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HOW TO BECOME AN EARTHLING: We Need a Student & Nature Network

About the Author

Mahreen "Jai" Hamid Bashir is an Environmental Sustainability and Gender Studies major at the University of Utah. Her deep love and respect for the planet stems from her love of wildlife and exploring her backyard, the Wasatch Mountains, and her devotion to social justice and equality. She works abroad to raise awareness about the plight of feral dogs. Her other interests include playing guitar, reading classic literature, writing poetry, traveling and spending time with her best friend, a white husky named Sky Bear Severus.

We need an outlet. No, not that kind.

At night after my cellphone is off, my computer is put to sleep, my electronic tablet is left to charge, I look at the stars and think about myself on this blue marble in the midst of billions and billions of other objects in space. Unplugged from the daily beeps, ticks, and notifications, I have a reconnection with my place; my alliance with the Earth and all of it’s wonders. All the wonderful wild places and open land with brilliant colors, the smell and feel and safety of trees and the respect and comfort of animals, a true feeling of purpose.

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However, I question my place when I notice patches of the land of my childhood, both in Utah and abroad, turned into parking lots and mini-malls. When day after day I sit in class and become consumed by the endless numbers and statistics, and I feel helpless, the swarm of ideas and lack of action makes me feel frustrated and aggravated; it hurts my psyche, it hurts my inner self.

I know that many of my friends and family members feel this, a feeling I didn’t know how to describe until I came upon the term “solastalgia.”

Coined by philosopher Glenn Albercht, “solastalgia,” is a neologism that describes the innate human feeling of “psychic or existential distress caused by environmental change.” It combines the idea of “solace” and “algia” or pain, closely related to nostalgia, a longing for home. Albercht argues that humans long for their inherent home, in the heart of nature. When we see the destruction of “home,” we feel distressed. I perceive this pain in my fellow students.

Longing to belong, they find ways to escape: video games, television, violence, and depression. My tired generation, on prescription and recreational drugs, is Internet-dazed, media and fame crazed, depressed, idealistic, motivated, suppressed and lost. We are the byproducts of products. For us, the word “friend” is just a push of a button. Our lives revolve around things that must be plugged in. But we so badly need an outlet beyond the walls and bricks and artificial light. We need a way to express our solastalgia and our need for belonging, a connection beyond the plastics and concrete of our urban environment.

We need a new venue. We need a student nature network. We still have time and infinite capability. Let’s start talking, let’s start listening to one another, let’s start planning and let’s start doing.

As the inhabitants of a planet that is being destroyed, we need to become a united species. By bringing more nature into our lives, we can radically improve our schools, towns, cities, families and friendships. We can work less like machines – in sterile, gray windowless cubicles – and bring nature to where we work, receiving the physical and psychological benefits of the natural world. We have a place of belonging. We belong to the Earth. We must re-identify ourselves as Earthlings. We must do this not only for ourselves, but also for the wild forests, the streams, all the little creatures, the blue sky and our future children. We need an outlet.

 

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Note from C&NN: We like Jai’s idea for a student nature network, and suggest that joining C&NN’s Natural Leaders Network may be a place for high school and college students to start. In conversation, Jai describes the need for college students to form discussion and action groups focused on experiencing the natural world — not only for outdoor sports or action on environmental issues — but for a reconnection with the Earth, self, and one another. We like that idea. What do you think?

 

 

Other reading:

APOCALYPSE NO: Something large and hopeful is forming out there. You’re already creating it.
SEVEN REASONS FOR A NEW NATURE MOVEMENT 
NATURAL LEADERS LEGACY INITIATIVE 

55 Comments

  1. I think it is a wonderful idea. Most college students see nature as something distant; outside of their world. They need to realize that they live in it 24/7, and can not escape it. They need to become naturalists and stewards not just for the environment’s sake, but for theirs and for society’s.

