[environmental generational amnesia] As our contact with Nature shrinks, so is nature’s effects on the physical, cognitive and emotional well-being of individuals, without us taking notice
Apparently, environmental generational amnesia (…) leads us to construct distorted meanings for environmental concepts. As we continue to degrade nature, we will adapt to its loss, as we have already, no doubt. But the adaptation comes with physical and psychological costs.
Consider this analogy. Imagine that your favorite food item is the only source of an essential nutrient and that without it everyone suffers from low-grade asthma and increased stress. Now imagine a generation of people who grow up in a world where this food item does not exist. In such a world, it would seem likely that people would not feel deprived by the absence of this tasty food (it was never in their minds to begin with) and that they would accept low-grade asthma and increased stress as the normal human condition.
Nature is like that food. A wide variety of literature, which has come under the rubric of biophilia, shows that direct positive affiliations with nature have beneficial effects for people's physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. Findings from over 100 studies, for example, have shown that stress reduction is one of the key perceived benefits of recreating in a wilderness area. Other studies have shown greater stress recovery in response to natural than urban settings. Other studies conducted in prisons, dental offices, and hospitals point to similar effects. (…) Prison inmates whose cells looked out onto nearby farmlands and forests needed fewer health care services than inmates whose cells looked out onto the prison yard. In short, the research literature shows that people who affiliate positively with nature tend to be happier, more relaxed, more productive, more satisfied with their homes and jobs, and healthier.
NB: Reference to previous academic papers have been withdrawn from this excerpt.
But we can easily extend this hypothesis [that nature has beneficial effects on the physical, cognitive and emotional well-being of individuals] to the conservation of biodiversity. [Ecologists] refer to the extinction of the experience of nature, which they have mainly applied in urban areas. The idea is as follows: from generation to generation, young people live less and less in contact with nature (because there are fewer of them and because their lifestyles limit such contact), at the very moment they are building their identity. The part of their identity that integrates their intimate relationships with their natural environment would therefore diminish from generation to generation. Not because of a lack of education, but mainly because of a decline in opportunities and desires to experience nature without constraint, freely and in their own personal way.
The consequences of this decrease appear in adulthood: with a weaker environmental identity, they are less in demand for nature in their daily lives, they integrate it less in their actions. (...) But if we do not collectively take biodiversity into consideration in our lifestyles, then we will suffer.
Source : Mobilizing against the extinction of nature experience (french), july 2015, Espaces naturels
It was the quietness of life in a medieval English village that would most strike a visitor from today—no planes overhead, no swish or rumble from traffic. Stop reading this book a minute. Can you hear something? Some machine turning? A waterpipe running? A distant radio or a pneumatic drill digging up the road? Of all the varieties of modern pollution, noise is the most insidious.
Yet in the year 1000 the hedgerows actually had a sound. You could hear baby birds chirping in their nests, and the only mechanical noise you would hear came from the wheezing of the blacksmith’s bellows. In some villages you might have heard the bell in the church tower, or the creaking and clunking of the wooden cogs in one of the water-mills that had been constructed in the last 200 years, and if you lived near one of England’s dozen or so cathedrals, you would have heard the heavy metal cascadings of sound from the copper windpipes of one of the recently imported church organs. But that was all. As bees buzzed and wood pigeons cooed, you could listen to God’s creation and take pleasure in its subtle variety.
The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.