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Adriana Pisano Beaumont
22 Aug 2013
— Edited @
22 Aug 2013
When invited to participate in a review of “Your Brain
on Nature” by Eva M. Selhub and Alan C. Logan, I was unsure of what to
expect. How much science would there be in the publication? The prospect of
diving headlong into an author’s explanation of all of the intuitive reasons
why exposure to nature is so important to our health without the scientific
support to give it teeth, quite frankly, worried me a little. There have
been so many watered-down ‘wellness’ books that paint a bleak picture of the
price that must be paid in a nature-deficient society, but few of them actually
reference the studies that can help to give their position traction.
Not so with Selhub and Logan’s work. I was impressed by the
care that was taken in making sure that every point that was made was
substantiated by references to current and historical research. I was doubly
impressed that an MD and ND could find the common ground through a
collaborative approach, to really drive their point home. I believe it was this collaboration that
created the breadth of topics that were tackled in their book. The approach was integrative, dealing with the
anthropological, physiological, psychological and spiritual benefits derived
from our evolutionary relationship with nature.
One topic of particular interest was that dealing with the
effects of the built environment on our wellbeing: how the lack of exposure to green space in
our everyday urban lives erodes our ability to perform tasks at our full potential
and how exposure to even a little ‘green’ in offices and hospitals confers a
measurable improvement in cognition and health outcomes. Taking that one step further, they
illuminated the positive effects that actually getting out in nature has on all
of the things we do to keep ourselves healthy, including exercise.
As a graduate student in Anthrozoology, I find myself most
intrigued by the chapters dedicated to the positive effects of our relationships
with non-human animals. Their historical
use in physical and psychological rehabilitation, as therapeutic facilitators
and in teaching compassion and empathy to children was thoroughly discussed and
supported with science, including current neurophysiology research being
undertaken which explores the role of oxytocin in the human-animal bond. It is apparent that a paradigm shift is
occurring as hard, reductionist science is yielding some of its long-held
territory to holistic, multi-disciplinary science in an effort to explain that
which has eluded complete understanding by conventional means. Where
conventional science tends to dichotomize observations into that which can be
measured and that which cannot, it rejects the subjective in favour
of the objective, and in so doing, dismisses a great deal of information about
our natural world which we collect intuitively. I believe that the type of
research discussed in ‘Your Brain on Nature’ will play a role in a more
emotionally-based, intelligent view of the world around us and, combined with
our advanced intellectual understanding, will help to shape our relationships
I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this book review. It gives me great hope that we will see more research on this topic which, in turn, will have some effect on regulation, legislation and philosophy.
23 Aug 2013
Another thought-provoking review of the book and the material it covers! Relative to what’s actually going on in the world re: human interactions with all other living beings, i.e., the natural world, I agree that the reductionist model by definition can’t result in a comprehensive understanding of the whole. Unless one is capable of making the connections between those little chunks of data to reveal the complete picture, it becomes another version of the old story about the three men describing the elephant based solely on the part of it they could feel.
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