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  2. Jai, this is a wonderful idea and I shall put it to my students here in Perth, Western Australia. Many of my students are ‘activists’ who engage in public protest about big environmental issues such as global warming, but they often do not look after themselves and burn out with the stress and isolation of it all. More mutual support from like-minded people from around the world, a cultural and political feeling I call ‘soliphilia’ would help with restoration of Earth and Mind health! In order to negate solastalgia, we need positive cultural energy that is strong and good. There is more about soliphilia on my blog Healthearth but all I can say here is that it is ‘Earth politics’ for earthlings and is neither Left nor Right on the political spectrum. I also write about other positive ‘psychoterratic’ (earth-related mental states) conditions … you can explore other ideas such as biophilia, ecophilia, endemophilia, topophilia and eutierria on my Blog and in my publications.

    Yours in soliphilia,

    Glenn Albrecht

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  3. Yes, I agree, as former associate dean and administrator of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of architecture, I have seen the need to aquaint ourselves with the earth, especially the specific biome in which we live. I believe that all of life is a learning experience and regardless of how we define ourselves in the world, we must learn to be a part of nature and to extend our nature, or the lessons are harsh. In the end we will be forced to live in harmony with life.

    Honesty is the key to knowledge and willing inquiry is the path to learning, so why do so many continue to ignore the planet’s needs? We are part of a singular organism and the more we know about it the healthier it grows. I believe the health is what we refer to as spirit, and the path of spirit is the love of nature.

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  4. Jai, I was so inspired and uplifted reading your post. You spoke to the wisdom of the Earth and what I have always heard in my heart. I had the privilege of being able to grow up unplugged and immersed in the natural world. I spend a lot of time in the Wasatch mountains and in the foothills. When my soul is spent, I lay on the Earth and recharge. Without nature, nothing else in my life seems to work. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and your heart.

    With deepest thanks, Kristy

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  5. Mahreen Hamid Bashir

    Thank-you so absolutely much for the feedback and compliments. I am beyond honored and grateful that this message which is very important to me is finding an audience and recognition. I can only hope that these words will inspire people to finally take the initiative to reclaim their lives and occupy the most vital space for consciousness and connectivity, our souls.

    Mr. Albrecht, I am beyond words that you would reply to such a post that found it’s origin within your ideas. I completely agree with your sentiments, and I am in absolute awe. If any of your students would be wiling to help with such an endeavor, I always need and would love more allies in diverse communities.

    Thank-you so much to everyone else for such kind words.

    If anyone reading this would like to write me for any questions/information on my research project Stephen Goldsmith/exploring these ideas/feedback, please don’t hesitate to send me an e-mail at jai.bashir@utah.edu.

    Thank-you,
    Jai

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  6. I am studying Environmental and Sustainability studies also, I love the new research, innovation, and passion about our planet that this major offers. But I too am constantly feeling overwhelmed about the problems we face with a changing climate and a hurting world. Where do we start? How do we heal and repair what seems to be endless damage, that we ourselves have caused? Can what we offer be enough? I think it can, but I think it takes what Jai is suggesting. We need to come together and discuss these issues, I love the idea about a student nature network! Our generation has a responsibility to push for healthy change and action. No more sitting around worrying, lets get things done!

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  7. I too feel the frustration of not learning about all of these things that need to be fixed with our cities and in nature, but not having a good way to do anything about it. I try to take public transit to school and shop at farmer’s markets but I feel like this is not enough and there is more I could be doing. I have never had a word for this until now. I really loved this blog post it put into words exactly what I have been feeling. Thank you.

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  8. I agree with you Jai, as you know, in that that majority of this world does suffer from solastalgia (which I am so glad to know this term). However, I think we may have a fundamentally different view on how to correct this deficiency in our lives. I do not believe that the way to reconnect with nature is to abandon city boundaries and to fight for the acres of forests, at risk watersheds, and to rally for less pollution-I believe the way to change solastalgia is to rework the way people think about the relationship between the city and the “natural” environment. I believe that cities are natural, they are derived from that which is part of nature. I believe people need to begin to see the nature that exists in their urban strongholds and then want to focus and grow what is there. Going out into the “wilderness” only strengthens this idea that cities are wrong, unnatural and are the enemy. Cities aren’t the enemy-it is the way people think to use them.

