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"We are dysfunctional socially and environmentally because we are cut off and isolated from the world of nature and the natural." (edited)
--Albert Gore, Senator, USA
Since the publication of his 1992 book, Earth in the Balance, we have heard little from Al Gore about how to deal with the destructive dysfunctions he identifies in our society, dysfunctions produced by our excessive disconnection from nature.
In 1990, I personally described to Senator Gore an easily applicable social technology that empowers us to genuinely connect our mind with nature and reverse our dysfunctions. In addition, I gave him the published blueprint of this nature-connecting tool and he included it in the bibliography of his book Earth in the Balance. Today that tool is readily available. The burning question is, "Are we, including Al Gore, too dysfunctional to appreciate and use the tool?"
Here is what our mind does not want us to hear. With rare exception, the mentality of industrial society is walking a self-destructive treadmill of denial. We unnecessarily suffer our troubles because we deny that our thinking is dysfunctional and we deny that a readily available, nature-connecting social technology enables us to transform our dysfunctions into constructive relationships.
Converging Evidence and Process
Significantly, in the past decade the often opposing physical (7), biological, social and environmental sciences have discovered a body of evidence upon which they agree. In addition, this evidence also agrees with findings in ethics (10), philosophy and spirituality (9). During this same period, the fields of education and psychology have produced a learning tool that enables any individual to access this validated knowledge and use its advice to build human and natural relationships that improve self, society and the environment (3).
The evidence mentioned above authenticates what outdoor researchers like myself distinctly sense in natural areas. A fundamental, binding, energy underlies every aspect of the world we know (13). Be it a basic form of Love or the Unified Field so highly sought in physics, a cohesive natural attraction holds together, sustains in balance, and is an essence of communication for sub-atomic, human, and global relationships (8, 6).
Natural attraction connects everything into a system and subsystem so that everything belongs, nothing is isolated or not wanted. For this reason, nature produces no garbage.
Natural attraction roots
Nature grows from seeds and roots, past to present. The existence of an original natural attraction throughout nature is consistent with how nature works. It makes sense. If the Earth yesterday and today was not held together by natural attraction, it would fall apart, which it hasn't and doesn't. Rather, its natural systems are attracted to increase in growth, diversity, resilience and their ability to support and renew life in balance without producing pollution.
We are attractive
All material and non-material "things" in nature, including people, consist of natural attraction relationships. Thus, as natural attraction produces us, it manifests itself as us, as our molecules, body, mind, sensations, feelings and spirit.
Our senses are not sterile. Like everything else they, too, are natural attraction expressing itself. For our survival our senses intelligently give us advice. They help us consciously, feelingly, register nature's ways as they seek fulfillment from their attractions to their origins in nature. For example, our sense of thirst intelligently "knows" when we are dehydrated as well as knows to bring to our consciousness our attraction to water. This attraction (sense of thirst) helps us survive in balance with at least 52 additional natural intelligence senses that we register.
Effects of disconnection
Biologically, humanity is a seamless continuum of nature and natural attraction. However, a contemporary person mostly lives indoors and thinks over 99% of the time while disconnected from their natural attractions and their fulfilling origins in natural areas. This profound disconnection corrupts our thinking to the point that we consider this severe dismemberment normal. We often applaud it as progress even as we suffer its abnormal effects upon ourselves and on the environment.
The missing attraction rewards in our nature-disconnected sensibilities and emotions produce our wants and greed. The latter arise from our severed, frustrated natural attractions. This stressful void makes contemporary people the only organisms on Earth whose mentality destructively produces garbage, pollution, war, mental illness, loneliness, excessive stress and abusive relationships. These maladies, with rare exception, are absent in nature or people in tune with authentic nature.
The objectivity and science of disconnected contemporary thinking dismisses as subjective most of the natural attraction sensitivities that nature and we hold in common. For example, sensory attractions to water (thirst), life (survival), appetite for air (to breathe), home (place), safety (trust) and belonging (community) are not even included in the five senses that we say we learn and know from. Satisfactions from our natural attraction to pets, friends, family, lakes, wind, hills, sky, peace, sunshine, justice and community seldom play a key advice role in forging our self-esteem, economics and technologies.
In our nature-isolated thinking, we learn to view at least 45 natural attraction senses and feelings as unimportant, as non-measurable, childish or unreasonable loves (12). We condition ourselves to become sensuously sterile and oblivious to them. To our loss, we omit them from most thinking and equations. This corrupts us. Our thinking and resilience lose nature's essential, unifying energy, our inherent natural attraction way of knowing and relating that peacefully holds the natural world in a mutually supportive, cooperative, equilibrium. Disconnected from this common bond, we and Earth are becoming increasingly dysfunctional (4) (11).
Life's hidden purpose
The absence of natural attractions from our thinking leaves us to conclude that life systems, including ourselves, operate by the laws of chance and are without purpose. However, any thoughtful person may observe that, locally or globally, a life system does have a purpose. It is to survive by following its natural attraction to grow in support of life. Throughout nature, minerals, plants and animals achieve this purpose and perfection by fulfilling a multiplicity of natural attractions that resonate and beneficially modify each other. Things in nature thereby intelligently, by "consensus" (many sensitivities together), unite as trans-personal global citizens to their mutual benefit. The "fittest" are those that best sustain mutually beneficial cooperative relationships with their neighbors and environment.
As part of nature, when our senses and feelings are not thwarted by nature-conquering stories, artificial substitutes or social pressures, they attract us to responsibly support life. Each time we do they reward us with joys that keep us on that path.
