Reconnecting to nature, an essential step forward.

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“There is no other species on the Earth that does science. It is, so far, entirely a human invention, evolved by natural selection in the cerebral cortex for one simple reason: it works. It is not perfect. It can be misused. It is only a tool. But it is by far the best tool we have” – Carl Sagan

 

A great man once said, “science is interesting, and if you don’t like it, you can **** off!” he was the first editor of New Scientist magazine, and his outburst was intended in sarcastic jest. However, there is a somewhat serious undercurrent to his proclamation, which is that to the majority of the general public, science is of little interest.

 

The average person doesn’t care much about science. It is generally considered more acceptable to be ignorant of science, than it is the football or latest celebrity nonsense. Though it is science that make’s the world turn. Science is responsible for all of humanity’s great achievements. Whether it be positive, such as the discovery of a life-saving drug, or not so positive, such as designing weapons. If it where not for science, we would still be banging rocks together in a cave somewhere. It took science to first discover fire, to invent spears, to build the first homes, to discover how to grow crops. It is thanks to science that we exist as a species.

 

Yet 99% of people would rather be a famous singer, than the person that finds the cure to cancer. People adore animals, but don’t care enough to get involved in ecology or conservation work. In the past 40 years the numbers of individual mammal, reptiles, fish and birds have halved, whilst the number of humans has increased by almost 150%. We have never in our history had such a massive impact on the planet, yet the majority of people seem to care just a little as ever.

 

Often if you ask a young child what they would like to be when the grow they will say, “an astronaut” or “a marine biologist.” A child who announced that they want to be a lawyer or a banker or an oil rig worker, would be thought of as odd. What happens which makes us change our minds, what makes us stop caring? Why would people rather work in an office, than a laboratory? The innocence of children means they don’t know their limitation’s, people are not born doubting themselves, it has to be taught. Why does this negative attitude begin? In my opinion, the wide-spread culture of testing children throughout education is partially responsible. A child who is not good at sitting a test is lead to believe that they are less intelligent. Neither my dad or either brother (or me) did particularly well in school, but we became doctors, dentists and scientists, all because we refused to believe that we couldn’t. But that’s a separate debate.

 

I believe that the key to changing attitudes about all types of science, is through understanding how much it impacts our life’s. I believe the best way to achieve this appreciation is through nature. If we are able to regain our childlike wonder of the world around us, it will help us realise our place in it.

 

Nature documentaries have never been so popular, but how many people take time to enjoy nature first hand. Walking along the beach and enjoying the birds, or through a woodland and enjoying the trees. I believe it is this sort of activity which is the key to helping people realise that we are part of nature. The planet is one big place, the only place we have, an understanding that we are just one part of an enormous system is vital in changing attitudes. People would care more about the environment if they sympathised with it, and realised that they are part of it.

 

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, 
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.”

– Lord Byron from Childe Harold, Canto iv, Verse 178

 

The diversions of the natural world are endless, so much so that I feel they give a life who enjoys them more substance, making any man woman or child much the richer for their place in it. Studies have shown the people who enjoy nature are happier people, and it is not difficult to achieve. Whether it be staring out towards an endless ocean, up at the starry night sky, examining a bird’s nest or a butterflies’ wings; nature contains colossal majesty and petite society. A person who find joy in nature will never go unfulfilled. I am not meaning to imply that a person with no interest in the natural world cannot live a fulfilling life. However, there is nothing in my opinion, that we are so innately predisposed to be so deeply and emotionally drawn towards.

 

He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of Nature
-Socrates

 

It is vital that we make an effort to catch people’s attention to the joys of nature. As lovers of the natural world, we have a sense our duty to encourage others. Not only will it make their lives better, but it has the potential to make the world a better place for it. For people to take any sort of action they need to care about the issue. If you don’t love something, how can you protect it? If we can somehow compel people care about nature, they will be less likely stand silent as it is destroyed.

 

If people realise that their purpose in life is more than to get to the next day without dying, they might start realising that they can make a difference. Whether they want to become a microbiologist to help cure disease, or become and engineer to invent new sources renewable energy. It all begins with caring, and a love for nature is the key to beginning this process.

 

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

– Walden,or; a life in the woods by Henry David Thoreau

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Ben Wright

Ben Wright

I am a consultant ecologist with a special interest in protected species and birds. I have some past experience in science writing. I formally wrote a science column for a local paper, and composed a book based on the column (Science Matters) which has just been published.

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