Oct 9, 2020 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Ellie Gober | Illustration by Bibi Powers

When the pandemic hit, we were all stuck at home with nowhere to go. Those who were lucky enough to live in a place with easy outdoor access, such as myself, used nature as a way to destress and enjoy ourselves without our normal activities available. This connection is an emotional one and key to our happiness, even though we often mistakenly think that nature is only beneficial to our physical health.

For instance, those living in cities have been found to be happier and less stressed when they live near a park or have views of the ocean or even trees. Studies have shown that people who live near larger areas of green space show decreased cortisol levels (a measure of stress) than those living not as close to green space.

Sam Asher ’24 is in a first-year seminar that is focusing on Wilderness Writing, and he feels a strong connection with the natural world. “Not only is being outdoors a good way to have fun with friends, but I also feel like it lets us calm all of our senses when we’re in nature. It’s therapeutic in how we can feel everything and just be hiking or walking and thinking outside,”  he said.

This clear positive relationship between nature and emotional health is not a small thing. With our country on fire, and climate change creeping towards a point of no return, there are endless reasons to act on taking care of our natural world now. In many cultures, people still acknowledge their relationship with the earth, relying on the natural world and taking care of it. We need to adapt the same mentality, because we are facing the extinction of our natural world as we know it.

“We have entered the urban century, with two-thirds of humanity projected to be living in cities by 2050,” wrote Gretchen Daily, Director of the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University and a senior author of a recent paper arguing that the cognitive and emotional benefits of nature should be factored into economic ecosystem service models. “There is an awakening underway today to many of the values of nature and risks and costs of its loss. This new work can help inform investments in livability and sustainability of the world’s cities.”

As anxiety over climate change grows, we need to get outside, destress, and turn to positive action for our world. Humans rely on nature not only for physical survival, but for mental and emotional health and support. We as a community at Colorado College should be taking this lesson as a call to work on keeping the world green, and acknowledging the benefits nature brings while also considering the environmental inequality in our nation. Keeping a strong emotional connection with the natural world and helping those who do not have access to connect is the best way we can take care of the world and its inhabitants.

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