Human beings evolved in an intimate partnership with the natural world. For many millennia, within a plethora of different natural and cultural ecologies, communities of people were deeply aware of the local seasonal cycles and their relationship to resources on the landscape—such awareness was necessary for life.
Today, in many parts of the world, such awareness and intimacy are no longer utilized for day-to-day survival. Food that has been prepared, packaged and shipped from an often-unknown location is available for purchase at the supermarket. Medicine that has been manufactured by giant pharmaceutical companies lines the shelves of the local drug store or market. Clothes that have been made far away, often by people suffering under deplorable, inhumane working conditions, are available at big box stores for relatively low cost. One of the many impacts of this globalizing economy has been an increasing separation between people and the sources of what support us to stay fed, clothed, healthy and sheltered.
Nature Awareness with Weaving Earth
The modern experience might lead one to believe that we no longer need to be intimately aware of our surrounding ecosystems or our interactions with them. However, that case couldn’t be further from the truth. The track we have been set upon through an extractive economy is barreling towards a dead-end. Many voices in the fields of nature awareness and nature connection are illuminating that our perceived disconnection from the planet is likely the point of origin for what many scientists are now calling a suicidal trajectory for humanity. For decades, Jon Young has been working with the tools of nature awareness to help awaken people’s innate capacity for connection and direct, respectful, responsible interrelationship with their surroundings. Jon is the co-founder of the Wilderness Awareness School, and is a long-time mentor and special guest instructor with Weaving Earth. This ancient, yet renewing orientation is a potential antidote to the catastrophes born out of a worldview of separation.
The out-of-sight, out-of-mind economy of the modern world often enables manufacturers to produce their products in harmful ways. Some who can afford it choose to pay more money for fair trade products, organic food and items that have been manufactured under humane, ecologically sound working conditions. But doing so is a privilege that not all people have—class differences, entrenched poverty and the differential access to resources that accompany these conditions ensure that many are locked into spending their money in an economic system that is destroying the earth and exploiting people in the process. All of this is sourced in a worldview that is based in a false sense of separation, enabling us to act with little consciousness towards ourselves, one another and our more-than-human relations. The tools of nature awareness may appear small and simple in the face of such complex and monumental problems, however, they also provide one of the few effective and subtle strategies for undermining the enculturated idea of disconnection.
Our success as a species over millions of years rests directly upon our incredible capacity to be aware of our surroundings, to understand our place within them, and to act in ways that are in alignment with an intelligence drawn from the whole system. Our large brains, opposable thumbs, use of tools – even our capacity for pattern recognition and language – all emerged out of coevolution and interrelationship with the rest of life on this planet. The tools and practices of nature awareness are a boon amidst the disconnection of the modern era. Not only do they reawaken our sense of interrelationship – and the sanity born from it – they also provide a direct gateway to millennia-old capacities that have often become atrophied in within modern life. Increases in awareness and connection to the natural world also correlate to increases in empathy, compassion, cognition, emotional intelligence, stress-reduction and a vast array of physical health benefits.
Though cultivating nature awareness won’t topple our disconnected, exploitative global economy overnight, it is a pathway to personal empowerment and the steady dissolution of the illusion that human beings and nature are separate. Medicine is often growing near where we live, whether that’s the country or the city center. An array of other useful plants, many of them edible and deeply nutritious, are typically nearby as well, however we must be aware enough to notice them. Birds can tell us about larger animals moving in the landscape, clouds can tell us about weather patterns to come, and the experience of awakened senses alone can be a sheer joy in and of itself. As we build bridges with this life around us (and within us as well), magical things may begin to happen.