The following post is part of the course work for “Live Exchange” the foundational course on communication for The MBA Design Strategy Program at California College of the Arts. The rest of the posts are presented here.
By: Sarah Nuernberger
“The Cartesian dichotomy or paradigm has reinforced other ancient western cultural expressions of nature domination by placing humans above nature, as if we were not interconnected nor interdependent.”-natureinthecity.org
How exactly critical is nature for us these days? With the advancement of technology, do we really still need nature? It’s pretty fair to say that most people appreciate nature but do they value it? My ear was caught off guard by an interesting piece I heard on NPR. Richard Louv a well-known writer in some circles has introduced the term “Nature Deficit Disorder.” It’s not a medical diagnosis but rather a state of affairs for most of mankind. As city-dwellers, the comings and goings of day to day activity often leave us multi-taskers drained and emotionally malnourished. In fact, city residents are more likely to have stress and anxiety disorders, with over half the population in the world living in urban environments, its apparent this is something that needs to be addressed. Richard Louv proposes in his book “The Nature Principle” that the more we rely on technology, the more we can benefit from nature in our lives.
He says “By tapping into the restorative powers of nature, we can boost mental acuity and creativity; promote health and wellness; build smarter and more sustainable businesses, communities, and economies; and ultimately strengthen human bonds.”
Like all skeptics, I decided to test this theory. In the middle of impending deadlines I retreated to nature instead of buckling down in my home office. I can wholeheartedly say that sitting next to a campfire in the redwoods decreased my stress and ignited my curiosity. Upon leaving the next morning, it was saddening to say goodbye to the large trunks that stood over me, I wanted to spend another day underneath their foliage.
It seems in cities that we are more used to destruction of nature rather then growth by nature. These ideas necessitate the inclusion of a more natural environment for our mental health and over-all well-being. What if we stopped working against nature and started working with it?
Green building practices might currently be seen as a fad but the greening of cities reduces energy costs, air pollution, and rainwater runoff, as well as providing a psychological respite. Louv also sites cause for the re-introduction of native plants in city environments. He conceptualizes the idea of a city being one giant national park that brings back the lost migration patterns of birds and butterflies. Imagine that, gardens across the city working together in harmony to clean our air and our spirits, restoring nature as it once was.
In recent years I have become an urban gardener with little to no outside space or experience. I currently have a small balcony that is over-run by plants. The blaringly obvious fact that has come to my attention, is that all my succulents are thriving. Why, because they are native to this region and can endure the ups and downs of San Francisco weather. I encourage all my readers to test this hypothesis, buy some native plants and see how they fare against the elements. If they survive with little care, its time to embrace and learn from your environment. Expand your plant palette by observing what grows naturally in your area. Just the very act of becoming observant about the nature in your surroundings may reduce your anxiety and stress levels.
About the author: Sarah Nuernberger resides in San Francisco. She is currently apart of the MBA in Design Strategy program at CCA.