Richard Louv

Richard writes extensively about the connections between family, nature and community, and has written several books including ‘The Nature Principle’ and ‘Last Child in the Woods’. He is the recipient of America’s prestigious Audobon Medal

1. How can we ignite (or re-ignite) within children a sense of the wonder of living things & reconnect them with nature – in particular those from diverse cultural and social backgrounds ?

Without direct physical contact with the natural world, children’s knowledge about the environment is abstract, for the most part, and they tend to see a world with problems that are overwhelming. I often say that children know a lot about climate change and the cutting of the Amazon rain forest, but can’t tell you about what lives in the vacant lots or lakes or parks in their own area. Not that they don’t want to know. There’s a world of difference in seeing a butterfly on TV and following one as it moves from flower to flower, and kids realize this immediately when they have a chance to enjoy the outdoors on their own terms. Fortunately, there are lots of organizations out there that offer nature outings for little or no cost, many led by naturalists or enthusiasts who have become experts on the local flora and fauna. I urge parents or guardians to seek out these opportunities for learning and steer the kids in that direction.

2. In the Nature Principle you write about the mind, body, nature connection – how can this work in a pro-city way? Is biophilic design the answer – and if so, how does that work?

As of 2008, more people live in cities than in the countryside-in the whole world. This is a huge moment in human history, and it means one of two things: either human connection to nature will continue to disintegrate, or this is the beginning of a new kind of city, one with new kinds of workplaces and homes that actually connect people to nature. There’s no reason that we can’t begin to think about cities as incubators of biodiversity. When we begin to think that way, the built environment looks very different.

Studies show that parks with the highest biodiversity are the parks from which people benefit the most psychologically. That ought to be a guidepost for how we think about parks in cities. The limited studies that have been done on workplaces that have been designed with biophilic design suggest that those workplaces are different. People are more productive. Sick time and turnover go down. That’s going beyond energy efficiency. That’s moving into the realm of producing human energy. That’s the direction that I think we need to move in.

If environmentalism, architecture and urban design get stuck only on energy efficiency, we won’t get to energy efficiency. It has to aim higher than that. As William McDonough [sustainable design leader] asks: “Do you really want a ‘sustainable’ marriage? Don’t you want something better than that?”

3. When you want to switch off from writing about nature to communing with it – what do you do & where do you go?

My backyard is San Diego County, where I enjoy fishing on the bay and out on the Pacific and in the lakes dotted through the semi-arid backcountry, and hiking in the mountains and desert to the east, and . This has been called the most biologically diverse region in the United States. But to say that I am a model for others behavior would be a stretch. I find it difficult to pull away from screens, just as so many others do. When my boys were small, my wife and I had perhaps more motivation to leave the computers and the house and to be in nature, and take our sons with us so that they could experience nature. Now she and I must create that motivation only for ourselves. So recently we have consciously been going on what I call techno-fasts: leaving the electronics and heading for the mountains for a few days.
To find out more about Richard, visit www.richardlouv.com

Fergus Drennan

Fergus is a wild-food experimenter and educator. He’s appeared on TV (exploring extreme food alternatives), writes on foraging and is one half of the Foraged Book Project

How does making from the landscape connect us to the landscape?

One of the greatest threats to biodiversity is habitat loss; one of the greatest causes of habitat loss is a (human) lack of connection to and hence valuing of those habitats. Mindfully, gently, simply, and creatively making use of wildings for food, arts and crafts, shelter building, and clothing helps us develop a grounded sense of place and connection to our local surroundings. In turn our appreciation and valuing deepens in respect not just to the apparent external world, but also with respect to our inter-personal relations and personal sense of integrated well-being. In other words, there are juicy ripe blackberries in the hedgerow; I’m gonna eat some, might even make some jam………

What are your thoughts on the relationship between art and nature?

All and everything is in relationship, in connection, in changing, unfolding, becoming. Art is human perception, a separating out of figure from ground. It can be a deep, still and meditative contemplation, an aesthetic appreciation of both the perceived and of perception itself; more tactilely engaged and dynamic, art as a way of being, actively plays with the creation. Recently I painted fallen autumnal yellow gingko leaves on wild crafted mushroom paper using a yellow pigment produced entirely from the autumnal yellow leaves themselves, and bound with seaweed extracts. Painting from life, “Where”, I asked myself, “do authentic beauty, art, magic and alchemy lie…..in the created – the existing, perfectly formed gingko leaf itself, or in the process and manner of its reproduction; in both or in neither? What exactly is the relationship between art and nature?” Answers came there none, only pleasure in the moment, from moment to moment……

Wherein lies the beauty of foraging ?