    We need to work out a way to build that bridge that keeps cities separate from nature, just as we solidified the reality that humans aren’t separate from nature, but are nature in and of themselves.

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  9. I was required to read this peace per a planning class assignment. The problem I am having is that I know how you feel at least in part. I was an engineering and environmental sustainability student at the University of Utah. I found that the programs both were lacking in the basic understanding of climate change and the need to make things better. I miss the wooded areas that I camped and really lived in growing up in California. I wasn’t a beach bum I lived when I visited sites like Calaveras Big Trees (http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=551). Having camped there over an 8 year period, even it 3 feet of snow…

    I find myself seeing that the education that I wanted so badly only pulling me away from the things that I already know in order to enable me to change. I love to camp but I also can’t stand the levels of pain, this unseen pain that I see when looking at the student walking around campus. This over priced under funded institution of higher education. This is were my fellow students have subpar aka crappy environmental variables they are forced to live with due to student handbook rules that govern even the interaction of student and dean,department head, or director of undergraduate studies. Yet we are to just deal with the problems and like it…..

    I know so much more then the predispositional looks I get from others. I am a continuing educational student wanting to engineer change to make the world a better place. These changes I have been redesigning for the past 5 years. Some of which are mobile power platforms so places like the Miran Eye institute can have power when preforming surgeries that save lives in the middle of Africa. These are the things I already know how to do. And all to often because of disabilities that I have been tested for find others limiting the level of education I could be getting and giving. My classmates suffering along with me. Those not with us for us are against us a statement all to clear in education.

    The reaction to this peace I think is on the right path although the planning a better world needs to happen also the dialog of what to do from here needs to be started with engineers, thinkers, planners and anyone else wanting, willing to help make the world a better place. NOW, not 20 years from now because we do not have that long before we are unable to keep big corn, oil and other powerful lobbies from continuing to own the government.

    Yes I’m left handed and dyslexic but not incapacitated by thought.

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  10. I agree we need to find a way to connect better with nature. We are way too distracted with all the electronics in our lives. Using them to make things easier for us when we are overlooking the benefits and simplicity of being part of nature.

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  11. A couple years ago, I travelled on a NOLS trip in the Wind Rivers in Wyoming. The connection I felt with nature was amazing but I also learned a lot of principles that would be relevant to the efforts of C&NN. Specifically, one of the main principles of NOLS is “leave no trace behind.” Specifically, it should be a goal of any interaction with our natural environment to leave it the way we found it as much as possible.

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  12. This would be something that college kids could greatly benefit from. Building a connection with nature can be tough sometimes between homework, friends, and a job. This could educate kids on the importance of making that connection with nature and coming away with meaning or purpose.

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  13. I think a student nature network is a wonderful idea. Between school and work, I find little time to escape busy, technologically dependent everyday life. I always wish I could sit outside and do my homework, but sadly the battery life on the laptop I am required to use wouldn’t last long with out an “outlet”. When I am always surrendering for it’s need for an outlet, where’s mine?

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  14. Through everyday chaos I also feel that I need an escape away for the radio, power points in class, tablets and texting. I sometimes like to go for a drive up immigration canyon when I having a rough day at school. I roll down all the windows and turn the radio off and just listen to all the sounds and breath in some of the fresh air. I think that the nature network is a wonder idea especially if we got something start on campus that connects with the nature around the campus so we could not have to drive by car. We could explore the area around us first. I think that this will also influence our physical health as a school community.

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  15. I would like to thank Jai and all the other posters for their insightful, and deeply needed words about this issue. The environment and the Earth as a whole should both be regarded with respect and honor, because we are all interconnected. It is truly easy to grow frustrated with the amount of inaction.Too many young people, (formerly myself included), have grown apathetic regarding global ecological and social problems that affect everyone. While society must be aware of the larger problems, I think grassroots change starts from the bottom up, in communities themselves. If the generation now and generations to come are to be connected to nature and be cognizant of reasonable solutions, we must start today. Creating a student nature network for real, viable action is a very encouraging first step to make a positive difference.

