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Expert GuidanceConnecting with Nature

Connecting with Nature

From The Wake Up: Discover how the emotional connection we feel with nature can be harnessed to help protect the lands we love.

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It's pretty common to hear that being around nature helps lift your spirits, but did you know that just visiting your local park or forest helps nature out too? (calm music) I'm Dr. Nicole Ardoin. I'm the Director of the Social Ecology Lab at Stanford University, where we study people's relationships to the environment. Today, we'll be talking about the emotional connection we feel with nature and how those feelings can be harnessed to help protect the lands we love. For most of human history, there hadn't been a divide between civilization and nature, but in Western societies,, we grew to think about the natural world as being separate from ourselves as if we're just observers. This was only compounded by the fact that when you mentioned the environment to a lot of people, their minds go to the all too-familiar stories about the negative state of the planet. That's easy for anyone to feel helpless. Like nature is just something they don't want to think about. The truth is we're just as much a part of nature as everything else is. And the good news is that if human behavior got us into these difficult situations, human behavior can get us out of it too. Our lab set out to research the connections between visiting nature-rich places and caring about nature-rich places, and then taking action to protect them. We did this recently with a project called Tree Mail, in which we partnered with park rangers at Muir Woods National Monument to collect and analyze messages from people to trees. Muir Woods is a phenomenal redwood forest right outside of San Francisco, where many of the trees reach heights of over 250 feet, averaging in age from 600 to 800 years old. Listen to some of the messages that people wrote to these trees. Dear tree, you are so beautiful and graceful. Thank you for your greatness. Dear tree, after being here today, I really want to do everything I can to help you. Dear tree, I never want to forget... Dear tree, I'm so grateful for you being here, standing tall and proud. Dear tree, I cam here feeling sad, now I feel hopeful. Thank you for your strength and wisdom. We analyze more than 1000 of these letters and overwhelmingly, we found that visits to these redwood forests evoked a sense of awe and gratitude, and two main themes emerged. The first was relational, meaning that people empathize with the trees to gain a new perspective, not only on redwoods, but on life overall. For example, one response said, "Thank you for reminding us just how small we are. Thank you for inspiring me with your strength." The other theme was transactional. So, the idea that if you feel some sense of gratitude toward the tree for providing what we refer to as an ecosystem service, like clean water or healthy soil, then you would take a certain action to also help the tree. For example, one visitor said,...


TypeExpert Guidance
Duration5 min

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