A key aspect of our restorative context is the human/nature split—the largely unconscious belief that we are separate from nature. Of course humanity never has been and never will be separate from nature but we have come to believe that we are and, consequently, our behaviors and technologies are undermining life on Earth. As the day-to-day functioning of industrial society continues to wreak havoc on the planet, individuals and even organized groups seem nearly powerless to change things in any kind of fundamental way.
The field of ecopsychology delves into this territory and points directly to the human/nature split as the root cause of our degrading and shortsighted treatment of the Earth and other species. While its roots are ancient, contemporary ecopsychology has developed over the past couple of decades as some environmentalists and psychologists began to think about the environmental crisis and its relationship to the psyche.
Ecopsychology gives voice to our embeddedness in the Earth and how our health and sanity are intimately tied to the health of the natural world. There are compelling arguments to make that our imaginations, our ability to feel and experience, and our sense of meaning and purpose have all been damaged by the lack of conscious and intimate participation with the Earth. It makes sense, since we are of the Earth from the very beginning, with bodies and minds that developed over millions of years for finely tuned and direct relationship with virtually every aspect of the Earth, with plants and animals, water and wind, soil and seasons.
Given the reciprocal relationship between humans and nature, it follows that there is something pathological in the thinking of people—and I mean virtually all of us—who allow and perpetuate the degradation of their life-support system. It also follows that living with such degradation will negatively impact people’s psyches in profound ways.
Having lost much of our conscious connection to the natural world and our own bodies, it is little wonder that depression, drug abuse, violence, obesity, attention deficit disorder, excessive materialism, and many other symptoms of mental imbalance have arisen on such massive scales. The root meaning of the word insane is “not whole,” and this characterizes industrial society and the psychic splits it perpetuates in a poignant way.