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Project NatureConnect

VOL 1 NO 1, JUNE 2000

A peer-reviewed journal of interdisciplinary scientific research, theories, and observations. GJST is a semi-annual publication of the Greenwich University College of Science and Technology.



Nature Connected Psychology:
Creating moments that let Earth teach

The Natural Systems Thinking Process

Michael J. Cohen, Ed.D.




Biologically and psychologically people are part of nature, the intelligent, ever-balancing, ancient, web of life that communicates within itself through non-verbal attractions. A deep fear generated by our nature separated society addicts us to live, on average, less than .01% of our lives in conscious sensory contact with the web. To protect our thinking from the anguish this extreme disconnection incurs, our body places our hurt, inherent 53 natural sense way of knowing in our subconscious. The absence of the normal gratifications it normally generates results in us craving and psychologically bonding to immediate rewards, often no matter their adverse effects. To reverse this irresponsibility, through sensory nature activities, the Natural Systems Thinking Process scientifically helps us reconnect our psyche with the web of life's nurturance. We replace our destructive subconscious hurt with unifying passions that produce responsible attitudes. Our hopes become reality. As documented, responsible personal, social and environmental relationships arise by restoring this missing link in the way we think.

For a short article on the author and his background, select here


"Oh, what a catastrophe, what a maiming of love when it was made personal, merely personal feeling. This is what is the matter with us: we are bleeding at the roots because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars. Love has become a grinning mockery because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the Tree of Life and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilized vase on the table."
- D. H. Lawrence

On average, a person in contemporary society lives over 99.9% of his or her life devoid of conscious sensory contact with attractions in nature. We spend over 95% of our time indoors. We think, write and build relationships while closeted from nature. This disconnected state makes us "ecozombies," environmentally desensitized deadheads (26). It deludes us to believe that our extreme separation from nature does not influence our intelligence, sanity or ability to relate responsibility. The state of the world says otherwise (9).

Unlike nature connected cultures, our detachment from nature's workings psychologically deprives our thinking of elements that hold life in balance. If our disconnection from nature produces problems, it makes sense to solve them by reconnecting with nature (13).


The purpose of this article is to introduce a process that helps reverse our disconnection from nature and its destructive consequences.

When I ask contemporary people to describe their fondest hopes, they usually include sanity: sustainable peace within themselves, with society, and Earth. Although contemporary society has yet to discover or use a process that produces the sanity we desire, whales use it successfully and, as if to advertise their ability, have demonstrated its power. Biologists say the demonstration was conducted by abnormal whales, that they deserved to die because the were not the fittest for survival. However, Biology is but one of many disciplines, the science of nature connected psychology tells another story.

The whale's demonstration took place in 1989 when two that were trapped in the arctic winter ice bridged the hostility between Communism and Capitalism. To save the whales, opposing nations united. So did labor and industry, corporations and environmentalists, spiritualists and scientists, technologists, peacemakers and the media. Close to a billion dollars was spent to save two whales by cutting them a path to freedom through the arctic ice while the world cheered and unified.

The whale's effects demonstrate that the attractions we feel when in contact with a whale, or nature, are but the tip of an iceberg. The hidden portion of the iceberg consists of chains of additional attractions that, like sensory roots, reach every element of our planet including people. Like whales, as part of nature we register and contain the means to live in peaceful equilibrium. What we lack is a process that enables us to think with and use this planetary ability. For example:

"I recently participated in a hurried, almost stressful training program for people whose differences kept them arguing amongst themselves. They had little interest or time to hear an explanation from me of the unifying and healing benefits of the reconnecting with nature process and omitted it from their agenda. In the midst of this hubbub, a young bird flew into the meeting room through the door. It could not find its way out. Without a word, the behind-schedule meeting screeched to a halt. Deep natural attraction feelings for life and hope filled each person for the moment. For ten minutes that frightened, desperate little bird triggered those seventy people to harmoniously, supportively organize and unify with each other to safely help it find its way back home. Yet when they accomplished this feat, they cheered their role, not the role of the bird. In their story of the incident, the role and impact of the bird went unnoticed. They returned to the hubbub of the meeting, as if nothing special had happened. They completely overlooked that the bird had united them while it was there, something they could not do without its presence.

People would have scoffed if I tried to make them aware of the bird's effects on the meeting. They would have said that what happened was not important or useful for it was uncommon to have a wild bird interrupt their lives. It was their "human spirit" that they applauded, not its orgins and existance in nature. Yet the incident brought a special joy and integrity to their lives. The individual and collective benefits were evident. It is the continual lack of such natural attraction contacts that helps create our disorders. People feel distraught, yet helpless, about Earth's life and their lives being abused, like whales and birds. Yet, through the Natural Systems Thinking Process, even a weed or potted plant can produce the same benefits and effects because NSTP operates in tangible contact with nature, in backyards, parks, even with potted plants, and wilderness, too. As our sensitivity to nature increases, not just animals in trouble, but all the attractions we find in nature help us sustain responsible thinking and relationships. (5)."


Since 1951, my hypotheses has been that we can produce hope, sanity, peace and balance by engaging in a process that helps us think like nature works.


My procedure has been to experimentally improve and engage in the hypothetical process, observe its effects and improve it again. As an outdoor educator and researcher, for the past 31 years I have camped out year-round though the seasons in 83 different natural habitats while building responsible human communities. My classroom has been wild America, over 200 national and state parks, forests, shorelines and historical sites. I still, today, daily sleep outdoors in a wild area.

The results of my work speak for themselves (10). My references here are original documents that have been reviewed and published academically and commercially. I also reference, for educational purposes, the unpublished raw experiences and thinking of those who have been involved in my process (6).

As with the whales, my teacher has been the global ecosystem as it expresses itself in local natural areas. I seldom use books and the conflicting, limited, theories of those who abstract, speculate and observe nature through machines. They seldom live in, think and build relationships in nature. I find their words often separate my thinking from truths in natural areas that otherwise register.

Most literature seldom validates the sensory/experiential while connected with nature, nor offers a doable procedure to help us immediately think more responsibly. In contrast, my social invention is a hands-on, easily available process that a person quickly learns and teaches. Its effectiveness clearly demonstrates we may benefit by creating moments in nature that let Earth teach, and then participate in these moments. Significantly, this gives natural areas added value. Through this process, in 1965, thirteen years before Lovelock published Gaia, I was living and teaching a form of Ecopsychology; it included that Earth acts like a living organism (16).

In our excessively indoor society, nature experiences are often suspect. Many people I have personally or otherwise familiarized with my work and its benefits neither incorporate it nor reference my many published materials (6). This includes Capra(4,) Seed(24,) Rozack(23,) Devall(18,) Wilson(25,) Fox(19), Quinn(22,) Abram(1,) Berry(3,) McKibben(21,) and Berg(2,) none of whom published about nature psychology in 1965. Although theoretically correct, not surprisingly, they more trust abstract and mechanical stories about nature (including those spoken by a Gorilla in a zoo and fictional adventures) than a process that necessitates genuine sensory connecting experiences in natural areas. The latter is evidently like having an illicit affair.


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