Most therapies, healing, and learning work better and produce greater cures and responsibility when connected to natural attractions in nature. It is no longer heresy to say that the greater a person's natural attraction desensitization or disconnection, the greater are the problems that person suffers and causes. Conversely, sensuously reconnecting with attractions in nature is our salvation. The connection enables us to benefit from the real thing, the unique supportive and regenerative powers of nature. They, in turn, help us transform our disorders into unifying, constructive relationships (5A-E).
To repair our mentality's destructive disconnection from nature, at the Institute of Global Education the newly researched Natural Systems Thinking Process (NSTP) provides a psychologically organic missing link that does the seemingly impossible. It enables anybody to safely make thoughtful, conscious, sensory contact with natural attractions in nature, backyard or backcountry. Through this process, people reduce their dismemberment stress and improve their thinking and ways of relating. Through advice obtained from natural systems, they think and co-create with, rather than against, nature.
Our authentic reconnection with our natural attraction origins renews at least 53 inherent natural attraction sensitivities in us. It energizes them to register in our consciousness as attractive felt senses and logic (3).
The presence of these additional senses in our normal awareness enables us to enjoyably think and speak with and through them, to make greater sense and thereby improve our relationships with our selves, each other and the flow of natural systems through, within and around us. This regenerative process feels good. It becomes very attractive, therefore repeated, and thereby lasting (2).
In summary, NSTP helps anybody restore the inherent joy of our culturally suppressed natural attractions. Senses of community, trust, place, compassion, reason, belonging, consciousness, global citizenship, empathy, literacy, humor, spirit, relaxation and sustainability, along with our forty-one additional natural senses, come into play in congress. This enables us to come into balance as our thinking rationally taps into nature's natural attraction to uncontaminated reason, peace, spirit, community and Higher Power.
It is neither sensible nor attractive for us to remain sensuously disconnected from nature and to continue to produce the destructive effects we and Earth presently suffer. To help us end this deterioration, NSTP is readily available through holistic online scholarships, courses, degree programs and training for nature-connected education, counseling and leadership. NSTP empowers caring individuals to help people, nations and religions share with each other what they deeply hold in common, an innate ability to make conscious sensory contact with natural attractions in natural areas and reap the unifying rewards. This unification improves personal, social and environmental relationships and restores peace. To knowledgeably omit this supportive nature-reconnecting process from any endeavor simply reinforces our dysfunctions.
Further information about NSTP is available in the books, The Web of Life Imperative and Reconnecting With Nature (Ecopress).
1. Bloom, Howard. (2000.) Global Brain. New York. John Wiley and Sons.
2. Cohen, Michael (2005) A Survey of Participants: Reactions to NSTP and Studies of Effects, The Web of Life Imperative, Victoria, B.C. Trafford.
3. Cohen, Michael (1997) Reconnecting With nature: Finding Wellness Through Restoring Your Bond with the Earth, Eugene, OR, Ecopress
4. Cohen, Michael, Editor (2001) The State of Planet Earth: Results of Ecozombie Thinking
5A-E. Chard, Philip Sutton. (1994.) The Healing Earth: nature's medicine for the troubled soul. Minnetonka MN. NorthWord Press.
5B. Kahn, Peter H. (1999). The Human Relationship with nature: Development and Culture. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
5C. Frumkin, Howard (2001). Beyond toxicity: Human health and the natural environment. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 20(3): 234-240 (March)
5D) Wilson, Edward O. (2001). Nature matters. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 20(3): 241-242
5E. Stilgoe, John R. (2001). Gone barefoot lately? Nature matters. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 20(3): 243-244
6. Einstein, Albert et al (1952) Science and Philosophy http://www.aip.org/history/einstein/philos1.htm
7. Laszlo, Ervin. (1995.) The Interconnected Universe. London. World Scientific.
8. Laszlo, Ervin. (1996.) The Whispering Pond: A Personal Guide to the Emerging Vision of Science. Rockport, MA. Element.
9. Newberg, Andrew. (2001.) Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. New York. Ballantine Books.
10. Pojman, Louis P. (2001.) Environmental Ethics, 3rd Ed. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth.
11. Roszak, Theodore, Mary E. Gomes & Allen D. Kanner. (1995.) Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind. San Francisco. Sierra Club Books.
12. Shepard, Paul. (1982.) Nature and Madness. San Francisco. Sierra Club Books.
13. Thomas, Janet (2005) On All Nine Legs - Teaching Outdoor Love to an Indoor World, Taproot, SUNY Cortland, NY, Coalition for Education in the Outdoors,
Other materials that appear in this article are drawn from Michael J. Cohen's professionally reviewed publications in:
About the Author
Recipient of the 1994 Distinguished World Citizen Award, Ecopsychologist Michael J. Cohen, Ed.D. is a Director of the Institute of Global Education, where he coordinates its Integrated Ecology Department and Project NatureConnect. He also serves on the faculty of Portland State University, Akamai University and West Coast University. Dr. Cohen has founded sensory outdoor environmental education programs independently and for the National Audubon Society and Lesley University (AEI), conceived the National Audubon Conference "Is the Earth a Living organism," and is the award winning author of Web of Life Imperative, Reconnecting With Nature, Einstein's World, and How Nature Works. He is an accomplished folk song artist and contra dancer who presents traditional music programs for the U.S. National Park Service and Elderhostel on San Juan Island, Washington. CONTACT: Email, Tel: 360-378-6313, Pacific Time Zone
"We dramatically increased our program's effectiveness by adding the Natural Systems Thinking Process to it. It enables our participants to connect with their sensory origins in nature and use that peaceful power to improve their relationships with self, society and the environment."
James Rowe, Ph.D.
Director of the Outward Bound School in Costa Rica