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  16. Jai, I agree with you regarding both the apathetic nature of many of our peers and the need for motivated individuals channeling their effort toward environmental protection. It’s problematic when people experience solastalgia and write environmental problems off as unchangeable. However, much hard work, research, and innovation must take place in order to solve many of the problems plaguing urban systems.

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  17. The paragraph that begins with “Longing to belong…” really hit home for me. It is hard to escape this electronic culture that seems “normal” to our generation. Taking a hike with a good book seems like the only escape but even that isn’t enough sometimes. We need to change for the sake of the human race. We must promote solutions not blame. We have to connect, not electronically, but physically as a generation, species, and a part of this amazing “blue marble in the midst of billions and billions of other objects in space.”

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  18. I agree with what you have said about being more a part of nature. I think that we are way too caught up in our changing human society rather than the beauty that is all around us. I think that if we don’t do something about this now, if we don’t start talking about it and making these networks, then it will be too late. We can make a change and we can start planning for the future.

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  19. This is a great piece, I am so pleased to read something from a fellow student that actually resonates with my personal feelings. I love how you “connected” the use of outlet to two separate and very different meanings, brilliant. It brings it full circle.

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  20. You wrote a very feel good article but I felt it lacked any actual depth. What are you ideas for helping people become less connected? What do you mean by a student-nature network? It is easy to sit and list things wrong with the world, it’s a challenge to provide specific solutions.

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  21. Jai,
    Thank you for expressing the passions that many of us feel so deeply about. I too feel the frustrations along with sometimes feeling hopeless, in the multitude of crisis we are currently facing. However, though I must say it is inspirational words such as these you speak of that motivate me and at times encourages me to keep pushing along to face the challenges that we have inherited and must overcome. It is people like you that continue to inspire and give the reassurance that we are not alone and we are all in this together!
    Namaste!
    Kristopher Watson

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  22. It is true that as technology gets more and more advanced our generation seems to be getting more ignorant. But who is to say that this generation does not like it that way? If I want nature integrated back into my life i will go to the zoo or something. But for now I will chill at my house and play Farmville! That could also count as nature, right?

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  23. Your thoughts on this are extraordinarily accurate. Human beings are becoming so out-of-touch with so many facets of nature that they’re beginning to become out of touch with each other. Our culture is perpetuating ideas pertaining to a more solitary lifestyle- living alone, and communicating through our phones rather than in person. However, human beings developed and have spent most of their time on the planet in groups, living together with each other and nature. Though we shouldn’t revert to this lifestyle necessarily, we should become more connected to others and nature and I really agree with your points regarding that.

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  24. Jai, we had a class together in the spring and I think we talked about some of these ideas.
    I agree with the feelings and observations brought up in this post about our environment and the relationship we have with it. It is overwhelming learning about the major crisis’ our world faces and immediately I do feel helpless and cynical. I think a student nature network would be a good outlet and way to get conversations started. Even more importantly it would bring us together to start taking action towards positive change with our relationship with the natural environment.

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  25. I strongly agree with Jai, taking a break from electronics to be immersed in our natural environment is refreshing. The statement “we can work less like machines” is inspiring to me. Working like a machine is a reflection of being surrounded by machines. By escaping from the claustrophobic world of technology I think we will learn something about ourselves that may have been lost. It is easy to see all the bad things happening, but I have faith that we can make necessary changes and Jai’s idea for a student nature network is brilliant.

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  26. I moved out of the Missouri countryside barely over a month ago where interacting with nature was a daily thing for me. In fact, I have been feeling the opposite – a longing for urbanization. As a child, my parents greatly limited how much time I could spend with electronics. I had no choice but to either read or go outside! Fishing, looking up at the night sky, exploring the river and the forests within yards of my house, amongst other things was normal. Because of the environment I grew up in, I don’t really understand the feeling of “solastalgia.”

