Reason # 2: Nature Deficit Disorder

Why We Don’t and How We Can (Care for Creation)
These reflections are devoted to citing a number of obstacles that keep us from caring for creation. Many of us are absolutely committeed to do what we can to lower our destructive impact on Earth and to behave in ways that serve to diminish our impact and generate a positive restoration of Earth. Yet we often simply do not do that. Or at least we do not do as much as we think we should. We can open our eyes by doing a Fearless Moral Inventory, as AA calls it, to all living and non-living beings we have harmed. We can also become aware of the ways our personal behavior and our public witness are blocked or prevented by various personal reasons,cultural assumptions, and religious beliefs. We seek to name some of those blocks and suggest how we might change to make a difference.
Why We Don't and How We Can (Care for Creation). Reason # 2. Nature-Deficit Disorder

Why we don’t. We are literally alienated from the “ground” of our being. Unless we are farmers and spend a lot of time working with the soil and depending on the seasonal rhythms, we are likely psychologically distanced from the very ground under our feet—the land, the soil, the trees, the animals, the water, sand, beetles, raccoons, and squirrels—all part of the eco-systems upon which we depend for our lives. We have a sense of living on the Earth rather than in and with the Earth. One winter, I realized that I had not stepped directly on the ground itself for months, going from house to sidewalk to driveway by car to work or store and then again on street and sidewalk and indoors and so on. We purchase food and other products prepared and packaged from the stores. We have little connection with the Earth.

This alienation leads us to see nature around us in a materialistic and utilitarian way. We see land as a commodity to be bought and sold, to be managed in any way we can for the best price for food and products, to be beautified as lawn and garden with fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides for our pleasure. We believe the property we have purchased “belongs” to us. As a society, we do not regard the land as something to be cherished and enjoyed so much as a source of exploitation for commercial resources. We have little reverence for it.

Not only is Earth suffering, but we humans, without realizing it, are also suffering because of this alienation. We have a condition that Richard Louw, in Last Child in the Woods (Algonquin, 2005), referred to as “nature-deficit disorder”—resulting in a loss of health and wholeness that comes from not being rooted in our relationship with the nature from which we humans emerged. There is a foundational sadness and emptiness that has resulted for humans from this loss of relationship with nature since the industrial age. We are often not even aware of this loss until we begin to restore that relationship.

How We Can.

We need a “conversion to Earth”—a change of mind, a change of heart, and a change of behavior.

The conversion of mind is this. The Earth does not belong to us. We belong to the Earth. We do not live “on” the Earth. We are an inextricable part of it. We came from dust and to dust we will return. We are totally interrelated to nature. Every breath we take is an interaction with trees producing oxygen. Every meal we eat is dependent upon soil and water and clean air. We need to rethink every day how profoundly we are interrelated with the nature around us. We can see ourselves, even in our own “property,” as one part of an Earth community—pets, trees, flowers, insects, birds, small mammals and reptiles, beetles, and much more—that inhabits this place. This is our earth community.

The conversion of heart is this. We will not save what we do not love. We need a love affair with nature. We need to spend quality time in nature, even the nature of our backyards and neighborhoods and city parks, but also at lakes and woods, national parks and wild places. This relationship with nature can be deeply renewing and life-changing. When we fall in love with the natural world, we see the harmful implications of our lifestyle and our actions—personal and communal—on the world around us. And we want to serve and preserve this Earth.

The conversion of behavior is this: We will save what we love. As one person said, “I love this forest so much that I will not let anything happen to these trees.” Or as a Lutheran pastor declared so well: “We must do more than care for creation. We must love it no matter what. We care for our cars. But we love our children.” We need to make commitments to change our lifestyle and our world out of love for this good creation that God loves so deeply.

This is not just a conversion to Earth but also a conversion “down” to God who is in with and under all things as the “ground of our being.” It is in relationship with nature that we will revitalize our relationship with God by being restored to the communion of God’s whole creation.

“We Have Forgotten Who We Are.

From the U. N. Environmental Sabbath Program

(pp. 70-71 in Earth Prayers, by Elizabeth Roberts)

We have forgotten who we are.

We have forgotten who we are

We have alienated ourselves from the unfolding of the cosmos

We have become estranged from the movements

of the earth

We have turned our backs on the cycles of life.

We have forgotten who we are.

We have sought only our own insecurity

We have exploited simply for our own ends

We have distorted our knowledge

We have abused our power.

We have forgotten who we are.

Now the land is barren

And the waters are poisoned

And the air is polluted.

We have forgotten who we are

Now the forests are dying

And the creatures are disappearing

And humans are despairing.

We have for gotten who we are.

We ask forgiveness

We ask for the gift of remembering

We ask for the strength to change.

We have forgotten who we are.