I was reading through my old papers this morning (something I do both for fun and as inspiration for new ones – yes, in spite of this I have managed to snag a man) and I came across my applied project for Ethics of Nature, which I took my first graduate semester last year. The aim of the project was for the student to undertake a task for a significant part of the semester with the goal of, for lack of a less clichéd term, doing good for the environment and “getting closer to nature.” I know, right. I may be in the Environment and Natural Resources program but those phrases still make me cringe a bit. I think it’s because they are so transparently anthropocentric; they see nature as something non-human to be enjoyed by humans.

So for my applied project I was at a bit of a loss for ideas. My classmates tried vegetarianism (I hopped on that bandwagon a few years ago) or riding the bus (already my only form of transportation as a car-less Icelander) so I had to come up with something different. In the end I focused on the thing that changed most about my life that first semester, which was exercise. Yes, that might sound like a total cop-out because what does exercise have to do with the environment, but WAIT! Let’s hear what 2013 Frida had to say in her paper:

“In learning about all of the obstacles facing a healthy earth and a healthy civilization, it became a simpler task to focus within a smaller scope on my own body. This kind of extremely local thinking gave me something I could at least attempt to control, rather than exasperatedly give up on as a lost cause, as is easy to do with looming environmental issues. The tension created between the individual and nature is immense, but I think merging the two enhances the awareness of body and spirit. The further removed we become from our physical bodies and their capacity, energy, and ability, the further removed we are from nature.”

Ok, ok, I know I used the phrase “body and spirit” like some cracked out yoga instructor but hear me out! I still stand by this project of mine. Literally everything in my life became easier when I started working out – focus, confidence, getting to the top of a mountain, getting out of bed in the Icelandic winter darkness. Just yesterday I could not stop myself from singing loudly in the car after a particularly grueling volleyball practice, and yes, it was incredibly annoying. But this newfound relationship with endorphins allows for a more positive and eager perspective on the environmental calamities facing mankind today rather than the gloomy one typically inspired in many of my lectures.

Similarly, you cannot “get closer to nature” (shudder) if you physically cannot get closer to it. I would wager to guess that the hundreds of millions of  adults and children struggling with health issues including and leading to obesity around the world are typically excluded from being “the outdoorsy type,” and it follows that their resource consumption is less responsibly informed. Naturally these are broad, blog-based generalizations, but these musings fueled my project and I thought it prudent to share. What do you think, Reader? Is there a connection between personal and environmental health?


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