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The Age Of Emptiness Or The Coming Creativity

By Richard Louv

One day, while driving down a freeway, I looked up to see an empty sky where there had been mountaintops.

Dust was rising as massive earth graders rumbled across a now-blank plain. Seemingly overnight, they had sliced away the horizon. Later came rows of mini-mansions devoid of color or individuality or visual meaning, and shopping malls, one after another after another after another, with the same anchor stores, the same stucco, the same cars, the same dreamlessness.

Perhaps you’ve shared this feeling—this solastalgia, as Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht calls it: a form of human psychic distress caused by the loss of nature.

The disappearance of that horizon serves as example and metaphor, a reflection of how our society is out of balance, often overwhelmed by technology. Every day, it seems, we’re enervated by empty calories, empty suits, empty politics, empty financial institutions, empty architecture, empty schools, empty news— emptied land.

Do we live in the age of emptiness?

Shift the view just a bit, and the world fills with possibilities. By restoring our kinship with other species, we restore ourselves. Imagine nature-rich and nature-smart homes, neighborhoods, schools, parks, urban and rural farms, workplaces, whole cities. To build this kind of a world, we need more than conservation. We need a new nature movement, not one that urges us back to nature, but forward to nature.

The eco-theologian Thomas Berry, a man who knew the power of practical dreaming, said the “Great Work” of the 21st century would be to reconnect our humanity to the reality and spirit of nature, to the fullness of life. Instead of settling for an age of emptiness, we could be entering one of the most creative periods in human history.

It’s a choice.

You’re part of the new nature movement if…

  • You want to reconnect with real life in a virtual age.

  • You’re a student who’s decided to build a career connecting people to nature.

  • You’re an entrepreneur who wants to build a business connecting people to nature.

  • You’re a parent, child, or therapist who believes that the family that plays in nature together stays together.

  • You’re a biologist, landscape architect, or policymaker dedicated to transforming cities into engines of biodiversity and human health.

  • You’re someone who understands that all spiritual life begins with a sense of wonder, and that nature is a window into that wonder.

  • You hunger for authenticity; you believe in nature’s power to create a deeper sense of personal and regional identity.

  • You can be of any race or culture, you can live in an inner city, suburb, or small town, and you see your connection to nature as a birthright.

  • You’re a biophilic architect on the cutting edge of green design.

  • You’re a nature-smart developer who creates or rebuilds neighborhoods that connect people to nature.

  • You’re an urban planner or public health official who believes that creating more nearby nature builds better health, tighter social bonds, and a smarter workforce.

  • You’re an employer using biophilic design to create a more productive workplace.

  • You’re a nature-smart homeowner determined to create a healthier, happier, restorative home, yard, and garden.

  • You’re a pediatrician or other healthcare professional who prescribes nature for your young patients and their families.

  • You’re helping a hospital, children’s mental health center, nursing home, or other health facility encourage healing through nature.

  • You’re an ecopsychologist, wilderness therapy professional, nature therapist, camp counselor, docent, or park ranger working as a “park health paraprofessional.”

  • You’re a “new agrarian”—an organic farmer or rancher or urban gardener.

  • You’re a locavore, dedicated to consuming locally grown food.

  • You want to reignite all your senses.

  • You’re a nature-smart teacher who takes your students outside because you understand the power of nature to help them learn.

  • You’re an artist, writer, photographer, or musician who knows the power of nature to stimulate creativity, and you use your talents to reconnect people to nature.

  • You’re an outdoor recreationist who restores nature.

  • You’re a citizen naturalist.

  • You care about the human relationship with nature, whether you’re liberal, conservative…or other.

  • You’re a law enforcement official who believes nature can play a role in crime prevention and prison recidivism.

  • You’re an attorney who protects the forgotten human right to our connection to nature and the responsibilities that come with that right.

  • You’re a mayor or county official or business leader looking for a new way to envision your region’s future.

  • You’re done with despair; you want to create a newer world.

  • You’re …. This is a partial list, based on The Nature Principle. Where do you see yourself?