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Nature Connection

Call to action:

Restore human connections with nature to improve our well-being, regenerate planetary ecosystems, and cultivate regenerative values and practices.

Many people in industrialized societies have become physically separated and emotionally disconnected from nature in their daily lives, with serious consequences for both human well-being and planetary health. Nearly 60 percent of humanity – over four billion people – live in cities. Some people spend 90 percent of their day indoors and in front of screens, a condition particularly prevalent among children and young people. Disconnection has society-wide effects, including an ignorance of the natural systems that sustain us, a lack of empathy for non-humans, a perception of nature as a resource without intrinsic value, and a resistance to environmental justice. Regenerating our relationship with nature can improve our health, enhance cognitive function, boost our immune systems, and reduce stress. Reconnection can foster regenerative attitudes and behaviors that benefit the Earth. Diverse solutions exist at all levels of agency, from daily practices by individuals to integrating nature connections across education, health, urban design, conservation, and social policy. Traditional and Indigenous cultures are deeply connected to nature, and their diverse experiences can provide inspiration and examples.

Action Items


Learn about human disconnection from nature and its impacts. Disconnection from nature in the industrialized world has occurred gradually through the agricultural, industrial, and - more recently - technological revolutions. In the Global North, its roots can be traced back to The Enlightenment which saw nature as a mechanistic resource to be exploited for human needs. Propelled by colonialism, this mechanistic disconnection from nature became a dominant narrative globally and is often viewed as the driver of the converging socio-ecological crises we face, including deforestation, land degradation, global warming, and biodiversity loss. Key points:

  • Disconnection from nature has grown in recent decades. Primary causes include urbanization, the loss of wild spaces, and technology. Nature Deficit Disorder refers to this growing human disconnect from nature and its impacts on our health, including decreased immune function, higher levels of stress and anxiety, and feelings of loneliness and alienation.
  • Human separation from nature can have cascading impacts on societies as a whole. A lack of natural spaces can lead to a higher incidence of localized crime and violence, while boosting local nature can foster empathy and community cohesion.
  • Species loneliness is the notion that we have cut ourselves off from kinship and relationships with non-human beings, even though we long deeply for this connection. This estrangement shapes human behaviors, fueling over-consumption, individualism, and an inclination for power and violence.
  • Nature disconnection is also a social justice issue, with racially and economically marginalized communities as well as disabled people generally facing greater barriers to accessing nature. In cities in Germany, Portugal, and the Netherlands, people with lower levels of income and education tend to have less access to natural spaces than other groups.

Learn about cultures, communities, and philosophies that are deeply connected to nature. The diverse knowledge systems and wisdom traditions of Indigenous peoples and traditional communities can serve as models in shifting to more nature-connected societies.

  • Traditional and Indigenous peoples have always lived in deep relationship and reciprocity with the rest of nature. Most Indigenous cultures are kincentric, like the Potawatomi and Rarámuri, and view all life as interconnected and having intrinsic value. A list of Indigenous Learning Resources from First Nations in Canada includes Calls to Action and educational programs.
  • The work of Robin Wall Kimmerer, including her book Braiding Sweetgrass, is a leading example of the need to reconcile scientific understandings of nature with Indigenous ways of knowing and relating. By centering gratitude, reciprocity, and humility to view plants and other non-human entities as sources of knowledge and wisdom, we can begin to restore our relationship with nature and cultivate regenerative societies.
  • Elements of non-western faith traditions such as Shintoism, Buddhism and Taoism can inspire cultivating reconnection to nature. The book Web of Meaning explores how we can integrate components of these spiritual traditions, Indigenous knowledge and belief systems, and Western thinking to forge a new worldview of deep interconnectedness.
  • Deep Ecology is a philosophy developed by ecologist Arne Naess that recognizes the interconnectedness of all life and the importance of deep human experience in nature.
  • The Gaia Hypothesis, developed by chemist James Lovelock, sees the Earth as a living, interconnected, and self-regulating system in which humans are innately enmeshed.
  • Immersive educational programs in ecology, economics, and spirituality, such as the one offered at Schumacher College, teach students how to connect with nature in innovative ways. Research suggests that feeling are as important as thinking when it comes to connecting with the natural world.