My love of foraging is both vast and orchestrally nuanced, in other words, that love is complex, at times intensely sweet, delicious, and harmoniously melodic, the rhythms of heart and nature beating in time; on other occasions it’s a chaotic jarring cacophony of anxieties, contradictions and obsessions. And yet that in itself is what I love; that the radical grounding of a life orientated towards a respect, reverence, awe and playful engagement with the wild realms, with the natural world, can hold the existential and ontological uncertainties of being. At its sensual, intellectual, emotional and dynamically flowing best, foraging offers a unique opportunity for deep connection both within and without.

For more on Fergus visit http://fergustheforager.co.uk/

Satish Kumar

Satish is a former Jain monk, an environmental activist, the founder of Schumacher College in Devon, and editor of Resurgence magazine. He has published several books, including most recently Soil, Soul and Society

1. What does Ubuntu mean to you?

To me Ubuntu means “we are therefore I am”. It means that there is no such thing as a separate individual, that we are all related, we are all connected, we are made of each other. Everybody is made of the same basic elements: earth, air, fire, water, space, time and consciousness. Ubuntu means unity of life. It means that diversity is not a division and unity is not uniformity. Unity and diversity are complementary. Life manifests in millions of forms yet in all those forms life is the same therefore Ubuntu means we are one in our millions of forms.

2. How do you most enjoy connecting to nature?

I touch the soil, I garden. The soil is sacred for me. People think that dirt is dirty, but the reality is far from it. The dirt is holy. When I am in my garden my ego or anger melt away. My garden is a problem-free zone. That is the gift of nature to me and I receive it with great attitude.

3. What other practices nourish you in life?

The most important practice which nourishes me is walking in nature. Connection with nature is the source of health and healing, physical as well
a mental. Nature is my religion, nature is my god. Nature is the source of all my inspirations. I learn from nature, I learn from the tree the truth
of unconditional love and generosity. The apple tree gives and gives without any discrimination, like all other fruit trees. Soil gives and gives in abundance. All our food, clothes, houses come from nature. Nature is primary, all else is secondary, all else is derivative.

You can read more about Satish here: www.resurgence.org/satish-kumar

Dee Kyne

Dee is a former CEO turned Earth rights walker

1. What has compelled you to embark on your pilgrimage?

I was listening to a group of young Earth rights lawyers talk about ecocide and the need for this law to be adopted internationally, in a room full of good folk. People I did not know but resonated with. I felt suddenly as if I had had a bucket of cold water thrown over my head. I thought about what legacy we as a society would be leaving our children. I thought that if I time travelled forward and had to meet with them would I be able to look them in the eye and say, ‘Yes, I did my best. I worked to leave you a great world to inherit.’? But action must be taken in your own way, and true to your heart.

2. Do you feel the earth is calling you?

Always and daily. I am of the earth and I am nature. So it is my responsibility to be peace and to be nature. And if I am nature there is nothing to do but to act on her behalf .

3. What’s your vision for the actual Earth Walk itself – what do you hope to experience on it?

I hope to continue to connect with people at all levels. To understand that every country I go to is different and each asks a different task of me. So I follow the smoke and get involved. I try to raise consciousness at every place. I talk at government levels and street levels.
To find out more about Dee’s walk and work, visit www.earthrightswalker.org

Polly Higgins

Polly is an international lawyer, author, CEO of the Earth Community Trust and Chairwoman of the Eradicating Ecocide Global Initiative

1. From where has your love of the earth arisen ?

I grew up loving the West Coast of Scotland, a wild and largely untouched area where I still go to connect deeply with nature.

2. When and where have you been most aroused by nature?

There’s something about being able to drink pure water that has come straight from the Earth – water is a carrier of life. For me, water is sacred.

3. What can we do inspire (ourselves and others) and create more enchantment in our lives/society?

Touching base with other like-minded people who care for the Earth, taking time out to have fun, dreaming big and daring to be great – these all help!
To find out more about Polly, visit www.pollyhiggins.com

Alastair Humphreys

Alastair is an adventurer, author and motivational speaker. He believes that adventure is a state of mind and within the grasp of all of us. No daunting, costly expedition necessary!

1. What advice do you have for urbanites and scaredy cats in search of a micro-adventure?

My advice is to start small and not be too ambitious. Go with a couple of friends – there is bravery in numbers. Head out of the city one Saturday afternoon. Climb a hill and camp on the top. Take lots of nice food and maybe a bottle or two of wine (remember the corkscrew!) Leave the place spotless when you leave in the morning and nobody will know you have been there. It’s a tiny adventure but you will be talking about it for a year and hopefully it will give you the confidence to try something bigger next time.

2. How would you describe your relationship to nature & what have you learned from the challenging moments you’ve experienced in the wild?

