There is a curve of estuary off the west coast of Florida where I sometimes go to be with nature. There I find snowy egrets and herons, a tangle of mangroves and sea grapes, lightning whelks and minnows.
This is the landscape I call home. It nourishes my spirit and sustains me, offering a sense of peace as well as inspiration. It helps me remember who I am and my humble place in the world.
Historically, the idea that identity takes root in one’s natural landscape can be seen in native peoples and indigenous populations from around the globe, from Florida’s forgotten Calusa Natives to the Māori of New Zealand and the Australian Aboriginals. The language and traditions of indigenous people are central to the identity of the region as well as the individual.
This sense of place invokes more than just physical space, it also embodies the values and ideals of persons and communities, the spiritual as well as the topographical. The inclination is often to see environmental issues only in the context of land, water, and wildlife, forgetting the interwoven human histories.
What makes this problematic is humanity’s increased disenfranchisement from the environment. Forgetting that we’re all interconnected, we create divisiveness by situating fundamental needs for survival (food, water, energy, etc.) outside of our immediate landscape.
In other words, we’ve developed unhealthy and self-defeating dependencies that take us away from our cultural and spiritual heritages.
In the last several decades, economics and technology have shielded us from accountability for our own needs and placed them elsewhere, i.e. in the direction of corporations, lapsed public policy, and foreign dependency. Such injurious practices lead one to beg the question: Is it possible to stitch our relationship with the environment into the fabric of place and polity and mend our connection to the earth?
If the answer is yes, then one’s sense of place can be understood as the thread by which environmental restoration and spiritual wellness become part of the same project. If we truly understand what we want from the land, we might treat it with more kindness.
There is a nobility to the beauty and expansiveness of nature. A sacredness that feeds the spirit. That is why it’s imperative to recognize the ecological significance of forging new relationships with the land that strive to honor and revere its life-giving sustenance.
In the recognition that to be human we must respect and protect the natural forces that sustain us, it’s crucial to understand humanity’s relationship to land in a way that cuts to the core of being. The strength of this understanding lies in its mindfulness that our natural landscapes are as much a human heritage as an environmental one.
To be able to appreciate the well-being of the environment is to profit from its abundance — body, mind, and soul.
This post was created by an amazing GREEN ZINE volunteer contributor, and opinions expressed may not represent the views of Greenpeace. If you are interested in volunteering as a GREEN ZINE contributor, visit this link.