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Tabby Biddle

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Nature-Deficit Disorder

Posted: 04/28/09 03:30 PM ET

Last Wednesday was Earth Day. My email Inbox was packed with announcements, newsletters and events all in honor of this day. I didn't attend any particular event, but I did go out for my daily walk in my Santa Monica neighborhood and soaked in the beauty of the flowers, the warm breeze and the revitalizing sunshine. Nature, big or small, has always been an elixir for me.

The other weekend in the New York Times Magazine I read an article that said even a limited dose of nature, such as looking to the outside world from your window is good for your health. It's reported that hospital patients heal more quickly and prisoners get sick less often. Mama Nature = healthier, happier people. Could be common sense, right?

I have to admit that after seven years of living in New York City I was beginning to feel like one of those prisoners or hospital patients aching for sunlight and earth connection. I sought out every possibility the city had to offer a nature junkie...walks, runs and lazy days in Central Park, biking and blading along the Hudson River, sitting on park benches listening to the birds, stopping in flower shops just to stare at their miracle beauty -- but many times, it wasn't enough. Too much concrete and not enough green.

The alternative to starving my soul of Mother Earth magic was to take the train from Grand Central up to Cold Spring and spend the day in the woods. It was incredible how just one afternoon on a hiking trail could bring back my physical and mental health for weeks at a time. I read recently that a growing body of scientific research suggests children who are given early and ongoing positive exposure to nature thrive in intellectual, spiritual and physical ways that their "shut-in" peers do not. My experience would second that.

So now here we are at a time in our history where our technological advancements have taught us how to exploit our earth's resources at a rate higher than she can sustain. It is no secret that we are in peril of soon exhausting our natural resources. It should seem obvious, but I think we sometimes forget...our earth is fundamental to our existence. How long can we go on without a real, honest return to a diligent respect of Mother Nature?

The events, activities and enthusiasm from yesterday are encouraging. Take for example Omega Institute's Center for Sustainable Living. They are working toward being a leader in sustainability education and a model for the Living Building Challenge. Yesterday, volunteers were busy planting 8000 plants to create what Omega called the "Eco-Machine." This is a constructive wetland that will reclaim and purify the wastewater that is generated at the Institute campus which sees 20,000 people come through its doors annually. "It's not just about compact fluorescent lightbulbs...,but looking at what are the systems and the ways of engineering that are available to us now so that we can move to a higher level of sustainability, one that is truly balanced with the natural environment," says Skip Backus, Executive Director at Omega.

Instead of inventing new man-made technology, sounds like it's time to invent new ways to use our earth's au natural technology.

Omega and many other individuals and groups did incredible and commendable work across our nation yesterday. In addition to that great value, I think the most potent lesson is a reminder of our interconnectedness. Already we see this everyday through the Internet, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter -- but now it feels like it's time to translate this to a wider scale.

I like what the Buddhists say, "There is no environment that is 'out there' separate than us; we are the environment."

I think this statement is key. I wonder if we took on this perspective we would not only heal our split with nature, but heal our split with a number of other things.

Your thoughts?

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