What awaits us in the post-pandemic world? Will we get carried away by the growing atmosphere of the celebration and parties, or on the contrary – will we face problems that will be more and more difficult to solve? In uncertain times, people look for different solutions to cope with bad news and mental exhaustion. One of the mind-blowing pandemic trends that may stick with us and help people with their frayed nerves is human rewilding.
None of us know how the pandemic will turn out. Can we take it under control, or will we have only a temporary break? How many more times will we open and close borders, institutions, our doors? When can we say that the moment of transition is over and normality is back? Mourning, Zoom fatigue, isolation, loss of social contacts, job loss, permanent stress, fear of returning to normal life, depression. All of this can go off to us like a delayed bomb. In moments of uncertainty and instability, we often turn to two things: remembering the good old days or escapism. Escapism can take many forms, but we will focus on the impact of nature on our well-being.
Our “new” relationship with nature has been discussed since the pandemic started. Last year’s “testament” by David Attenborough in the form of the film and the book “A Life on Our Planet” certainly helped. In his movie, Attenborough created a witness statement and a vision of the future that is not at all colorful. He states that the true tragedy of our life is the loss of our planet’s wild places. However, the way we humans live on Earth now is sending biodiversity into decline. Everything is happening due to bad planning and human error, and it will lead to what we saw as the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. We create places in which people can’t live. The natural world is fading, and the evidence is all around. If we act now, we can still change it. “So, what do we do?… We must rewild the world.” Attenborough advises.
In the field of nature conservancy, rewilding is an approach that assumes leaving as many wild spaces as possible without human intervention, which could help restore our planet’s biodiversity. Rewilding can help create a healthier, more resilient natural world. More or less extreme, there are different approaches to the term, but rewilding is more about nature and less about control. The natural state of being refers also to humans. How does human rewilding manifest itself? Certainly in redefining our relationship with nature. Rewilding doesn’t mean that we have to go back to living in caves as hunter-gatherers but finding ways of living in harmony with human biology. How modern life became disconnected from nature? We eat processed food, spend more than 8 hours in front of computer or phone screens, and the closest we are to the wilderness is when we watch survival reality shows on TV.
Study after study confirm the psychological and physical benefits of connecting with nature. Contact with nature heals and strengthens immunity, reduces stress, anxiety, and blood pressure, promotes calm, lifts mood, and reduces the feeling of isolation. Even in small doses, nature is a powerful elixir. Only 120 minutes a week is enough to improve our well-being. Imagine going to the doctor, and instead of a prescription for some medicine, you receive a prescription for a 30-minute walk with Mother Nature. Nature has already officially been accepted as a promising approach to complementary medicine in the US. Prescribing time in parks and green spaces instead of medication is used to treat a range of conditions mentioned above. In Japan, the term “forest bathing” and awareness of its beneficial effects has been around for a long time – the practice of Shinrin-yoku started in the 80s. When young, Swedes are taught the most essential and unwritten norm of everyday life: equal access to the natural environment. Allemansrätten – The Right of Public Access guarantees every human being free access to nature. You can pitch a tent wherever you want, except private residences. You can eat the fruits of the forest, bathe in lakes and rivers, walk in the mountains, canoe or pick mushrooms. Nobody can forbid it. But rights are also duties. “Don’t disturb – Don’t destroy” –anyone who spends time outdoors must respect flora and fauna and respect the privacy of landowners. What if you don’t live in the USA, Japan, or Sweden? There are plenty of possibilities for you too. You just have to learn how to be a part of nature. Watch sunrises and sunsets, make compost, plant some greens, eat seasonally, volunteer outside, go birding. Make a diary and prepare a list of what makes you feel alive, or plan your weekly nature projects.
It can be debatable to follow the exact blueprint for healthy living that our hunter-gatherer ancestors laid but nature, movement, and human contact are things we instinctively know are good for us. When we are in the forest, we look at the birds and trees, marvel, feel the stress leaving us, breathe deeply, and regret that we cannot allow ourselves to be in sync with nature more often. Of course, we can, but every day, we make many anti-natural choices. We are always in a hurry without even knowing why. After all, even big cities have urban green spaces. There are parks, squares, and community gardens. Human rewilding doesn’t require some crazy revolution but changes in our daily routine. Two hours a week with nature, remember? Walk more often, go shopping on foot, play games with your friends, smile at your neighbors, limit your time on social media. The small steps matter; try to get as close to nature as possible, and you will calm your mind.
Rewilding Europe: What is rewilding?
Netflix: David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet
Yale Environment 360: Ecopsychology: How Immersion in Nature Benefits Your Health
Nature Connection Guide: US Doctors are Prescribing Nature in 34 States
National Geographic: Forest bathing: what it is and where to do it
Visit Sweden: About the right to access Swedish nature