I believe in the power of nature !

” My best experience was the “solo”. You spend one night all alone in the mountains, and for the first time in my life, I could see the sun rising . For me, it was a time for me to move on”
Mohamed Ramy, 17, from Egypt.

Mohamed was touched by the experience of spending 12 hours alone in the wild during the summer. He lives in Cairo and for him, like for many young people of his age, nature is something distant and unknown. But spending time alone in nature is nothing new. Throughout history this practice has been used as a rite of passage to cope with life transitions : from teenager to adult, from adult to fatherhood or even to prepare for death. Now, with over 50 % of the people in the planet living in cities, time in nature has become not only inaccessible but we have come to be afraid of it. Children no longer know how to make fire, which plants can be eaten in the forest, or how to live without a mobile phone.

This lack of connection with the natural environment is considered a disease of the contemporary society (like obesity or stress) and it has even been named: it’s the “nature deficit disorder”. This phenomenon has ecological and psychological implications . On the one hand,  if we live without a vital connection to nature is easy to feel separated from it and therefore it’s harder that we love it and take care of it. Moreover, as social individuals , being hyper- connected with others (in Spain look to the mobile phone an average of 150 times per day) has distanced us from connecting with ourselves, and has stopped us in answering big questions about our lives : What do I want to be? What is the purpose of my life and how I can be useful to others?

Spending time alone in nature offers us an opportunity for silence, for reflection and the space we need to answers to our inner doubts arising, as well as causing a deep sense of peace and understanding of ourselves.

Today several proposals to make contact with nature more accessible to young people emerge. The reasons are several: remove fear, touch and inspire a respect for our environment and others and , above all, living a process of personal transformation that could eventually enhance your ability to assimilate new knowledge and general welfare. According to a recent study on nature deficit disorder, children with regular access to nature obtain 27% better results in study skills, self-esteem and behavior.

A major challenge for these transformation processes is the community support to sustain the process once back home , helping the integration of a more connected with one and more respectful of our environment healthier life. Without this support Mohamed would easily move back to Cairo (and Facebook) and his process would be let in the pipeline.

Heloise Buckland
Program Director, Sustainability Avalon School

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This post is also available in: Spanish