I feel very comfortable out in the wild. I find it relaxing, calming, and so much easier and safer and simpler than ‘the real world’. I’ve also learned that I am very small and fragile and that nature is very large and uncaring. I have learned humility and perspective from this. I have also learned that I am tougher than I realised, more determined than I knew, and more competent too. That is all good for self-confidence.

3. What’s your favourite pocket of wilderness ?

Close to London, where I live, I’d say the Chilterns and the area around the Seven Sisters / Beachy head. Overall in Britain I love the area around Torridon and Wasdale.
For more on Alastair, visit www.alastairhumphreys.com

Debbie Warrener

Debbie is an eco-psychologist, artist, poet and performer and co-leads the Mastery in Sustainability course in London.

1. As an eco-psychologist do you feel we need to heal our souls as much as we need to heal the planet?

Yes, absolutely – how we are within impacts the world. Our inner world and worldview create the structures and society around us just as they in turn shape us. They are two sides of the same coin.. The more we can understand and live from a sense of our fundamental interconnection with all that is, the more likely the structures and systems we create will be life-serving rather than life-destroying.

2. What are some of the nature-based psychological practices that are part of your work ?

I am hugely inspired by Joanna Macy’s ‘Work that Reconnects’ body of work and processes. There is a powerful spiral at the centre of this work that moves from grounding yourself in gratitude to honouring feelings and pain for what is happening in the world; then connecting with wider perspectives and from that place committing to action. Another practice I love is connecting with our bodies and the gifts we are receiving every moment of every day that reveal our deep interconnection with our planet home earth – regardless of whether we identify as an environmentalist or not. For example the gift of oxygen from the plants and trees every moment of every day. The food that makes up our bodies – gifts from the earth – every moment of every day. And similarly the water that flows through our bodies and the sun that warms us. And of course the gift of life running in our veins.

3. How do you connect with nature in your work as a poet, artist and performer?

I am very aware of the cycles of the seasons and the waxing and waning of the days and this informs my writing as a poet and performer. Even though I live in North London I am blessed with parks nearby and love to witness the movement of the skies and the birds – I am particularly blessed to do this as my flat is high up in the roof – I call it my ‘sky flat’! I hear the different calls of the birds in different seasons – and sometimes call back!! I also use writing and painting to express the pain and despair of what we are doing to our beautiful planet – for example the disconnect of technology and screens and the chaos and complexity of the dance between both the despair and wonderful joy of being alive right now.
For more on Debbie visit: www.catalysingchangeagents.com

Tristan Gooley

Tristan is a navigator, writer and explorer. He is the only living person to have flown solo and sailed singlehanded across the Atlantic and now runs a navigation school. His most recent book is ‘The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs’

1.For you, what are the joys of natural navigation?

Natural navigation gently forces you to look and think more closely and more distantly than most outdoors people ever do. It draws your focus from a few centimetres to a million miles, literally. Is the clue you need in the delicate structure of the lichen by your nose or the planet emerging from the dusk light?

2. Who have you learned your skills from?

In between ancient knowledge and modern science I have learned as much as I can from indigenous and nomadic tribal people. I have walked with the Tuareg, Bedouin and Dayak in some of the remotest regions on Earth and I never cease to be amazed by the way each group noticed details in the landscape that would pass almost all others by.

In the West this type of observation can add a richness to our lives if we choose, but in the desert or heart of Borneo, it is truly vital knowledge – it adds to a person’s quantity not just quality of life, as these skills remain fundamental to safety and survival.

3. Given the title of one of your more recent books, how do you feel we can connect more profoundly with nature and the lands we travel in?

Don’t start by considering ‘nature’ as one big bag. Instead consider your personal and most fundamental interests and then use these to find a bridge into the natural world.

If, like me, you enjoy travel and shaping journeys, then natural navigation is a great way in. But many people find food and drink more intriguing and for them foraging is a great practical way in. If the home or property stir your imagination then learn about the quality of natural materials: will your home benefit from the clean light lines of pine or the richer swirls of cherry wood, for example. Very few people are able to get through a day without thinking about the relationships in their life and nature can offer wonderful daily counsel here. Nature might not enter your thoughts in your quiet moments at first, but once you discover the connection between your passions and the natural world, then both start to together.

To find out more about Tristan, visit www.naturalnavigator.com

Anna Hunt

Anna is a shaman, lecturer, journalist and the author of the best-selling ‘The Shaman in Stilettos’

1. Do you believe the universe is alive and has a consciousness and intelligence?

All shamans believe the Universe is underpinned by an animating consciousness. This energy or light is the Universe’s essence. It manifests in every living thing – including ourselves and is pure wisdom (it’s what we tap into when we tune into our intuition or gut instinct, and is therefore markedly different from the mind / rational reasoning). Because everything is essentially energy, everything is constantly resonating with everything else, consciously or unconsciously. Hence, nothing in this universe is insentient or inanimate, and it is impossible to ever be truly alone.

