The Need to Restore the Human-Nature Bond

A garden of earthly delights, or a hellish relation?

If we consider the capitalist, industrial society, what are the symptoms of the detached and utilitarian relation between man and nature?  Italian psychologist Marcella Danon begins her book with this question. She argues that those symptoms are the lack of respect; the lack of recognition of the value of natural resources and of their right of existence outside the logic of economic exploitation; and the removal in the urban setting of all the elements (i.e. plants, insects) coming from the natural world. Western culture has become detached from the ecological substrate upon it is based and dependent on for its very existence. Humans have experienced a progressive detachment from nature, that mutated into a relation of dominion upon nature. This came with a strong spiritual impoverishment, as humans lost the contact with their origin. The ecosystem is in crisis, subjugated to a wild exploitation and depletion of its resources, the climate is now changing faster, generating dangerous consequences. Danon calls for an awakening, we must do something, we must act because it’s about us, and realise that we are integral parts of the world we live in.

Aside from the official interpretations of Bosch’s complex masterpiece, I like to see it as a metaphor of the relation of humans with the natural world. I see man joyous in nature, playing in the garden of earthly delights; on the other end, the pleasure and the beauty of the natural world is absent, nature revolts on man, and humans succumb to animals that torment and punish them. 

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The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch.

Broadening our sense of identification towards a larger concept of self

Ecopsychology cures the alienation between humans and the environment, awakening the feeling of connection, responsibility, and ethics towards the earth. Personal growth is at the core of an individual transformation able to determine a commitment to take care of the earth, in the same way as we take care of ourselves. Personal growth means bringing the attention outside of our individual self, to get out of the restricted sphere of our lives, by broadening our perception of the outer reality, of its richness and complexity. 

Enlarging the field of individual perception allows a person to recover a sense of connection with a higher collective and global dimension, thereby becoming a conscious, more responsible citizen. All human beings are endowed with the capacity to be in relation with a more ample sense of reality, which transcends the ego and extends the sense of identification beyond the self. Finally, by developing empathy for the environment, it becomes possible to understand that by damaging the earth’s ecosystem, we directly cause damage to ourselves. In practice, there is nothing new to be done: we just need to recover a forgotten awareness about the equilibrium of the earth, by realising the connection between our every-day world and the world of the earth’s ecosystem that we live in. The same awareness that our ancestors had centuries ago, think about the rock paintings that witness man’s relation of love with nature.  

A blunt robbery

One may argue that climate change has nothing – inherently – wrong. Climate has been changing since millennials, and violent disruptions occurred, think about the glaciation. Climate crises paved the way for the development of new species, which evolved and adapted to the new environmental circumstances. What is different today, is that climate change is primarily man-made, as our species has been introducing gigantic amounts of toxic substances into the environment, generating severe imbalances. Take for instance the acidification of the sea, or the pollution of aquifers. The substances we release in the earth and in the waters also contaminate the food we use to feed ourselves. Hence, nothing is wrong a priori with the natural changes in the environment, what is wrong is the blunt robbery from ours sons and daughters of the future generations that we are rapidly perpetuating.

A special thanks to Marcella Danon, as this post was inspired by the pages of her book
Ecopsychology: Personal growth and environmental awareness” (2006)
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