The downplaying of the constitutively relational character of human life has severe consequences for both the relationship with other humans and with nature.
French philosopher Bruno Latour died earlier this month at age 75. Of the many insights I absorbed from his work I mention four here:
1. Nature and culture are not two things; they are one.
2. Facts require champions
3. Nature sits in the middle of our politics.
4. There are no “objects” just networks.
It defies our normal modes of thinking that natural entities such as trees, rivers, mountains, lakes, and glaciers should be given legal standing in courts and public life. And yet we take as a matter of course the legal rights of other inanimate entities.
Our youth have little opportunity to bond with nature. Bombarded with technology that, sadly, discourages outdoor activities, they need encouragement and assistance getting outside.
This week Mind launches a campaign to promote ecotherapy, with the publication of our report ‘Feel better outside, feel better inside: Ecotherapy for mental wellbeing, resilience and recovery’ .
There are some stories that have weathered the ages. Weathered them, literally— from the mouth of an old man around a fire of peat, smoking until the story he is telling is black and tobacco-stained, to the girl who heard it and carried it with her out into the sheep fields, then into the city, working two jobs to feed her children, all the while touching on the strength of wild swans in her memory; from the ancient fire pit around which it was first told and shaped, maybe as far back as the making of bronze things, maybe just at the time the priests came and built churches, to the anthology of Irish Folktales in which some semblance of it was written down in the late 19th century, and the subsequent re-printings, slightly changed re-writings, the battered pages, the dunks in bathtubs, the days left out on the porch in the rain. We may call many myths fairytales, now, as if to diminish their seriousness; whatever we call them, they are old and powerful, when we peel them back. They are full of the magic of animals, land, and people.