I’ve recently been reading and researching around the topic of ecopsychology, and one of my favorite chapters so far was on Soul Surfing by Bron Taylor. This chapter is available online, for anyone who is interested in reading it, but it shows so clearly the interaction between surfers and the environment, the rhythms and flows, and our connection to a greater ecology.
I’ve been wondering what motivates a person to begin surfing, particularly because one of my lecturers once shared that there are mountain/earth people and sea/water people. I tend to choose being close to the water, given a choice, and I always find te rhythms of the sea to be very peaceful and soothing.
Soul Surfing, along with David Abram’s Becoming Animal shares how embodiment, or the ability to connect to a wider world, where, in te words of David Abram, ‘things can eat us,’ enriches our lives.
I was wondering what motivates a person to choose to spend time at the water or in the wild? Do children follow their parents in connecting with the ecology, or do we have experiences in our lives which connect us to a wilder (and wider) sense of self?
Interestingly, I read that many people who connect to a wilder sense of being have often already gone beyond the western bounded self even before working towards a deeper sense of sustainability or ways of being. It seems that questioning the world we see before us is the key to working towards sustainability.
The Deep Ecology movement shares that going out into wild spaces and allowing ourselves to connect and realize the value of nature enables us to move beyond our very bounded and western selves and discover how we are interrelated with the ecology around us. This experience is a form of sacred enquiry, where we allow what we see to change us. It is an experience which cannot be forced, but which may change our ways of seeing or observing the world.
Bron Taylor wonders whether an appreciation of the ecology helps us to work towards a more humane world, quoting Columbian Ecologist, Ximena Arango, who shares that ‘oppressive behaviors do not follow an understanding that everyone is a part of the earth. (Taylor, 2010, p197).
Interestingly, deep connection to earth does seem to offer deeper value to human beings who spend time in wild spaces. Research by the Humane Education Trust showed that children from violent areas valued their own lives more deeply after learning to care for animals.
My approach to ecopsychology fits in with Radical Ecopsychology, shared by Andy Fisher, who introduces the importance of critical psychology, and emphasizes the importance of social justice.
It will be interesting to explore what unfolds as this new research project comes to life, and particularly during a time when many people are speaking about climate change. Perhaps the environmental crisis offers the opportunity to explore where we have come from, how our social histories have determined the present, and how we can work towards a more just world?