Oddly, it was getting a smartphone back in 2010 that led to my reconnection with nature. I began writing on foot, using the phone to note nature, simple sentences about the natural stimuli and my response. Through 200+ walks in 2011, the writing grew from attentive observation to 50,000 words celebrating nature and a personal reconnection to it.
After 5 years of use, over 100,000 words and two books, the phone has been forced into obsolescence, becoming slower and slower as the software leaves the hardware behind. So this week I’ve had to get a little more up to date and the new phone has brought slow motion video. Naturally, the first thing I did was to use it to engage with nature.
I’ve been able to watch everyday nature in an extraordinary way. The brief flights of insects have become a fresh source of beauty and wonder, forcing me into closer contact as I sneak into the shrubbery; all the pathways to nature connection prompted by a new technology. Here’s an example of how, with everyday technology, three seconds of flight becomes something else (although the quality has suffered during upload).
Our innate design skills and imaginative mind means that our technology shapes and defines us more and more. Technological advances allowed people to settle and to farm the land. Further advances eventually saw people leave the fields and villages for an industrial, contrasting life in towns and cities. It seems like our technology has separated us from nature.
However, connecting people with nature is not about demonising technology, or going back to halcyon days – when did we last live in harmony with nature? A connection with nature must be part of a modern, increasingly urban lifestyle and, therefore, new technology must be embraced in order to engage people with nature. The pathways to nature connection, contact, emotion, beauty and compassion, remain the same whatever the technology that interfaces our engagement. The ubiquitous smartphone can open our senses to the wonder of everyday nature in a progressively urbanised world.