2. If nature has a message for us, what do you think it is?

That it’s possible – and easy – to reconnect. Capitalism is a wonderful thing as it allows relative meritocracy and the ability for each of us to self-determine. However the individualism at its heart also results in loneliness and isolation – a situation compounded by the demise of extended families and communities. Nature, on the other hand, is something from which we are inseparable and it offers all of us the opportunity to reconnect to being part of a much greater tapestry. This is holistic healing at its most powerful. We’ve all felt it in action when we naturally and without thinking feel ourselves decompress the moment we witness a beautiful vista.

3. What practices would you encourage us to do to connect more deeply with ourselves and nature?

The simplest is to walk mindfully – just allowing our attention to be absorbed by the wonder and intricacy of the natural world. This doesn’t require us to force our minds to empty and it’s much easier than meditation! It just involves us taking time out – 10 minutes is sufficient – to mindfully spend time outside, enjoying natural beauty. When we do this, the body naturally relaxes. Ever found yourself half-way through a walk realising that you’re no longer holding your shoulders up by your ears (something that before the walk, you didn’t even realise you were doing)? When the body naturally relaxes, it release stored stress and emotion.

To find out more about Anna, visit www.annahunt.com

Mac Macartney

Mac is a speaker, writer and change-maker, championing a new story of sustainability. He is also the founder of Embercombe, a social enterprise with a mission to catalyse the emergence of leaders and change-makers for a just, peaceful and sustainable future.

1. What role do you believe nature plays in leadership?

Nature is everything. We are nature. We are not separate. When we imagine ourselves separate from nature we edge towards madness and all the dysfunctional behaviour that goes with extreme egotism, hubris, and grandiosity. Nature teaches belonging, relationship, inter-connectedness, and interdependence. She is the great balancer, and from her we learn of sacredness. I can think of no other platform upon which we might wish to develop leaders, no greater teacher, no depth of loving more profound or healing. In this place of deep listening, deep questioning, deep choice, and deep commitment, we learn integrity, wholeness, and the way of the open heart. Whatever our age, rank, or title, holding nature’s hand we are as children, and this way we may one day grasp wisdom’s shawl.

2. What are one or two of the wisdom teachings you’ve received from your Metis mentors that have resonated with you?

It is wise not to trust any leader who is not committed to the Twin Trail – the inner trail of self-understanding, self-unfolding, and deepening; and the outer trail of having powerful effect in the world.

3. How can we inspire business leaders to rediscover a reverence for the planet?

Now, if I knew the answer to this question I would kindle a fire and give thanks. In truth, I do not know. What I do know is that business leaders are also fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, and that within their ranks are exactly the same proportion of generous, kind, brave, and loving women and men, as in any other sector of society. So my position in relation to this question is walk the twin trail myself, deepening, questioning and seeking authenticity. I then seek to bring my gifts forward, generously, vigorously, and to the best of my ability, without judgment. I believe that if I do this I will have the best chance of gaining their attention and perhaps something more.
To find out more about Mac, visit : www.macmacartney.co.uk

Clare Dakin

Is the Executive Director of Tree Sisters, www.treesisters.org, a global network of women supporting feminine leadership and crowd-funding tropical reforestation

1. What does it mean (to you ) to have a heart-based relationship with the earth?

When I dropped from a rational, linear, mind based, generally disconnected state (that enables us to witness ecological destruction without actually feeling it) into a more feeling, heart based state of being – I began to feel touched more deeply and personally by the beauty and fragility of nature; began to slip into the felt reality of my indivisibility from Earth. When I drop deeply enough into an open-hearted state with myself, then I feel more available and porous to life itself – and the depth of love that I think is actually naturally there for all of us towards the one of which we are a part. The intensity of love that I have for the natural world is what propels me beyond my fears, into action on her behalf.

2. How can feminine wisdom save the planet?

The feminine principle is the receptive side of our nature that governs our capacity to relate, to feel, to intuit, to care for and to love. The masculine principle is action, structure and logic orientated. Feminine wisdom is the knowing that arises out of our capacity to feel the state of the whole so that we can respond accordingly. If we do not reclaim this core feminine function, then our actions will continue to destroy. If we can reconnect to our love of nature and feel our indivisibility from her, then we will no longer be able to simply destroy, because we protect what we love…

3. How can we experience a more sacred relationship with ourselves, each other and nature?

When we truly drop into our hearts and start to feel our connection to everything, then in my experience, humility follows. True humility has a sacred quality of bowing to something that we uphold that is so much more than ourselves, or something that we aspire to. Surrendering our logical, analytical minds to the unknowable mystery that is the essential sacred Feminine is a way of becoming porous to the creative force of life that governs everything.