Description: Without getting into the issues, principles and challenges associated with climate change and global warming, just simply think about how you would answer these questions: “Are you connected to Nature?” “How might we conceptualize a connection to Nature?” “How might we measure a connection to Nature?” Perhaps you see Nature as simply defined as the world around us, but perhaps you have a much deeper, perhaps even spiritual connection to Nature. I know people who must get out into the mountains (I live near the Rockies) at least once a month or more to reconnect with Nature and to recenter and recharge. I also know people who do not seem to need to connect with nature and who seem to prefer to take vacations to other big cities. Is there a dimension of some sort between these two groups of people? How would you measure connectedness to nature? What sorts of questions would you ask?
What sorts of dimensions might connectedness to nature unfold along? I did some research of my own on this question a number of years ago in which I asked grade school children questions about their thoughts and feelings about and their connections to nature and then showed them a film about a killer whale named Luna that had been separated from her pod (The Whale) and started to approach and interact with the local humans in Nootka Sound off the coast of British Columbia. It is a wonderful film and well worth finding and viewing. In our research (which we did not get around to publishing) we found that children with deeper connections to nature were more likely to more legal and moral standing, closer to that they would give to humans. One of the hardest parts of that work was finding ways to measure connectedness to nature.
Think back about the questions posed at the start of this post and about how you might operationalize (measure) connectedness to nature and about how you would ground your concept or concepts theoretically (is it spiritual? cognitive? emotional? biological? cultural?). Once you have thought about it a bit, have a read through the article linked below and maybe go and have a quick look at the Martin et al., 2020 and the Keaulana, et al., 2021 articles to see where the research science has gotten with these questions.
Source: 38 Ways to Measure Awe and Connectedness to Nature, Christopher Bergland, The Athlete’s Way, Psychology Today.
Date: September 5, 2021
So, what do you think? I was very impressed with what has been done since my own efforts at addressing these question as they arose around viewings of The Whale (Luna’s Story). Given the jump in discussions around climate change and Nature respect and given the huge jump in the need to take big steps quickly to deal with climate change it might be a good idea to think a bit not just about measuring connectedness to nature but about how encourage or build deeper respect for Nature both socio-culturally and individually. The planet needs it but maybe we need it too.
Questions for Discussion:
- Do you have a connection to Nature and if so how would you describe it? What does it involve?
- What have researchers done to try and measure peoples’ connectedness to nature? What sorts of scales have they used and what sorts of questions do those scales contain? Is there anything the researchers are missing that should to investigated and added?
- Using the available measures for assessing connectedness to nature to track progress what sorts of interventions, campaigns, or educational efforts might we try in an effort to increase connectedness to nature?
References (Read Further):
Martin, L., White, M. P., Hunt, A., Richardson, M., Pahl, S., & Burt, J. (2020). Nature contact, nature connectedness and associations with health, wellbeing and pro-environmental behaviours. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 68, 101389. Link
Keaulana, S., Kahili-Heede, M., Riley, L., Park, M. L. N., Makua, K. L., Vegas, J. K., & Antonio, M. C. (2021). A Scoping Review of Nature, Land, and Environmental Connectedness and Relatedness. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(11), 5897. Link
Mayer, F. Stephan and McPherson Frantz, Cynthia (2004). “The Connectedness to Nature Scale: A Measure of Individuals’ Feeling in Community With Nature.” Journal of Environmental Psychology Link
de Jager Meezenbroek, E., Garssen, B., Van den Berg, M., Tuytel, G., Van Dierendonck, D., Visser, A., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2012). Measuring spirituality as a universal human experience: Development of the Spiritual Attitude and Involvement List (SAIL). Journal of psychosocial oncology, 30(2), 141-167. Link
Schultz, P. W., & Tabanico, J. (2007). Self, identity, and the natural environment: exploring implicit connections with nature 1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37(6), 1219-1247. Link
Heerwagen, J., & Hase, B. (2001). Building biophilia: Connecting people to nature in building design. Environmental Design and Construction, 3, 30-36. Link
Salingaros, N. A. (2015). Biophilia and healing environments. Healthy principles for designing the built world. ed. Metropolis magazine e Terrapin Bright-Green, New York. Link
Kalvaitis, D., & Monhardt, R. (2015). Children voice biophilia: The phenomenology of being in love with nature. Journal of Sustainability Education, 9, 2151-7452. Link