“It is a great testimony to the connectedness of life on earth that the fates of the largest and the tiniest life should be so closely dependent on each other.”
― Steven Johnson, The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World[i]
Reconnecting humans with nature
Developed in Japan during the 80’s, shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) promises health benefits simply by spending time under the canopy of a living forest. The idea is simple: if a person simply visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way there are calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits to be achieved.[ii]
But it’s not just in Japan. Canadian experts Nisbet and Zelenski created a Nature Relatedness scale to assess affective, cognitive and experiential aspects of people’s connection to nature. The authors believe that disconnection from the natural world may be contributing to our planet’s destruction. Knowing your place in nature instead could bring meaning and joy.[iii]
Ecopsychology studies the relationship between human beings and the natural world through ecological and psychological principles.[iv] The field seeks to develop and understand ways of expanding the emotional connection between individuals and the natural world, as part of an ongoing and practical healing mission that recognizes and honors that the health of the individual human psyche depends upon the collective health of all the kingdoms of life on Earth.[v]
Respecting marine ecosystem interconnections: Krill
Just two inches long, these small invertebrates fuel Earth’s marine ecosystems. Antarctic krill are one of the most abundant animal species, there are about 500 million tons of krill in the Southern Ocean.[vi]
Krill feed on phytoplankton, microscopic, single-celled plants that drift near the ocean’s surface and live off carbon dioxide and the sun’s rays.[vii] In turn, whales, seals, penguins, squid and fish eat krill – at levels which are replaced by growth and reproduction. Most krill species display large daily vertical migrations, thus providing food for predators near the surface at night and in deeper waters during the day.[viii]
Warming oceans have caused a 40%+ drop in Antarctic krill populations[ix] on top of threats from human overfishing. Although krill are not often used for human food, demand has soared for krill as feed for farmed fish, nutritional supplements, and other products.[x] This has disastrous consequences for entire marine ecosystems, which depend on krill for their well-being.
A study co-authored by George Watters, lead scientist for the US government delegation to the Antarctic decision-making body Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), warns that the penguin population could drop by almost a third by the end of the century due to reductions in krill biomass.[xi]
Respecting forest ecosystem connections: Fungi
On land, one of the most vital species to forest ecosystem health is one that humans rarely notice: the fungus. Fungi that play a vital role in the forest ecosystem by cycling energy cycling within, and between, ecosystems.[xii]
The one you probably know best are mushrooms[xiii]. Fungi protect trees by forming a sheath on the root-tip and stimulating root-tip production. They help capture water and nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen from the soil to sustain the life of the plant. The fungi receive sugar from the tree in exchange.
Because mushrooms have no means of dispersing their spores on their own, they have developed odors to attract animals to eat them.[xiv] When trees are cleared for farming, “up to 99 percent of soil-borne fungi species will disappear”.[xv] When part of this system is weakened, the entire system is impacted. Deforestation disrupts the essential connection between the trees, the fungi, and the animals.
A Holistic Management approach to farming considers what is beneath the soil, above the soil, and in the air and specifically how actions today can change the land in a more positive manner. Holistic Management has been successful in many different environments around the world by recognizing the interconnectedness of nature.[xvi]
Growing Trends of Nature Connectedness Behavior
The latest research demonstrates that nature connectedness (at a subjective level) is a reliable predictor of environmental behaviors.[xvii] For instance, nature relatedness was found to relate to concern for the environment, as people who scored high on nature relatedness were also more likely to belong to environmental organizations, and declare themselves environmentalists.[xviii]]
High nature related people at the trait level (or individuals scoring high on one of the subscales of nature relatedness) were also more likely to self-report the following activities:[xix]]
- buying organic foods and products
- buying fair-trade products
- having a pet
- being a vegan
- actually spending more time in nature
Research has shown that individuals who think ahead and consider future events (individuals with a high consideration of future consequences) are more environmentally friendly. These individuals also show more concern for the environment and are more critical of environmental damage.[xx]
Although you might not be seeing in the news, these trends are picking up steam globally:
- Veganism: 7% of the UK population has gone plant-based[xxi], 6% of the US population now identifies as vegan – a 600% increase since 2014[xxii] (over 10% of Germans self-identify as vegetarian or vegan[xxiii])
- Pet ownership: An estimated 68% of households in the US own a pet[xxiv] (60% dogs, 40% cats[xxv]) while Argentinians love dogs most with 66% of households having a dog as a pet[xxvi
- Fair Trade products have grown from Euros 832 million in 2004 to Euros 7.8 billion in 2016.[xxvii]
How Earth Law evolves legal protection of this interconnectedness
Earth Law, including Rights of Nature, provides an ethical framework that recognizes nature’s right to exist, thrive and evolve - enabling nature to defend these rights in court. By focusing on ecosystems and species, Earth Law takes a holistic approach to addressing the environmental challenges of our day.
In the same way that species connect with each other to form flourishing ecosystems, Earth Law Center aims to connect with local communities and organizations to secure rights for local ecosystems and species. The Rights of Nature movement also serves to connect many related missions to protect the natural environment.
Despite decades of environmental legislation, Earth’s health continues to decline. Under the present system, the environment has no voice in decision-making and cannot bring issues to court. Our current laws protect nature only for the benefit of people and corporations, which means that economic outcomes typically overshadow environmental consequences. Even when environmental issues are brought to court, people have to prove that the damage infringes on their own rights, since the environment has no rights itself.
In most countries, nature has the legal status of property. In contrast, Earth Law argues that nature has inherent rights, and legally should have the same protection as people and corporations. Earth Law will enable the defense of the environment in court—not only for the benefit of people, but for the sake of nature itself.
Earth Law will enable people to defend nature in the courts for the sake of nature itself. Earth Law aims to protect the environment for all creatures. It ensures true environmental protection via proactive action and effective restoration projects.
How you can get involved
With your help, we can restore our natural environment to health and balance. Act today and join this growing global movement.
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[xiv] Maser, Chris. Ancient Forests, Priceless Treasures. Restoration Forestry: An International Guide to Sustainable Forestry Practices. Edited by Michael Pilarski. Kivaki Pr, 1994.
[xv] Thomas, Abbie. "Native truffles are fun guys." ABC Science, http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2002/06/06/2589354.htm (accessed August 6, 2012).
[xvii] Mayer, F. S., & Frantz, C. M. (2004). The nature connectedness scale: A measure of individuals' feeling in community with nature. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 24, 503-515
[xviii] Nisbet, E. K., Zelenski, J. A., & Murphy, S. A. (2009). "The nature relatedness scale: Linking individuals' connection with nature to environmental concern and behavior". Environment and Behaviour, 41, 715-740.
[xx] Strathman, A., Gleicher, F., Boninger, D.S. & Edwards, C. S. (1994) The consideration of future consequences: Weighing immediate and distant outcomes of behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 742-752.