During the recent Project Soothe Exhibition we asked visitors a simple question:
How interconnected are you with nature? Please tick the picture below which best describes your relationship with the natural environment.
Which of the five diagrams do you choose?
This isn’t something we just made up. It is the Nature-in-Self scale developed by Wesley Schultz in 2001 and used in numerous studies since. It is based on older self versus other scales used in psychological research.
Of course biologically we are just naked apes and totally integrated with the plant world for our food and oxygen. We are nature so the logical thing to do would be to choose number five. But it is a loaded question that starts with the presumption that there is a separation between self and nature and then asks us to take our pick. It doesn’t feel right just to tick Box 5 on the basis of logic.
I certainly feel a separation from nature. Each lunchtime I leave my computer and office to walk in the garden and reconnect with nature. I do this even though I know the garden is also a human construct created by generations of skilled colleagues.
Of the visitors to our exhibition 325 of the 396 who answered the question felt some level of separation but not in a uniform fashion.
Looking at three age categories it appears that older people are more likely to feel connected with nature. It also appears that women are more connected than men.
Our little survey isn’t scientifically rigorous enough to draw robust conclusions from these figures but they do serve their intended purpose of posing more questions that may be worthy of scientific enquiry.
Do people come to the garden because they already feel connected with nature or does it help people become more connected? Should we be reaching out to those who need to connect considering the known health benefits?
Does perception of nature in self lead to higher levels of stress reduction from time spent in nature or are a sense of connection and stress relief one and the same thing?
Do those who feel they are more connected also have more pro-environmental behaviours? Some studies suggest this is so but our results are counter to the perception that younger people are more environmentally aware than older people.
Does the diversity of plants found at the Botanics lead people to feel a stronger nature connection than, say, a walk on the shoreline or up Arthur’s Seat?
Having read about our results would you pick the same picture again? To be honest I’ve thought about this so much I no longer know which I’d pick.
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