#10 Love Nature
Rain drops on a Matai
King George V Reserve, Ōpāwaho - Heathcote River, Ōtautahi - Christchurch
We are Nature
We are always in nature. Nature is in us. So, it is a relationship that just is. But we do have a choice over what kind of relationship. Is it loving or abusive?
Having asked that critical question it is important to acknowledge that many abusers claim to have a loving relationship, but their behaviour suggests otherwise.
Love is a verb, it is what we do. It’s how we actively and consciously care for the air we breathe, rather than just taking it for granted. It’s the way we protect the health of a river, not just how we feel about it on a sunny day. Love isn’t constantly being on the take, it involves giving back. It isn’t just enjoying the beauty and bounty of the ocean from our boat on our summer holiday, it is becoming a kaitiaki of those waters.
When we contemplate the importance of loving nature as a climate action, we are talking about a non-negotiable commitment to the well-being of nature.
The climate crisis is a symptom of an abusive relationship between the dominant species and the planet. Or rather the colonising, malignant strand of that species. The strand that extracts resources and externalises waste. The strand that either sees nature as a mine, a pleasure trip or a waste disposal unit. Nature in this world-view has become a thing for our advantage or pleasure, and has ceased to be a “communion of subjects”, as Thomas Berry, so beautifully put it.
To love nature is to live regeneratively. It is to practice reciprocity. On our kitchen wall is a beautiful, framed drawing by the indigenous Canadian artist Richard Shorty. It is titled the “Cycle of Life”. I sometimes, alternatively, call it the “the Circle of Life”. It celebrates the connectedness between a mountain river flowing through forest, a bear, eagle and leaping salmon.
Whenever I look at the drawing, I notice that it is devoid of people. With this awareness emerges the question, so where would I put myself in this living, vibrant place? Where would I fit into this community of life? Do I see trees to mill? A river to dam? A fishery to exploit? Or do I see something else? Do I see the importance of taking my place with wisdom, grace and generosity?
Loving nature involves committing myself to the cycle of life, the circle of life in my place. It means growing regenerative community where you live. This must mean growing human community within the greater community of life that you share that place with. Community is all about fostering mutual flourishing. You cannot love your place by flourishing at the expense of other life. We flourish together. If we look after the whenua and the waterways they will look after us.
Yes, a loving relationship is an enjoyable one. You can foster this love through intimacy. Walking barefoot on the sand. Going full immersion in the ocean. Getting your hands in the soil. Breathing mountain air. Tasting the first new potatoes. Smelling the bush after rain. Watching Tauhou/Silvereyes feed their young. Listening to the chanting of a Tui before dawn, or a bubbling stream. But what gratitude do you express? How do you respond?
1. Walk more in nature, in Canterbury we have an abundance of places. When you’re there take time to be fully present (not thinking about your to do list).
2. Sit more in nature; sit and really take notice. Of the wind, the smells, what is alive around you.
3. Talk more to nature; talk to your favourite tree or waterway as you would an elder you haven’t seen for a while.
4. Read about nature that immerses you in this kinship and reciprocal relationship that many generations have lost. Check out our reading list in Tip #9 Get Informed
5. Reflect about ourselves as nature, the way we used to live closer to and in line with nature. What can you bring back into the way we live now.
6. Take some writing tools into nature, write a haiku, poem or journal. Take photos of interesting parts of nature, look closely at things you would normally walk past. Make a mandela with dead leaves, sticks, stones but being mindful not to disrupt anything living.
7. Learn from our indigenous whanau and different cultural practices. Heard of forest bathing popular in Japan? Check out our Tip #8 Mātauranga Māori.
8. Pick something that you care about in nature that is being destroyed and become an advocate for change. Our Tip #7 Get Involved has some ideas about how to get political and influence for positive change.
9. There is a lot of research out now that proves being in nature improves our mental health and wellbeing. So get out more wherever you can, even if it’s your garden or local park.
10. Spend time with your kids teaching them to love nature too. We have a downloadable sheet for little & big kids – The Great Wee Springtime Nature Treasure Hunt can be done anytime and anywhere in a piece of nature. See our project Regenerative Communities.
11. Adopt a natural place that you are drawn to near where you live e.g. a river, wetland, urban forest or beach. Get to know it. Study it. Understand its uniqueness. Learn what is not right and what is needed for it to flourish. Become a champion for it. Be on its side. Help it to be what it can fully be.
ON A RAINY ADVENT DAY
by Mark Gibson
And so it rains
all day it rains
we’ve messed things up
asked far too much
Taken what we
ought not to have
taken more than our share
giving a thought
to the circle of life
to how everything
Every raindrop landing
an exclamation mark!
It’s been raining