“Urban dwellers never have the chance to see the Milky Way, or a night radiant with stars, or even a truly blue sky. They never experience the subtle fragrances peculiar to each season; they lose the exhilaration of early spring and the delightful melancholy of autumn. The loss of these experiences is more than an aesthetic affliction; it corresponds to a deprivation of needs which are essential to physical and mental sanity, because they were indelibly woven in man’s fabric during his evolutionary past.”
Let Nature Nurture
Over the course of this blog we are going to look into the work of famed microbiologist René J. Dubos. Dubos posited that humans would certainly adapt to modern urban landscapes and high technology, but there might be a toll to be paid in the form of higher psychological distress (symptoms of anxiety and depression) and diminished quality of life. In particular, there might be an erosion of humanness, exemplified by declines in altruism/empathy. To begin, I will share some quotes from Dubos which illustrate his thoughts towards modern human life and how we must regain our contact with nature and the natural world if we hope to stay healthy in mind and body.
“Human beings can almost certainly survive and multiply in the polluted cage of technological civilization, but we may sacrifice much of our humanness in adapting to such conditions…The maintenance of biological and mental health requires that technological societies provide in some form the biological freedom enjoyed by our Paleolithic ancestors”.
Co- Evolution With Nature
As much as technology can play an intricate role in our lives and help us to live more efficiently, we must take time to unplug and enjoy the natural world. As human beings, we co-evolved with nature. Hunting, building shelter, and spending a large part of our days outdoors was the normal way of human life. Nowadays, we are lucky to spend 15 minutes outdoors in a natural environment. This is extremely toxic to our health and leads to over activation of our sympathetic nervous system. The Japanese truly value being one with nature and the effects this has on our nervous system.they practice something known as Shinrin- Yoku ( forest bathing) and the physiological changes the forest can have on our bodies is profound Amazing Stuff
Decades before “paleo” would become a trendy health topic, a niche “lifestyle,” or a way of dining that might involve the consumption of relatively expensive food choices Dubos wrote extensively about the health implications of ignoring the Paleolithic inscriptions within the genetic profile of the modern human. Although he wrote on a wide variety of topics, the evolutionary versus contemporary environmental mismatch was dear to his heart.
“The disconnection from nature and ultra-rapid distancing from the environmental influences that shaped us over the millennia,” he warned, “could easily manifest in chronic disease and compromised mental health.”
With chronic illness sky rocketing and mental health disease at an all time high, we must be doing something wrong. Losing touch with nature and all of the beauty it has to offer has been detrimental to human beings as a whole. We have a choice, continue down this road, or get back to the basics and make time for the natural world; Our Biology evolved over millions of years in a natural environment, we cannot take this fully away from our minds and bodies and believe that we will be healthy and vibrant. Take time everyday to enjoy nature even if it is only for 10 minutes.
I’ll leave you with this quote;
“Man seems to be adapting to the ugliness of smoky skies, polluted streams, and anonymous buildings; to life without the fragrance of flowers, the song of birds, and other pleasurable stimuli from nature. This adaptation, however, is only superficial, and destructive in the long run. Air, water, earth, fire, the subtle forces of the cosmos, the natural rhythms and diversity of life have shaped man’s nature during the evolutionary past and have created deep-rooted sensual and emotional needs that cannot be eradicated. The impoverishment of sensual and emotional life will progressively result in the atrophy of our uniquely human attributes”