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  27. I never thought of us being “byproducts of products”, but as I look around in my home, I come to feel that I truly have become a byproduct. Finding that outlet that links us to nature is so critical, but it’s not enough. We need to be plugged into that outlet. Jai, great thoughts that were artistically written, I really enjoyed this.

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  28. For so many years, I have been searching for this exact thing. I didn’t know it. But looking back I can see that’s what it was. So many countless times I have gone outside to stargaze, to see the universe I live in, the place that helped create me, but I can’t. Because there’s too many lights. It isn’t clear. I go outside on my lawn, feel the grass, sit in the shade of the trees, smell the flowers, but I still feel disconnected. Because in suburbia, it’s so boring, lifeless, manufactured. It doesn’t feel right.

    I’m a writer. In my writings, I notice many of the worlds I create and visit are very in-tune with nature. There’s a balance between all the facets of nature: man, cities, animals, flora, the atmosphere. I try to connect with nature through this, picturing the world I want in my head, and then translating it into words on a page. But it’s not enough.

    This network sounds like a fascinating idea–to get students reconnected with nature. To work together, to find the essence of who we are and our lives. I would love to see such a thing happen, and I would join/volunteer in a heartbeat.

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  29. I liked the way Jai talked about our ways of dealing with being disconnected with nature. I have recently been playing this game called Skyrim. It’s a vast world of trees and mountains and plains; the world is so big it would take you all day to walk to the other side. I remember when I got this game and thought to myself “You mean I can actually walk to the top of that mountain and look out over the map” but when I think about it I have the real thing right next to my house. I live in Skyrim/ Utah why would I have to buy a game to enjoy that? I can literally start walking to the top of the nearest mountain right now. I remember watching a developer trailer for this game last year and that was one of the ways they sold the game to the public. They would say stuff like “You see that mountain in the distance? You can actually walk to the top of that mountain.” I think it’s interesting that people can actually make money off of our disconnection with nature.

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  30. I am in complete agreement with this piece. I find myself in a beautiful setting with a beautiful climate, yet sometimes it feels that its only through the window of my room, untouchable. Why? because of the connection my life has with technology, and the “outlets” I need on an everyday basis to stay connected and complete my school work. I look forward to holidays where I can turn of my cell phone and go on a hike and just forget my ever consuming electronic world.

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  31. When you mention that by bringing nature into our lives we can radically improve our schools, towns, cities, families and friendships I completely agree. I believe that everyone, most importantly children, need an outlet into nature. It is a place for children’s brains to develop through imagination. In cities we have parks that regulate and control their creativity rather than letting them explore in nature and learn the importance of the connection and relationship between the systems of nature and society.

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  32. I agree with many of your descriptions of our generation, as a whole we do tend to live lives very separate from nature, and overly connected to computers and phones. I grew up doing various outdoor activities with my family, and I often feel the sense of solastalgia that you describe when I learn about large scale problems such as deforestation or climate change, or nearby developments proposed in the Wasatch Mountains. I think a Student Nature Network is a great idea to channel our solastalgia into something dynamic and that could eventually alleviate some of this sadness. However, I think it is important that we embrace the technology that has increased our knowledge of the natural world, computers and all. We have the tools to connect global networks of people feeling solastalgia, who could eventually create a global response to our “psychic or existential distress caused by environmental change.” Although we do need to step back from our iPhone screens and experience the world around us, we can also use the power of these technologies to help us keep learning about the natural environment that we live in so we can better protect it.

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  33. This idea is really fascinating. I could think what is my relationship with nature and how can I participate in sustainability activities. I agree with Jai’s ideas.

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  34. I really enjoyed the article! I love the idea of a student nature network. It would be interesting if college students could work with high school students in a type of after-school program where they could mentor the kids about environment and nature issues.

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  35. Your comments on how we have become byproducts of products leads me to think that we have been doing our best to replicate what we think of as home. That is, the virtual world, where instead our true place of origin is nature. The construction of the digital world is evident in all of our social media, where we add friends, create groups, and follow each other online.

