Our connection to nature

Fall 2013 007Even if nature is the background of our wedding pictures, it is still important not to lose this connection. Here’s a photo that I took today of a beautiful bride and groom and their best men and bridesmaids. They made the effort to come to the park, walk on the rocks and grass on their wedding day to take pictures in this old park, where the trees are magical and the river is wild after a rainy night. They’re creating their own ‘memories’ of being in nature, breathing in fresh air, and walking relax.

I know with technology, you might not even needed to come all the way to the park to make it the background of your photos … but I’m sure the experience for this group of people could’ve not been the same.

Thank you for making our park so romantic, elegant, and unique today.


A morning to remember


At 6 on an October morning my 4-month old daughter was crying and did not want to go back to sleep. The fall sun was raising and she was looking out the window of the beautiful Georgian Bay cottage that we were staying for 2 nights.

Not very happy, my husband and I put on our coats, get her ready and left our warm and  comfortable beds to step into …

A quiet world from distance but a harmonious busy environment in a close contact. The weezing of insects, the chip calls of birds, the wind, the water, the fish, the sun ray … and the world was waking up.

My daughter was calm, my husband and I were in awe. We all stand quiet by the water and watched, listened, felt, and smelled the beauty of the nature around us … we were becoming a part of that silent, busy, waking world … we were wondering how the day would unfold …

I often share my home pictures with early childhood education students, early childhood educators, teachers, and colleagues. This picture is often a favorite. It captures the possibilities of making deep connection through observation, listening, and desiring. It talks about the desire of children in making meaning. It talks about the rights of children to rich experiences. It challenges us to revisit our connections and understandings of nature. A revisit that invites us to remember the complexity of our connections.

And I’m wondering what can “replace” this experience, for her, for me … for us.

Anthropocentric and Biocentric Reasoning

I knew I contradicted myself when I was passing through our park right after I posted “A field trip to the Toronto zoo”. The spirit of the caterpillars flew to me to question me: “Why is it okay for us to be tamed, to be controlled, to be manipulated by humans’ children but not for a tiger?” I couldn’t ignore their question, very true question. It took me back to the chapter 2 in my dissertation … to the dilemma of an Anthropocentric and/or Biocentric reasoning when talking about, studying, manipulating,  managing ,  and discussing sustainability. Anthropocentric and/or Biocentric?! Two big terms. In an anthropocentric approach, people’s interests and wellbeing are situated at the center of human-nature interaction and inter-relatedness. For example, nature is valued, respected, and protected because it has the potential to satisfy our mental, physical, and spiritual needs and desires. In contrast, a biocentric approach attempts not to commodify nature as merely our possession but as something that has its own rights and values.

The line between these two approaches is not always clear-cut; rather, a definition of our relationship with nature often sits somewhere on a continuum between these two approaches. However, it seems to me that it is hard, or I may even say impossible, to distance ourselves from Anthropocentrism.

I was walking through that park thinking what has made me to think that to look, touch, and keep a caterpillar is less problematic than doing the same to a tiger.  Is that the size, the memories, or the way we, humans, romanticize nature? Or is it because one is considered being endangered and the other not? Are the dignity and rights of tigers different from those of the caterpillars? This question takes me to the novel of Animal Farm, where it say, “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others!” Am I trapped in the same dilemma/contradiction too?

When I go to the talks about nature, some basic questions often come to me “Who defines what is a flower what is a weed? Who can decide if a mosquito can be killed but not a butterfly?” These questions are important to disrupt an instrumental idea of nature which considers nature as an object to be intellectually possessed and physically manipulated and exploited to satisfy someone’s version of human’s needs and wants. Human being is at the center of asking and then finding answers for these questions. Very difficult questions that I wish there was  some easy answers for them … So when we advocate for connection with nature or protecting nature, we must not forget that we are at the center of deciding what can be connected to and what needs to be protected …. The key questions remain: who’s protecting who from what?

This is of course not to deny the tight interconnection between humans and the rest of the nature. I still believe we need to think about our (including nature’s) physical and emotional health and well being rather than humans versus nature. It is us/we that I’m interested in learning more about.

So what do you think? Where do you position yourself in our connection to nature?