Learn about the benefits of connection to nature. Restoring our relationship with nature is beneficial both for humans and the natural world. Relating to nature has countless positive effects on our physical and mental health. It also has the potential to shift behaviors and values towards caring for and restoring nature. How each of us connects to nature varies greatly and can manifest itself in many different ways:

Integrate nature-based practices into your daily life. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for cultivating a relationship with nature, with options differing according to cultural, geographical, and socio-economic context. Finding ways to connect with nature that feel accessible and comfortable to you is critical.   

  • Even if you have limited access to natural spaces, there are simple steps you can take to deepen your relationship with nature. This includes taking time to observe natural cycles, such as sunrises and the phases of the moon. Get to know your local natural spaces, whether a park or a tree-lined street. Learn the native plants in your neighborhood. You can record and share your observations through initiatives such as iNaturalist.
  • Gardening, composting, growing flowers, and creating habitats for pollinators are other simple ways to establish a relationship with nature (see Compost Nexus and Pollinators Nexus).
  • Observe wild animals in the landscapes around you. Taking the time to consciously notice and learn from other animals can nurture a sense of compassion for and relatedness to other living beings. This can be as simple as learning bird language, including practices like Slow Birding, or cultivating more in-depth animal awareness skills such as tracking.
  • Get involved in local nature restoration and regenerative food-growing projects. By helping to rewild your local environment, you can both increase the wild nature around you and nurture your own connection to the natural systems that sustain you. Here are ten tips on how to get started, and here is a toolkit on local ecosystem restoration (see Degraded Land Restoration Nexus and Agroecology Nexus).
  • Nature-based meditation and mindfulness are a simple way to deepen your connection with nature. Awake in the Wild offers free daily nature meditations on Zoom, as well as longer-form courses and retreats.
  • Try practices such as Forest Bathing, which has multiple proven benefits for physical and mental health. You can use Forest Bathing Finder and the ANFT to find a guided Forest Bathing walk near you.
  • Integrate simple nature practices into your life, even just a few times a week. Sit spot is a practice that involves finding a place in nature – such as your garden or a tree in a nearby park – and simply sitting and noticing what emerges. By doing this on a regular basis, you can nurture a relationship with your chosen place.
  • Nature journaling is a simple and effective way to deepen your connection with nature. Here and here are some tips on how to get started. Writing and story-based practices like Story Weaving and exploring Earth Archetypes offer another means of deepening your connection to nature and understanding your place within it.
  • Connect with nature through poetry and music. The poems of Mary Oliver, Joy Harjo, Wendell Berry, Robert Macfarlane, and Rainer Maria Rilke are among many which explore humans relationships with nature. Sam Lee and Spell Songs are among the many musicians profoundly inspired by nature.
  • Rewilding is a movement that restores missing or removed elements of nature, such as native plant and animal species so that humans and nonhumans can create wild landscapes together. Micah Mortali’s book, Rewilding, is a hands-on guide to practices that combine yoga, mindfulness, and other skills to deepen connections with nature (see Rewilding Nexus).
  • The Eight Shields framework and the Work That Reconnects offer longer-form opportunities for deepening your relationships with nature, through mentorship, group-work, trainings and workshops.
  • Bring nature into your digital space. Being exposed to the sights and sounds of nature – even digitally – can be beneficial for physical and mental health, including boosting mood and concentration. Soundscapes for Wellbeing and Earth.fm offer open-source libraries of nature soundscapes which you can play in the background while you work, study or when you’re on the go.



Deepen global understanding of the importance of nature connection for cultivating regenerative values. While research on the health benefits of nature connection abound and is gaining increasing public attention, studies remain fragmented and often biased towards groups in the industrialized Global North. Researchers can play an important role in elevating the role of nature connection as a regenerative solution.

  • Expand the scope of research to low-income countries and the Global South, ensure studies are long-term, and integrate an understanding of the complex variety of factors that influence the human-nature connection.
  • Ensure that research is rigorous, well-designed, and interdisciplinary.
  • Balance research on nature connection with research on nature disconnection, which has been largely overlooked.


