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Nature matrix: reconnecting people and nature

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 July 2003

Robert Michael Pyle
369 Loop Road, Gray's River, WA 98621, USA. E-mail:
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Many individuals and societies are no longer connected to the more-than-human world in such a way as to ensure a sustainable future. As such connection has diminished, environmental challenges have multiplied and influences for estrangement intensified. I review the importance of direct, intimate encounter with places and organisms on the attitudes of the young, as well as the significance of biophilia. The result of the loss of contact and subsequent alienation is the Extinction of Experience: an inexorable cycle of disconnection, apathy, and progressive depletion. I describe an effort to demonstrate this effect. Small, humble habitats, especially in urban settings, can be as important as big reserves in awakening biophilia. Biophobia, abetted by the loss of such habitats, the rise of the virtual in place of actual experience, economic inequalities, and overpopulation, further feeds the downward spiral of extinction and disaffection. The climate of global corporate growth that now prevails is inimical to sustainability, as is the current state of ecological illiteracy. Radical change is therefore necessary to address both economic disparity, in the direction of minimal ownership rather than maximum consumerism, and educational reform that places nature at the centre rather than the margin of the curriculum. I present a six-point programme, called Nature Matrix, for an alternative social and ethical paradigm. Rather than a pragmatic plan for the near future, Nature Matrix is a model for essential, incremental change, a dream whose eventual adoption may enhance chances for reconnection and for ecological survival itself: at present, a deeply uncertain prospect.

© 2003 Fauna & Flora International