Bighorn near Jones National Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument and Vernal, UT. Courtesy US FWS, Erin Falk PhotographerDuring the COVID days, there was an explosion of outdoor activity as we found an escape from being locked in buildings. Sporting good shops soon sold out of most of their outdoor gear. Our local recreational lands and waters, including national and state parks, soon became overwhelmed with outdoor enthusiasts, most of which has continued to this day.
The intrinsic value of connecting to nature has been realized and capitalized. It’s becoming more common for health workers, both mental and physical, to subscribe nature as a potential cure for many ailments.
From a human evolutionary perspective, our 300 thousand years as a species has been spent outdoors. We were intimately connected to natural landscapes and all our Earth Mother provided. Even over the past ten thousand years, most of our ancestors have been farmers, living close to the land and its fickle moods. I’m sure our biophilia is imbedded in our neurological network. Thus nature deficit disorder looms large once this vital connection is severed.
For a deep dive, the Child & Nature Network is bursting with research on this topic. Beyond our immediate health, having access to natural landscapes enhances academic and work performance, and reduces the number of sick days registered. Many countries beyond our own have structured programs such as forest bathing and goat yoga. I have yet to try goat yoga, but find it alluring- love goats and yoga!
I designed and ran an outdoor adventure program at a youth ranch in Michigan for troubled youth. It became very popular and effective, especially when we invite parents and care givers to join us on some of our adventures. The Utah Conservation Corps had a program for Latino high school students, some of whom were struggling as adolescence often do. Again, the program was transformative for many of the participants, who continued on to higher education rather than becoming high school dropouts for work.
I now volunteer with the International Friends Program where I lead an outdoor program for USU international students and scholars. It’s become very popular where young adults find friendship and engage in new outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, Nordic skiing, ice skating, and many others. Something about escaping to the indoors and engaging in stimulating activities on land and water allows walls to disappear and rich conversation to flow.
I’ve also had recent outings with Common Ground Outdoor Adventure, a marvelous program that serves all abilities- both mental and physical. The joy it brings to their lives is a joy to witness.
A new PBS program “America Outdoors” with Baratunde Thurston takes you to different states where you witness natures impact on struggling individuals in gorgeous landscapes. Virtual immersion in earth’s offerings, including an extraordinary episode on Utah! https://www.pbs.org/show/america-outdoors-baratunde-thurston/.
Being a naturalist, I always include information on the local geology, ecology, and natural history. I find it enriches the experience and allows new ways of interacting with the natural world beyond its astounding beauty.
Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I’m wild about the natural healing Wild Utah affords!
Images: Delicate Arch: Courtesy Pixabay, Mike Goad, Contributor, https://pixabay.com/photos/delicate-arch-arch-delicate-utah-3768200/
Images: Big Horn: Courtesy US FWS, Erin Falk Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin, https://npr.org/ and Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Children & Nature Network, https://www.childrenandnature.org/
America Outdoors with Baratunde Thurston, https://www.pbs.org/show/america-outdoors-baratunde-thurston/