Embarrassed by love: presentation at Nature Connections 2018 conference

Really looking forward to the Nature Connections 2018 conference at the University of Derby, on 20th June. This is an annual interdisciplinary conference, now in its 4th year, that attracts an inspiring mix of researchers, policy makers, practitioners and environmentalists.

I’ll be sharing some thoughts on how on earth we have come to live in a culture that is embarrassed about feeling a deep emotional bond with nature. Below is the abstract for my presentation. Hope to see you there!

Embarrassed by Love

Economic and instrumental frames about nature dominate political discourse, both reflecting and promoting an anthropocentric ethic that assigns value to the natural world for the services it provides, and for its role as a resource to be controlled and exploited. Sometimes the intrinsic value of nature is acknowledged, wonder and beauty is celebrated, and the needs of other species are respected, but this is rare enough for it to come as a surprise when it does. This presentation explores why expressions of love and reverence for the living world are generally avoided by policy makers and politicians, and what this means for environmental action. I find clues in studies that find that although many people have had transpersonal or peak experiences in nature, they tend not to reveal that to others out of fear that the experience might be devalued or put down. It may also relate to findings that people tend to under-estimate the extent to which intrinsic values (which include appreciation of and care for nature) are deemed important by others, despite most people holding these values. How have we come to live in a culture that is embarrassed about feeling a deep emotional bond with nature? We could trace this several centuries back to the Scientific Revolution and to the philosophy of Rene Descartes, when the mind was disembodied and emotion came to be seen as ‘soft’. It is a legacy that persists today. I argue that this is the cultural shift that needs to occur: releasing ourselves from the grip of a dualism that denies us the possibility of being fully who we are, and allowing ourselves, and our politicians, a subject-subject relation with the natural world. For without this, how can the destruction end?

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