How Philosophy (And Technology) Can Help Us Reconnect With Nature & Why It Matters

How Philosophy (and Technology) Can Help Us Reconnect With Nature & Why It Matters
Andrea Houchard & Marisa Diaz-Waian, Public Philosophy Journal (2016)Under Review.

ABSTRACT: The human connection to nature is an important issue in the world today. While it is rarely articulated as matter of public concern, our view is that an unhealthy relationship with nature is a matter of serious public concern. It is a concern in its own right, but its seriousness is magnified because this unhealthy relationship is prior to other, more frequently acknowledged, issues of public concern. If the unhealthy relationship is prior to other environmental challenges, then repairing the relationship with nature may be intrinsically and instrumentally valuable. It is intrinsically valuable for the person who develops a healthy relationship with nature. It is instrumentally valuable insofar as this healthy relationship benefits not only the person herself, but may also lead to addressing environmental challenges, such as anthropogenic climate change, that affect us all. Just what a healthy relationship with nature looks like is a question we consider. We discuss the historical roots of our attitudes about the wild and the typical ways that we have dealt with environmental challenges. We also examine the dominant tradition in environmental ethics to see how healthy relationships have been described, and suggest that these may be too narrow. To broaden the view of what a healthy relationship might look like, we explore innovative strategies that use technology in conjunction with philosophy to improve the relationship people have with the natural world. This may seem counterintuitive since technology is oft cast as a culprit in disconnecting us from nature. But it need not be. We believe that if thoughtfully employed, technology and philosophy together can help foster a healthy human-nature relationship that will result in reduced environmental harm and improved human wellbeing. Finally, we suggest three calls to/for collaboration and action.

NOTE: This article was written in conjunction with Andrea Houchard, Ph.D. as part of the inaugural Public Philosophy Journal Collaborative Writing Workshop in San Francisco, CA.

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