Kara was our first volunteer this year and was amazing to have! She also wrote this beautiful blog post for us ! :) Thank you so much for everything Kara!
Biophilia is a term that describes the innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world. Biophilia is also a term and a reoccurring theme I found surrounding my trip and Workaway experience at Midori Farm. But before we get too in-depth into the topic, a bit of a back story is needed to fully relate the topic to my experiences.
It stared with me traveling from Osaka to Kyoto on a not so pleasant, rainy morning. I may be exaggerating a bit or my memory may be waning but i’d say that it was a complete and utter deluge, making me a bit hesitant about my decision to hole myself away in the Japanese mountains near Kyoto. Though after a while of driving through the countryside and mountain scapes I felt a familiar ache in my bones and body, and no it was not due to the coldness of the rain, but due to the excitement of being surrounded by the the thing I love most, nature. My giddiness must have bested me because next thing I knew Chuck and I were having a full blown discussion on the topic of connectedness to nature and how the farm is able to provide this for people. With such passionate discussion my hesitations and the gloom of the rain was long forgotten and all I could think about was how wonderful this experience would be and what kind of impact on the world I could make by relating and transferring the experiences I was about to create.
The main thing we talked about during our car ride and a topic that came up frequently while working on the farm was how we have started to notice that people have been retracting from nature, the natural world and the negative impacts of this withdrawal. Our eating practices, consumerism, or technology to name a few, has negatively affected our environment, ecosystems and fundamentally our love and respect for our natural world, which can ultimately be our own demise.
So that brought up the the question of “so how do we as outdoor enthusiasts, organic farmers, or lovers of nature help with changing this problem that society has created?”. We each had a couple ideas about how we could bring about change in our society but the enormity of such a task always seemed so bleak and unattainable, that is until I was able to witness a change within myself due to my time at Midori Farm. And here is where the role of Biophilia comes into play.
I have always prided myself on being a sustainably conscious person and a lover of everything outdoors and this led me to pursuing a career in Ecotourism and Outdoor Leadership. I thought I knew all there was to know about nature and was reaping all the benefits of immersing myself in wild environments, but I was sorely mistaken. There are always new things to learn and experience, especially when related to the natural world, and my experience at the farm benefitted me in such a positive way and formed within myself a new passion and respect for nature and to become more of an advocate for change in our society.
Have you ever heard of the term ‘Forest Bathing’? For those of you who said no, I want to initially say that it is probably not what you are thinking, in which may be stripping naked and standing, running, sitting, or doing whatever you do, in nature. Neither is it sitting in a freezing cold river and pretending to enjoy the experience while your teeth are chattering to the point where you think you’ll break them due to the force. It’s actually a Japanese term called Shinrin-yoku, which means “taking in the forest atmosphere”, and at Midori Farm you are thrust into this in all aspects of your day and life. Surrounded by looming trees, the flowing river right outside the house, and the mountains bordering the farms, you are fully immersed in nature. Also the fact that you are incredibly detached from technologies and ‘conveniences’ that we have in big cities, you are thrown into a lifestyle that revolves around nature and becoming reliant on it for things such as entertainment and basic necessities like having tea and washing dishes. This ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’ really built a new sense of respect of the natural environment for me, even when “taking in the forest atmosphere” involved not so happy monkeys, terrifying large bees invading the farm and sleeping with stink bugs. I also believe that it had positive health benefits for me both physically and mentally. I was able to clear my thoughts and live in the present due to the decrease in distractions and also noticed that my physical health was improving. Were the effects of Forest Bathing possible due to Biophilia and as a human, my innate affinity to the natural world? I whole heartedly believe it was.
Working on the farm also peaked a new sense of curiosity in me pertaining to growing plants and natural things. I had never been very interested in having to go out in the blistering sun for long periods of time and do lots of manual labour such as tilling and watering just in the hopes that all your hard work and effort would produce a couple of things such as flowers or crops. BUT, my perception of farming has changed due to witnessing first hand the miracles of growing vegetables. Specifically I was raising a whole bed of spinach from the time they were seedlings and watched them grow in cute little sprouts. I completely felt what it was like to be a parent and watch my babies grow up and the connectedness to this natural element transformed me into a proud parent. That little spinach had a huge impact on me and made me extremely curious and excited about farming and growing different natural things. I even remember there was one day that I woke up at eight in the morning and was excited to go water the crops, and trust me beforehand I loathed watering (ask Chuck, he joked about it almost every day seeing as we had a silly dry spell for two weeks). I also recall a point where I became an honorary farmer as Chuck noticed my lingo and speech was turning into that of one. My passion and curiosity for organic farming definitely started to bloom during my time at Midori Farm, and was probably also influenced by Biophilia and the natural connection to nature I felt, and thus strengthening my love and passion for nature and making sustainable and conscious decisions and choices.
And thats exactly it, I started to become more passionate about the environment due to my experiences with nature at Midori Farm. There, right before my very eyes was the answer, or at least one small way in which we can bring positive change within society and people, pertaining to sustainability. It relies on making people passionate again and allowing them to rekindle their innate affinity to nature (Biophilia) by allowing them to have similar experiences like I did at Midori Farm. If people are able to have these experiences, there is a hope that we can ignite a passion towards nature in them that will make them want to have a direct personal engagement with the natural world and the preservation and conservation of our natural environment. We can do this through initiatives like Midori farm and the farm’s willingness to expose people and teach people about organic farming. Other ways could be ecotourism ventures like guided hikes, camping, nature photography, etc, where people are exposed to many aspects of nature and can be exposed to things like flora, fauna or fun times with other people, that could invoke a passion towards nature in them. Every person is different and we all have different interests, but I think that everyone due to Biophilia can find something they truly love and care about in our natural world. For example, I am personally extremely passionate about animals and that was due to my experiences hiking and backpacking back home in Canada, and from this I have become an advocate for animal conservation.
I may not be making the largest impact in the world, but if every person could find something about nature that they could hold dear to them and use to help make a positive change in the world, we could definitely make this a wonderful place to live. I encourage each person to discover their passion towards nature as it can be so transformative personally, for our society and world. Seeing as you are a reader of this blog and a follower of Midori farm, you are the type of people who care and are helping us to make a difference one step at a time, so thank you for caring and finding that passion for nature that you have! And thank you Midori farm for providing me with the experience that allowed me to find new, and strengthen my old, love of nature.