a bushwalker or skier does get lost it’s a big deal. We hear all about it and there is a big search and sometimes, the news isnt good.We notice. But the stats tell us that the overwhelming majority of folks that use wilderness areas do so without incident. This is a real fear, but with some thought and preparation it need not happen to you.So again, prepare ahead of time and be safe.
Thirdly- the “stinky dirty issue”. Walking for days or going into deep nature doesn’t necessarily mean you wont have a chance to bathe. You can swim in the sea, rivers, waterholes or get a collapsible bucket and have a shower. I have rolled in the snow (hilarious and painful at the same time) and the old pit wash with baby wipes isn’t so bad at altitude.The longest time I spent with no shower was 14 days in Nepal in the Everest Region and by the time I got to those oxygen leached heights I wasnt thinking about my dirty hair let me tell you. Instead I was thinking about how thankful I was that my body had made it and how lucky I was to be on the roof of the world and looking out. I guess what I am trying to say here is getting a bit dirty is such a non-issue when you can experience so much more by simply getting out there.And besides, that hot steamy shower or bath when you get back to ‘civilisation’ always feels incredibly good!
Bottomline though, I think most people get scared of going out there because it means that they have to take a lot of personal responsibility for themselves. Nature asks for a piece of you. To connect with it, to really get something from it,you need to extend yourself just that little bit- and to do that takes your full attention and a “little risk” on your part. It might be uncomfortable climbing that hill, and you may have slipped a little, but wow, what a view. To paddle for hours on a kayak and have hair stiff with salt might be kind of unglamorous, but that it’s just you, your loved one and the biggest moon you ever saw floating above you as make your dinner, is unbearably romantic. Whilst it might mean a few mossie bites or a leech or two to reach the campsite, to hear nothing but the language of the forest as you lie there snug in your sleeping bagmakes it all worth it.
So even if you are in the least bit curious about what it’s like to get loved on my mother nature again, my advice is start out with simple day walks in national parks. Stick to the trail and tell someone where you will be before you leave. Go with some buddies. Bring a pack with plenty of water, some nice food for lunch, a camera, your mobile phone(but understand the emergency settings),sunblock, something warm/waterproof to wear. The other alternative is to book yourself on a fully guided walk- let an expert show you how it’s done. This is a great way to build your confidence.
Remember, nature loves you. Give her a little sugar back and go visit.
I have just been in a big concrete box for 5 days straight. Nope. Not a jail but an exhibition centre. I was there for a great reason. I was at a Mind Body & Spirit Festival connecting with thousands of folks and telling them all about an earth-connected life. (Yes, I am aware of the irony.)
Now I knew I would be in there for five days and so busy that I wouldn’t be seeing the sunlight, feeling the wind in my hair, breathing fresh air, and feeling anything but carpet and concrete beneath my feet. The days would be long, yet I would not see the cycles of nature at all. It also reminded me how that a decade ago five days straight of little or no nature would have been the norm for me and how much I have grown to know myself and my body’s need for nature.
I needed my ‘A’ game for those 5 days and that meant I needed to prepare. I needed to charge up my batteries the best way I know how. So, I went, as the Australian Aborigines term, ‘walkabout’.
My husband and I spent the weekend before in deep nature. I swam in springs so green and clear I felt like I was swimming in the centre of a sparkling gem of jade. I got buzzed by eagles. We listened to a lonesome dingo howl upon the dawn. We walked through miles of acacia and gums and smelt the primoridal green of wetlands. We got bitten by mozzies and I got stung by fire ants- as you do- but mostly, I got charged up. Batteries at full.
So, here I am, day after a huge five days in the big concrete box. I feel, surprisingly, pretty darn good. Yes the voice is a bit croaky-Joan Rivers as it always is after that many days of non-stop talking but the prep in deep nature worked for me and I’m sure it can work for you.
Plan ahead. Get your green fix. Get your light fix. Get your love fix. And watch your mind, body and spirit thank you.