In the last few days our local paper as well as the Huffington Post carried related articles that point to rapidly changing environmental conditions while we realize human health is changing in tandem. In Pensacola we have a black bear problem. These Florida natives are running out of habitat. Little vestiges of habitat (parks that once offered solace from the noise of the marketplace) shrink further in the name of progress. Since moving here in 2008 I’ve watched the horizon fill in with high rises, and any little stretch of forest planed for another enterprise.
Ariana Huffington published a long article yesterday from an international women’s conference in the UK focused on the redefining “success” which in its present definition is making us miserable. A parallel focus from the conference focused on the benefits of meditation. Health statistics for the UK are dramatic: 8 million people suffer from anxiety. The incidence of depression worldwide has risen to as many as 350 million according to the World Health Organization. In the U.S. antidepressants are commonly prescribed. After my father died I felt depressed. My doctor recommended, you guessed, an antidepressant. I responded, “No thank you, I’d rather walk it off on the beach.”
So how are black bears, shrinking parks, depression and anxiety related? Turns out that humans need nature, open space, silence, and beauty to thrive. We are busily doing away with each of them and other species are in the wake.
Evidence of the vital connections between intact natural areas and human mental and physical health could fill this blog entry but its intuitive. No healthy human can deny they need some daily exposure to natural beauty to feel well. A life confined to an office and computer is a horrible life. Admit it. Even if you are playing a sport, like golf for instance, its the rolling green, the scent of warm earth under your cleats, the shade of trees and gurgling water that drop your heart rate, encourage you. Huffington suggests we redefine the meaning of success. She is palpating the Western cultural and Puritanical roots of our present day work ethic. It has planed forests, rerouted rivers, asphalted over Paradise with Pink Hotels to recall the old Joni Mitchell lyrics. We cannot continue to diminish nature without diminishing ourselves. Let’s mediate on that.