Human and nature
Between human habitats and nature
Biodiversity conservation researcher Victor Cazalis: “Experiencing nature is a determining factor in the way we think about nature and environmental issues”
A recent Franco-German study shows that human beings are moving more and more away from nature, both physically by distancing themselves from a natural space and culturally. Victor Cazalis is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Leipzig and took part in this study, which we have already mentioned on GoodPlanet Mag’. This specialist in biodiversity conservation explains the ins and outs of the study.
What is the reason for this increasing distance between the places where humans live and nature?
Is this due to urbanization?
The phenomenon of distancing between humans and nature can be explained by 3 concomitant movements: urbanization, environmental degradation and changes in lifestyles. The increase in the urban population results in a distancing from nature since we live in more urban and artificial environments. The proportion of the world’s population living in cities has risen from 34% in the 1960s to 56% today. At the same time, urbanisation contributes to the degradation and retreat of peri-urban natural areas. And then, culturally and spiritually, we are moving further and further away from nature in our daily activity, in our leisure time and in our way of life.
What does this imply for the relationship between human beings and nature?
Many studies in environmental psychology show the link between the experiences of nature that we will live the connection to nature and, behind, the attitudes and behaviors that we will adopt. Experiencing nature is a determining factor in the way we conceive of nature and the environmental problems associated with it. This awareness proves to be essential in the adoption of behaviors in favor of the environment. It is therefore likely that moving away from nature, experiencing less nature, creates a difficulty to be concerned aboutenvironmental issues and ecological crises. Moreover, it has been shown that childhood experiences of nature are crucial in the construction of a relationship with nature.
Is it not also possible to see in this phenomenon of distancing an opportunity to better protect part of the ecosystems?
This is indeed a paradox of our research field. We can say that increasing nature experiences can contribute to degrading the environment. We say that there are different ways to have nature experiences without it being at the expense of nature. Besides wilderness areas with no human activities and national parks with very limited activities such as hiking, there can be spaces where everyone can come in contact with nature such as more accessible peri-urban natural spaces.
How can we recreate the link between humans and nature?
Between human habitats and nature;
We suggest increasing the nature experiences. The range of possibilities is wide. The first step is to promote accessibility to nature by developing, for example, peri-urban natural spaces with educational content. Or to develop nature activities in a tourist context. Finally, we can reinforce the presence of nature in cultural works and products such as documentaries, books and films. Studies show that the representation of nature in cultural production is decreasing.
” Otherness in relation to the human is the important element of the moment of nature experience.”
Concretely, what does it mean to create new experiences of nature?
This can range from taking a walk in a nearby grove and seeing a bird to hiking and camping in a national park to doing eco-volunteering. The gradient of a nature experience depends on one’s experience. Otherness in relation to humans is the important element of the nature experience moment.
And what does this mean in terms of public policy?
In my opinion, the major challenge is to allow urban populations to access quality semi-natural areas such as woods or meadows. But, by minimizing human traces such as equipment or concrete. This dimension was recognized in the agreement signed at the end of COP15.
Lastly, a more personal question, what is your best experience in nature?
Good question, what comes to mind is the time I was able to snorkel with a cormorant fishing and eating for several minutes. This was an eye-opener to a behavior I had never seen before. This experience deeply modified my perception of marine life, which I now see as something much more alive.1
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