Neil Hill, our Environment Editor, wants to read your work.
I am very excited and honoured to have been asked to become the Environment Editor here at the GMP and I’m looking forward to sharing my lifetime’s curiosity about nature, the natural world and the people who live there in the coming months. For me this curiosity started as a child. I was immersed almost from the go in the natural world. It was and is a place of endless inspiration and fascination for me and is ultimately what we are as a species. In this way I have always felt a sense of deep connection to wild places and the people who live in what we call the wilderness. I can remember as a small child reading a book on Australia and whilst I was undeniably fascinated at the spectacular and exotic animals that were shown in the book, it was only when I came to the section on the Aborigines that I was really captivated. There was something inside me that understood absolutely the descriptions of the Aborigine culture – I got it, simple as that. Their world made far more sense to me than the world I was being prepared for by my school and my education.
That love of nature never faded and I have been lucky enough to make it my career and this has taken me to some of the most beautiful and remote places on Earth. Not only that, but as a wildlife biologist I have been privileged to have worked with some of the rarest and most threatened animals in the world as well. Underpinning my science though was an acknowledgement that we as a society have forgotten so much of what actually makes us animal. We have lost our connection to earth and the environments we live in. So much so, that many people are now actually scared to be in nature and our relationship to it has become skewed and dysfunctional and this is one of the main reasons for so much environmental degradation. Not only that but we are missing a large part of who and what we are with this disconnect. David Abram and Richard Louv have written eloquently about the effects of this. Louv has even coined a phrase called Nature Deficit Disorder and whilst NDD may not be a recognised medical condition, you can however clearly see the effects of it in our western societies. Simple exposure to nature for children has huge and proven benefits in terms of concentration, higher test scores, better social integration and reduced rates of obesity. In Japan the Shinrin Yoku movement is taking off in a big way. The words Shinrin Yoku simply mean forest bathing, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a medicine for the mind, body and soul.
The realisation that nature was not only the’ view’ out there, which we sometimes drive to see at weekends, but was something more fundamental to our very way of being, led me full circle and back to the way that the Aborigines viewed the world. For them there is no disconnection, they are a part of the world, simple as that and for me the teaching of that core principle underpins all of what I do and how I view the world.
So how does this and the environment in general relate to the GMP’s conversation about men and how we relate to the world that we live in? Is the environment really a gender issue, or is it not simply a human issue, as surely it affects us all? A starting point for the gender debate around the environment can be a simple Google search. Typing in men and then women followed by environment will reveal a big difference to how men and women perceive ‘environment.’ Go on try it. The results are revealing. In fact if you type in women env, Google will instantly suggest a whole raft of resources and campaigns, whereas the same for men shows that ‘men envy women’ is the top thing that we as guys are searching for!
Using my very un-scientific example it would appear that women are much more engaged with the environment. In fact I remember way back in the ‘80’s when I was at university finishing my Master’s degree, there was already an active Women’s Environmental Network in the UK and globally women had been deeply engaged with environmental issues ever since the 1970’s when Vandana Shiva first began to highlight the role of women in the environment. But is this really true that we men don’t care for the environment, that we are dominant destroyers of the earth? We know that we are often portrayed as reckless exploiters and as aggressive capitalists, but is this really the contingent male state? Or is it simply that we as men are lacking appropriate role models and peers? If we turn to indigenous cultures around the world I see no evidence of the men destroying the environment; rather they are often the shamans and healers, those people within the community tasked with the very job of balancing the human environment with the non-human environment in which they share the space. Can it be that we that we as men need to look away from the Donald Trumps and Alan Sugars and look towards the Ghandi’s and Noam Chomsky’s for our role models? In the coming months I will be delving into the relationship between Men and Environment, trying to tease out what our real roles are, where we fit and what our masculinity has to offer the world. I will be inviting comment and analysis from leading environmental campaigners in the West, from indigenous people and from you – the men who live and work, consume, exploit and protect your own worlds. Be sure to follow these 10 Writing Tips, and then send all queries and submissions to: –Photo: Big Grey Mare/Flickr