There are many reasons why humans love nature. For each one of us it will be different. We all commune with nature in our own way.
We know this fact in two ways. We experience a change in ourselves as we go out into nature. And modern science is beginning to explain why this happens.
It could be that the time pressure of getting things done disappears when we are trundling along a footpath or walking a mountain trail. For some of us the flowers and animals we see in the wild shift our everyday stresses into the far recesses of our minds. The rhythm of our footsteps is like a meditation, freeing the creative parts of our brains. Ideas bubble to the surface, without effort. We are disconnected from our daily responsibilities and chores. When we’re in nature, we don’t have to look in mirrors. Instead, we’re either focused on the sights around us, or on what we are doing. No-one is judging us, or criticising or bullying us.
Acknowledging our love for the living world does something that a library full of papers on sustainable development and ecosystem services cannot: it engages the imagination as well as the intellect – George Monbiot.
We see a natural system in balance, unlike our own world of conflict and competitiveness, causing uncertainty and stress.
A growing body of research is documenting the positive impacts of nature on human social, psychological, and emotional life.
One hypothesis derived from evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson’s “biophilia” theory suggests that there are evolutionary reasons people seek out nature experiences. We love nature because we evolved in it. We need it for our psychological well-being because it’s in our DNA.
A whole branch of research has come into existence, bringing with it experimental evidence and new terminology. It is called “eco-psychology”, and it recognises “Nature deficit disorder”. This is a set of negative impacts, especially among young people living in cities. The most important consequences are depression and eating disorders.
Over 100 studies have shown that being in nature, living near nature, or even viewing nature in paintings and videos can have positive impacts on our brains, bodies, feelings, thought processes, and social interactions. In particular, viewing nature seems to help us to cultivate greater openness, creativity, connection, generosity, and resilience.
In other words, science suggests we may seek out nature not only for our physical survival, but also because it’s good for our social and personal well-being.
Whatever the reason, it is clear that being in nature makes us happy.
Living in Hermanus makes us happy. We are never far from nature. Our views of the mountains are uplifting, wherever we are. The ever-changing sea is a few minutes away. There is a path along the cliffs on our coastline. A splendid unspoilt nature reserve embraces the town on both the mountain and the coastal side – offering 60 km of nature trails that take us to different worlds, right on our doorstep.
This is why tourists love coming to Hermanus – for their mental health and sense of well-being. It is the reason why a nature reserve such as Fernkloof, which includes both the the mountain and the cliff path, should be left to nature, unspoilt by “development”.
Progress is measured by the speed at which we destroy the conditions that sustain life. ― George Monbiot
Come and express your love
Whale Coast Conservation invites you to express the way nature makes you feel in a beach art creation. Join us on Valentine’s Day, 14 February at 17:30, to write your “love letters in the sand” on Mossel River Beach. Contact Anina on firstname.lastname@example.org to book your spot.