The news is grim. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, wildlife populations have declined by an average of 69% since 1970. Those of us who spend significant time outdoors connecting with nature have seen these magnificent beings dwindling right before our eyes.
But there is hope for those who remain, despite their small populations. Let’s take a look at some fierce, resilient wildlife species and how humans can help.
When I was a kid, I remember the news stories telling us that our national bird, the bald eagle, was under the threat of extinction. Perhaps you remember this too? The bird that proudly represents America’s soaring spirit was estimated to only have 487 nesting pairs in 1963, down from 100,000 in 1782.
The bald eagle was placed on the Endangered Species list. With collective efforts including eliminating DDT a deadly pesticide, as well as establishing conservation initiatives across the country, the bald eagle is now off the endangered species list and thriving. The two key factors that led to this recovery were eliminating harm and facilitating a healthy environment.
Today I see bald eagles soar in my own neighborhood, nesting in the trees in my nearby state park, and I even had one dive and sweep just above my head while I was stand-up paddleboarding on a local lake! The sense of freedom they exude as they glide above us in the sky is palpable. The resilience they have demonstrated also makes them worthy of being America’s iconic symbol.
Each of us can help the other species that are threatened today. There are over 2000 species of wildlife on the Endangered list today. Actions as simple as eliminating spraying toxic chemicals on our properties while simultaneously planting nourishing plants are one example of something many of us in the United States can do.
This summer, for example, my husband and I noticed an unfamiliar bee repeatedly feeding on the canna flowers we planted in a container on our patio. The large bee, with distinct yellow stripes along its back, became a frequent visitor. I took a picture with my smartphone then used the identifying button on the phone and found out it was an American Bumblebee. Investigating further, I learned this was once the most common bumblebee in America. However, its population has decreased by 89% across the United States in the past two decades.
Becoming familiar with our wildlife neighbors, and taking action to help them survive and thrive, may help us revive the precious remaining animals and insects for future generations.
To learn more about what actions you can take, consider visiting your local wildlife organizations, national organizations, and global organizations. Simply google wildlife conservation, endangered wildlife species, and conservation groups to find information and see which efforts resonate most with you.
Book Review: Nature Connection: Fixing our Broken Relationship with Nature.
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Imagine being on the Titanic tourist submarine right now. The world watching with bated breath hoping and praying that the people trapped way below the ocean's surface with limited air are found and rescued. It’s yet again, another real-time, real-life drama playing out before our very eyes. Just as the images of orange-tinged smoke engulfed New York City and other areas in the United States due to wildfires miles away in Canada this month. All reminders of how important the ability to breathe is to our survival.
As it turns out, trying to live without a reverent relationship with our natural world, is like trying to survive without breathing. Dr. Mile’s Richardson newly published book, Nature Connection: Fixing our Broken Relationship with Nature is a much-need dose of oxygen to aid not only the health and well-being of humans but the health of our planet.
Richardson skillfully weaves several recent studies into a relentless manifesto declaring that having a relationship, not just visiting or recreating, with our natural world is essential to humans' well-being and the more biodiverse the setting, the more it supports our mental health. This comes at a time when biodiversity is plunging. What Richardson does not include in his book is the big elephant in the room: the human population has been growing rapidly over the past several years. The author does include how the shift in our thinking and relationship with the natural world has been a catalyst for our destruction of plants, soil, wildlife, water, and more.
So how do we begin to restore our home, planet Earth? Richardson outlines a formula, based on recent studies, that needs to be integrated into policy, practice, and education immediately to turn this modern-day Titanic situation around.
Although most of this book references situations in the United Kingdom, I found it very pertinent to what is going on in the United States also. Richardson’s book joins the likes of other nature relationship-promoting books such as Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols and Sacred Nature by Karen Armstrong. Each of these authors calls on us to establish and cultivate a loving relationship with our natural world. This is a bold step in the world of science which traditionally dictates keeping emotion out of the narrative. Yet emotion is the biggest motivator for behavior.
Nature Connection: Fixing our Broken Relationship with Nature is an essential read for leaders, policymakers, educators, healthcare professionals, and anyone else looking for the path to a planet where we can live well and in harmony with our natural world.
Ready to learn more about how you can deepen your relationship to our natural world and live a more sustainable, vibrant life? Subscribe now to The Nature Nurse™, PLLC seasonal, free e-newsletter on the homepage of this website now.
Preface: If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, "I don't know how you can be a nurse. I could never do that," I could have retired YEARS ago. Nursing tests your mind, body and spirit. Finding ways to sustain ourselves personally, and professionally, is imperative. I am delighted to see more nurses developing a relationship with Mother Nature and sharing this important connection with others. Please welcome guest blogger, Ashley, and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below. Thank you, Sue Allison-Dean
Nature and Nursing. These two may seem to have much in common, but getting out in nature helped me become a better nurse. Maybe it could help you become better at what you do too.