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  36. While you know I’ve been in full support of this from the beginning, Jai, I think simply being born on Earth is what makes us earthlings. I know we both believe that a connection with nature is something that can’t be turned on or off, it is simply a matter of awareness to how closely interconnected everything really is. To suggest that some are not earthlings simply because they have not yet been privy to certain trains of thought and information implies that some of us are less than others. At this stage of the game, such implications can’t afford to endure.

    That being said, i’m with you every step of the way.

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  37. Like many of the other posters (funny how this is exactly what you were talking about) here, I find myself in near complete agreement with all that you said. I have found myself drifting away from the nature I used to love so much as a kid; being able to see the stars and the bright moon that would let you see all around even after the sun has gone down. I do miss it, but at the same time I now have a drive to do more than just observe and passively interact with it. 104 years ago, Theodore Roosevelt stated the following when he dedicated the Grand Canyon as a national park:
    “Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.” – Theodore Roosevelt
    But our relationship with nature has changed much further than he thought it would, with global climate change, pollution and other human effects changing these wondrous places in ways that cannot be considered as good. As such we are in an interesting point in history where, unlike what Roosevelt said, we can improve on nature. Even if it is just picking up that one bottle on the side of the street or making sure that that one production plant has regulations on how much pollution it dumps into the nearby river. We have many opportunities to improve on what many have called our heritage. So why don’t we?
    I cannot wait to see what you have in store for us in sustainability scholars. ‘Till then,
    Brady Bowen

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  38. To have a more diverse living space, one that isn’t powered by apps, rather backed by our long suppressed urge to reconnect with the forest. We could start with a short backpacking trip(students are attracted to social outings), camping in the heart of nature away from the artificial framework of our everyday lives, would generate a new appreciation for the elements of nature we have been missing out on and to some extent didn’t know existed…

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  39. You are preaching to the choir, sister :-)
    Often, when I am experiencing drama or stress, I escape the robotic glow of our technological and mechanical existence, and go to somewhere where the wildness of our world and the glow of the stars can entrance me. Warming myself by a fire, watching the flames interweave with each other, I reinvigorate my soul, prepare to take on the robots again. Teach your love of place to others, thanks!

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  40. I think it’s a interesting idea. I know that I am always thinking about when I can get back to the mountains and not think about the daily grind and all of these things that bombard out daily lives.

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  41. I think this idea could go a long ways. This is a great start into bringing more nature and revitalizing our relationship and interconnection with our environment. People most likely will never make the actions to unplugg and connect so we must bring nature and education to them. I enjoy this idea because it is feasible and something we can make happen on any level.

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  42. I think Jai brings up some valid points, and for many of us, I feel as if her words serve as the breaking point to realization. Day after day, so many of us lead the same routine lives, stuck in a rut of repetition, yet we do nothing to change this. As a second year environment and sustainability major I have come to realize the virtually endless connections that lie within the realm of sustainability, and at times it seems as if there is more on my plate than I can handle. While I stay updated on day to day findings, I sometimes long for the feeling of a direct connection with the environment. Whether its climbing an old neighborhood tree or simply getting together with others to discuss how our lives reflect upon the natural world, I think finding an outlet is necessary to staying grounded and open-minded.

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  43. I love the idea of student network. Things can get very discouraging sometimes without people to talk to who care about the planet as well. I feel like a student network would really help all of us come together and start creating change in our homes.

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  44. I have to agree with you for the most part. Humans need that connection with nature from time to time. If you haven’t been outside and in nature recently, then there is something missing in you. Deep inside you are yearning for that natural connection that calms that spirit and reminds you that the world is a beautiful place.

