Needing nature

It sometimes disturbs me that some people I know are so far removed from nature. It is not ‘natural’. I was once standing in someone’s house and suddenly realized that it had no plants, no animals and only a view that was largely man-made. It even smelled of cleaners. There was no contact with other life. And I thought, “How do these people keep their sanity in this environment – we would criticize the keeping of a zoo animal in a place so artificial and devoid of natural surroundings.” People need at least to garden, have pets and take holidays in wild places to have a reasonable perspective on existence.



What happens when I spend time among trees or by an ocean is that I think differently. Worrying and planning about things tends to recede. My thoughts become less semantic and more sensual-motor-emotional – I may be several moments at a time without any ‘words’ in my consciousness. A profound sense of relaxation and of being at ease with the world, at home in a sense, is the result of these environments. Note also how good dog visits are for people in senior homes and hospitals.



It is important if we are to live successfully in this world without destroying it or ourselves (or both), that we avoid this divorce from things biological. We have created cultures that more and more separate us from the environment that we evolved to live in. We do not have to destroy any culture but we do need to introduce more of the biological (the other living things) into it. We should stop looking for what separates us from other animals and look for what connects us to them, build bridges rather than fences.



We are animals! That should be one of the fundamentals of our sense of identity. Some scientists and philosophers are working on this, such as these.


J. Bussolini. Recent French, Belgian and Italian work in the cognitive science of animals: Dominique Lestel, Vinciane Despret, Roberto Marchesini and Giorgio Celli. Social Science Information, 2013; 52 (2): 187 DOI: 10.1177/0539018413477938


Abstract: This paper is a review of the work of four scholars who have made substantial new developments in our understanding of animal mind and animal–human interactions. Dominique Lestel indicates that culture is rooted in the animal realm and draws upon ethology and ethnography to study animal worlds. Vinciane Despret pays heed to complex animal–human sociality and combines critical psychology and ethology to take account of animal mind. Roberto Marchesini argues that animal influence on humans is widespread and is foundational to culture; he uses anthropology and ethology to expand the field of animal–human interactions. Giorgio Celli holds that ethology permeates the spaces of everyday life and that animals such as cats demonstrate complex problem-solving and social behavior.


Shared Life: An Introduction by Dominique Lestel and Hollis Tayor Social Science Information 52(2) 183-186 doi:10.1177/0539018413477335


We Westerners have become so accustomed to the image of a triumphant forward march (whose history recounts how man became so autonomous that he reached freedom) that we have neglected the possibility that such a history could be in the end frankly pathological (given how we have bent over backwards to become autistic). … A key question now is to know how the human of the 21st century can reactivate his animality and animalize himself anew when all Western thought since the Greeks tells him that he is human precisely because of this rupture with animality.”


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