I started getting outdoors as a stress reliever during the pandemic and was quickly hooked! The more time I spent in nature, the more I realized how it helped me to be a more confident, calm nurse. Here are the ways that time outdoors can improve your life:
If you feel like the heavy weight of nursing or anything that you are devoting your time to, is starting to become overwhelming, consider spending more time outside. You may be surprised by how much better it can make you feel.
About Ashley: Ashley is a registered nurse with 6 years of experience in bedside and outpatient nursing. During the pandemic, she started to spend more time outdoors and realized how beneficial it was to her physical and mental health during an incredibly stressful time. This has inspired her to motivate others in the healthcare field to spend more time outdoors to prevent burnout. She hosts Minnesota trash cleanups and group hikes to help other healthcare workers connect. In September she is hosting a group camping trip to teach others how to hike & camp in a safe and welcoming environment! Connect with Ashley on Instagram @theroamingrn
Listen to the wind it talks, listen to the silence it speaks, listen to your heart it knows.
-Native American Proverb
Annie sat amongst a group of women on a gently rolling one-hundred-acre farm as I handed each of them a fresh-cut herb.
“The deep-crust white pizza from The Cardinal Inn!” Annie blurts out with joy. She holds the swig of rosemary near her nose and inhales another generous breath. “The smell of this rosemary instantly took me back to the town I grew up in, the white pizza smothered with mozzarella, garlic, and a hint of rosemary. We used to enjoy it after football games. This scent revived all the good memories in an instant!”
A newly retired physician from a large medical center in Boston sat in a circle of women, reflecting on the Nature Attunement Experience™ I guided them through at a local garden center.
The doctor gently said, “We’re killing ourselves.”
Her revelation led to an in-depth conversation on how we as humans are harming ourselves by not properly taking care of our planet. Further discussion led to ways we might begin to change this. Higher levels of sustainable, conservation behaviors are consistently found in the literature when people are more connected with nature.
Inviting and being open to what nature wants to share with us is not new. Collective communication and having a reciprocal relationship have deep roots in Indigenous cultures. Our modern society, however, has become so far removed from this ancient, well-recognized practice that it often takes guidance to re-awaken this relationship with nature.
Connecting with the natural environment holds immense, limitless benefits to our holistic health. So much so, that healthcare professionals, mainly physicians, around the globe are now “prescribing” nature to their patients. What this “prescription” entails varies and research on the practices and outcomes is early. In addition, historically medical prescribing has poor adherence results, often at just 50%. ( 1 , 2)
Acknowledging the vast benefits to our minds, bodies, and spirits, that connecting with our natural world offers, I question is “prescribing” nature the best way to encourage people to get outdoors, take a hike, grow a garden, or just put a small plant on our kitchen window? Personally, I say no. Please bear with me as I explain.
Pre-Judeo-Christian times, the humans who lived on our planet did so in harmony, with reverence to the natural world. Indigenous People are so deeply connected with our natural world that they have a kinship with wild animals, some have come from running rivers. In this worldview, relationship is everything and Mother Nature is a treasured and respected relative. The Indigenous People who have survived the horrors of colonialism still carry this sacred, sovereign way of being. Why are we not listening to the Indigenous knowledge that instructs us to the new ways of living harmoniously on this planet we all share? How has it come to be that a ”prescription” has come to stand in for this invitation to a relationship?
We also know that communities called Blue Zones have populations of people who live the longest, consistently reaching age 100, and the healthiest lives on earth. Their simple ways of living, are well documented. One of the key lifestyle practices people living in Blue Zones do is walking and engaging with nature. Why are we not exploring integrating these into our modern lifestyle?
Intentionally connecting with our natural world through our six senses has shown to be beneficial to humans in many ways. Just a few to mention include feeling calmer, enhanced sleep improved ability to focus and be creative, and improved immunity. What makes this practice even better, is people who are connected to our natural world also exhibit stronger conservation/sustainable behaviors, hence a more respectful way of living with Mother Nature.
Rather than simply “prescribing” nature, healthcare professionals can encourage and establish healthy nature relationships. To practice this relationship they can role-model nature connection, advocate for more nature to connect to, advocate for sustainability as the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments is doing, conservation, ensuring access for all to our natural world, and developing “Nature Connectors” instead of (nature pharmacists!) to work in natural settings for those who need guidance, coaching, and assistance.
Connecting with nature is as essential as eating a healthy diet, moving regularly, sleeping soundly, and managing stress. In fact, I believe our natural world is the hub that connects all of these key healthy lifestyle practices.
Turning what needs to be just simple essential nature relationship practices into a clinical, “prescribed” way of life is not in our best interests. As a nurse who has practiced in various settings over the past thirty years, including home care where you intimately witness how people actually live and adhere to prescriptions, I can tell you people may say, “Okay”, in the hospital or practitioner’s office when given prescriptions but they most often do what they to (or have the ability, finances or support) to do when they leave.
Connecting with our natural world needs to become a cultural norm and this is going to take creativity, collaboration, and resources to make this happen. It also needs to be inclusive, especially of Indigenous knowledge and practices.
Please share your thoughts on nature "prescriptions" in the comments section below. I would love to hear your opinion.
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