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  45. Marghanita Hughes

    Dearest Maureen, this is a wonderful post that brought tears to my eyes. How incredibly in-tune you are with your inner-being. We are nature and need nature in our lives to truly know ourselves and be in balance. I have 3 teenagers so I know exactly what you are talking about. I had the pleasure of having a university student attend my “connecting children with nature” workshop at the Manitoba Nature Summit last weekend. He was interested in exploring the activities in my workshop to help university students reunite their connection with nature. This was very encouraging, he made me question what else we could be doing to help reconnect older students to nature through art….will be investing more and sharing……………thanks for an other inspiring read! You are the REVOLUTION!!!Love and peace, Marghanita xx

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  46. I too share some of “Jai’s” passions and beliefs, I have made a life long pursuit to find home in nature! I have moved from large city to a smaller town to even a smaller town (no stoplights). More farmland, really close to National forest land and less light pollution. At this time my childern do not have internet access, they’re going to have to really dig deep and find that nature that I am so grateful to have in my life now. Sometimes it takes maturity to appreciate those things.

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  47. I think this is the beginning of a new movement connecting universities and students around the country and the world as the roots of the aspen forest Pando are connected. Like this forest in Colorado this new network can become the “largest living organism” that exists.

    I will mention that the Natural Leaders has a similar mission in that we are working to get the youth connected to nature but maybe we are not moving fast enough. I imagine that the Earthlings would work closely with the Natural Leaders.

    Jai, I was a student at Utah State University and I know the feeling you get when the Wasatch Front is transforming so rapidly. I would love to meet and see how can collaborate.

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  48. Mahreen Hamid Bashir

    Thank-you all so much for all the replies and comments. I am absolutely thrilled and honored to receive so many genuine responses that illuminate the fact that this is an idea, an emotion, a feeling that is not uncommon, rather it is something we must bring more into public discourse. It has been for far too long been pocketed and displaced and now must emerge and break the surface in order to find solace, place and meaning within such global uncertainty and the power of our collective conscious.

    There were a couple responses where I feel a need to clarify some of the questions and concerns addressed:

    Jenna–I agree with you absolutely. I too see not a need for people to reevaluate how we have made nature as this intangible esoteric “other.” Actually, that is the very thing I am highly interested and invested in. I am passionate about deconstructing our perceptions of nature as something that is other than ourselves, I want more than anything for people to see that nature is within themselves and everything around us. The water that constitutes for 3/4ths of my body, the molecules that come from star stuff, this very keyboard I am writing this response to you from is in some ways nature. My passion is inclusion and reconnection. Rehabilitation through understanding the very fibers and essence of all things is within us; and we, as this essential animal are part of all things. I will talk to you more in Sustainability Scholars. Thank-you for being an ally.

    Gabriel M. Vieira— I see your points, and I see you. I see your passion and devotion and frustration. If you would like to speak to me more about how I absolutely feel that global uncertainty and building consciousness is not in the hands of just a few elite individuals, but all people as expert of their lived experience, please contact me. I would love to discuss.

    Jason—My intention was not to write a “feel good article” because I too feel as that rhetoric being used so often to mass market “green” living and “sustainability” is causing stagnation within actually building and conjuring solution. I wanted this essay to be the embers of a growing fire through connection on a human level. That being said I wanted people to feel something kindling and then for us to rise together and make something real and tangible. I can only do so much with trying to make connection. So, here are my questions for you–what do you think are real viable options? How can I and others implement them? How would you do this differently? Please, I am open to all possibilities. I would love to have you on board and as an ally for the emergence of this project. Please get in contact with me if you wish.

    Eric Birkin: Interestingly, I did not actually choose the title for this piece; however, I agree and am pleased with it. To me it is representative of that very idea that Stephen Goldsmith posed to us back at the very beginning of Empathic Sustainability; what comprises our identity? I think it reiterates the very basic thing you are saying–that beyond what we have in our bank, who we pray to, the color of our skin, the languages we speak, the places we live, the ideas we contest and admire, the policies we follow etc… beyond all these different things that comprise our identities, we as essential animals are Earthlings. We have just momentarily forgotten. “How to be an earthling” is this idea of reconnecting with this seminal facet of us as essential animals, as humans, as dwellers on this blue dot in the Milky Way. We don’t need to “become” what we are, rather we need to see, experience, feel and connect. Thank-you. I value you as my friend and ally.