Integrate the connection with nature into educational programs and school curricula. Many conventional education systems privilege scientific and intellectual knowledge over emotional and relational experiences, which can have the effect of creating separateness between humans and the rest of nature. Educators are uniquely positioned to foster important connections to nature among children and youth.

  • Educators can draw inspiration from pedagogies that nurture sensory connection with nature, unstructured play, and experiential learning to restore children’s relationships with nature. These include the growing global network of Forest Schools, the Outward Bound model, and the Montessori philosophy.
  • Make nature connection a pillar of education and childhood experience. The pervasiveness of parental fears about children being outdoors is entrenched in disconnection with nature. Reversing these trends can address the increasing prevalence of eco-anxiety among children and young people and instill values of kinship, reciprocity, and stewardship for the natural world, which are critical for transitioning to regenerative societies.
  • It is important for nature-based education to be informed by decolonized perspectives while acknowledging and drawing on the varied knowledge systems of Indigenous peoples.
  • There is a growing network of educators and institutions working to make nature an integral part of education. These include the Natural Start Alliance and the Children and Nature Network, which provides guidance and case studies on restoring children’s relationships with nature from greening schoolyards.


Provide opportunities for children to be in nature on a regular basis. These opportunities are inherently beneficial for the physical and mental health of children. Not only can it improve memory, but it also increases the likelihood of them developing into confident, independent, and conscientious adults.

Nonprofits and Advocacy Organizations

Leverage nature connectedness as a means of achieving climate and nature goals. Campaigning and advocacy have historically been focused on conveying rational, intellectual arguments on the need to transform systems to avert climate and biosphere breakdown. While these are critical, they overlook the importance of tending to a deeper realm of the human psyche to bring about change.

  • Nonprofits should go beyond purely rational, science-based climate and conservation efforts by making nature connectedness an integral part of their political advocacy and campaigning and including more spiritual and place-based approaches to their work.


Make nature connection a fundamental part of your company’s culture. Doing so can improve employee well-being and retention and boost the resilience of your business.


Integrate the human-nature connection into all aspects of policy. The centrality of human-nature relationships in public policy is growing but needs to be strengthened and made a core goal of decision-making. Policy-makers at varying levels of governance have a fundamental role to play in restoring human relationships with nature. Doing so can reduce social and healthcare costs, boost societal resilience, and increase the effectiveness of climate and nature policies.

  • Education policy. Reshape public education with the human-nature connection at its heart, promoting direct experience of nature rather than simply knowledge-based objectives. Making nature connectedness a core goal of early childhood education is key to cultivating a strong environmental identity from a young age.
  • Social policy. Remove barriers to connecting with nature for all groups, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or socio-economic status. The WHO recommends that every human have access to a green space within 300 meters of where they live, yet access to nature is often restricted to a privileged minority. Groups like Black2Nature, Wild in the City, and initiatives such as the 3-30-300 Rule are working to address this disparity and structural discrimination.
  • Urban design. Ensure that connection to nature is equitable and accessible for all by incorporating nature into existing urban environments and making it an integral part of all new construction. This toolkit from the Children & Nature Network and urban rewilding in cities like Singapore and Haerbin can serve as models for urban design that boosts human relationships with nature.
  • Health policy. Make nature connection an integral part of preventative healthcare. Making nature connection a core part of policy can significantly reduce healthcare costs. Japan’s integration of shinrin-yoku (Forest Bathing) into its preventive healthcare system has yielded multiple benefits for its population and helped to counter a significant spike in stress-related illnesses, anxiety, and overwork. Nature-based prescriptions are increasingly used in countries including New Zealand, Canada, and Scotland.
  • Climate and conservation policy. Leverage nature connectedness in climate and nature policy. Policies that increase nature connectedness among electorates and communities can have positive co-benefits for policies to address the climate and nature emergencies by increasing broader-based support for more ambitious action.
  • Recognize the intrinsic value of nature in policy and decision-making. Policy-makers globally tend to consider nature almost exclusively for its market value. Governments should expand and embed the diversity of nature’s value to people and communities in their climate and nature policies to reflect the richness of relationships, worldviews, and knowledge systems.

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