OVER THE PAST TWO MONTHS I’ve been slowly reading an absolutely brilliant book: The Nature Fix – Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.
Within its pages, Florence Williams explores the many ways nature benefits us cognitively, psychologically, physically and physiologically, doing so through immersive visits into natural environments around the world and even more so through encounters with scientists who are studying these benefits. Williams carefully examines what modern scientific research has to say about the myriad ways nature positively changes us, how a lack of nature can harm us, and delivers a compelling argument that nature should be – and is – an essential need for us all.
For obvious reasons, this book struck a chord with me – someone who knows he needs his frequent nature fix. To be honest, nothing in this book was really a surprise. The tens of thousands of miles I’ve walked alone in nature, and the months and years of complete immersion within it, have already led me to understand pretty much everything Williams reveals. But it was fascinating to have Williams unveil a little of the science behind what I already knew – to confirm what I’d discovered for myself. Ah, I often found myself thinking, so that’s why I feel so damn good when I’m deep in a forest, and: oh I see, so that’s why my 7,000-mile plod across wild Europe left me feeling so insanely, deliriously happy.
The book is entertainingly written, almost like a travel narrative in places, and contains just enough science to explain the ideas, but not too much to confuse or bore. I read it slowly because I really wanted to take it in – I felt like the details are something a nature writer should have at his finger tips. They explain a great deal. I’m now aiming to read it again, and this time I plan to take notes to use in my own writing!
This book should be required reading for everyone, especially for people divorced from nature who would benefit from getting their own nature fix. It should be required reading for parents and educators, to help them understand that getting children out in nature is profoundly essential for healthy development both mentally and physically. It should be required reading for doctors and all kinds of mental health professionals, and for urban planners and developers, and for every single politician under the sun. If policy setters understood the importance of nature, and made it central to our culture, we’d be living in a very different and far better world.
To put it simply: I thoroughly recommend this book.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been getting my own regular nature fix of course. Even though I’ve been away at the built up Jersey shore to satisfy family commitments, I found ample nature in the pulse of the restless sea. Playing in the waves with my kids, marveling at schools of skate feeding in the surf, at pelicans soaring by, at sandpipers darting at waters edge, and kayaking through a tidal nature reserve past sedge fields and snowy-white egrets – all this delivered benefits that easily overpowered the noise and concrete that blights much of the Jersey shoreline. And now back in Colorado, sleeping out in my beloved foothills, I resumed where I’d left off – deepening the essential connection with the wild planet that made me who and what I am… that made us all what we are, whether some people accept it or not.
Several people I’ve spoken with in recent weeks have essentially told me: ‘Oh, I’m not a nature person. I belong in the city, sleeping indoors on a comfortable bed.’
This is how far some of us have slipped from the world that has shaped us. And this is why ‘Nature Fix’ should be a required read.