    For everyone else, with your word of encouragement and passion, thank-you again. Please stay tune and in touch with me for what is to come. We need all the support, heart, mind and spirit possible. Let us come together in soliphilia.

    Feel free to send me an e-mail—jai.bashir@utah.edu

    Thanks,
    Jai

    Reply
  49. Like the idea, involving student will make lots of changes to the society. Students could be influential in protecting our earth.

    Reply
  50. Jai,

    Great article! Others have echoed some of my reactions to your words, so I’d like to respond the the C&NN note at the end and the idea of a Student Nature Network. I’ve been a part of C&NN since 2007 so have watched the movement evolve, to inlcude the birth of the Natural Leaders Network. I know that the Natural Leaders are being challenged to “upscale” their amazing work to reach a much larger audience. Maybe campus based chapters is a way to pursue that. I highly, highly recommend contacting them to explore the possibilities,as I think you and others like you could really help scale up the impact that Natural Leaders can have – and you can help inform where they go in the future and how they get there.

    Natural Leaders is not, however, designed for or chartered to work with high school students and younger. This is a gap that was identified at our recent Grassroots Leadership Conference, but one that may not be best solved throught the Natural Leaders sturcture right now. From my experience I see high schoolers and college students as very different constituencies. Although they can share the same goals, from a practical perspective they may require a different “infrastructure”, mostly due to limits on working with minors and the contraints of high school curricula and school-based clubs.

    I am involved in some work in Southern California to launch a Youth Stewardship Council that brings together high school students from several schools around the idea of service learning. Many schools have environmental science classes or clubs, most of which are looking to do some “hands-on” projects that have a real impact in their communities. These classes and clubs are an ideal nucleus of students who share your experiences and feelings – and a desire for a more promising future. We are in our first months of our first year so just getting started. Efforts like this that focus on the unique issues of working at the high school level can easily be paired to college level programs for mentoring and collaboration. Working side-by-side, but sometimes with different “logistics”, we can create a powerful force for change!

    Manny Kiesser manny.kiesser@yahoo.com

    Reply
  51. This is a post that hit home for me, much like everyone who has left a comment here. Redefining oneself as an Earthling is something that I have been trying to achieve, and it’s not easy. There are hurdles that I never thought I would have to jump, but the reward of reconnecting with the planet without technology and with my body, mind, and soul has been healing, liberating, and encouraging.

    Thanks for the inspiring article that has emboldened me to continue on my path and to create new ones for myself and the people, and the planet, that I love.

    Cheers,
    Michelle Larson

    Reply
  52. Mahreen Hamid Bashir

    Hello everyone,

    I am still delighted and immensely humbled by the responses I have been receiving for this piece. Stephen Goldsmith and I are extremely excited about this project and decided to use Facebook as an ecotone in facilitating dialogue between our currently developing website and the social networking tools that are already in use. This is just a transitionary component, because we are still in the midst of creating this website as the best possible tool we are capable of.

    Feel free to use this as an open space to communicate any and all ideas about what you wish to see/happen/occur and present within the new website. Again, this is just a space for congregation and connection that is going to facilitate the website, not the website itself.

    https://www.facebook.com/TheStudentAndNatureNetwork

    Thank-you so much,
    Jai Hamid Bashir

    Reply
  53. A truly great blog! We need a major return to nature, in our cities, towns, and rural areas. With the internet, even the most remote areas aren’t so remote anymore. Cities are shrinking and vast swaths of vacant land have the potential to be redeveloped into true green space (not manicured parks, but forests, urban farms, and more). Havens for biodiversity.

    Reply
  54. You are SO deep. Seriously. Keep up your awesome thoughts.

    Reply

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  1. To feel this you need to get out of the built environment » Why Aren't You Outraged? - [...] HOW TO BECOME AN EARTHLING: We Need a Student & Nature Network : The New Nature Movement Field Notes …

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