Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

22 Apr 2022

The great disconnect

Posted by Michael Keating

How many people can look at the clouds, feel the wind direction and make an informed guess about the weather? How many kids have never seen a cow, and think milk only comes from plastic bags? For thousands of years humans have been making a great migration. Not the one from Africa to the rest of the world but from rural areas to cities. We are the only species that is becoming disconnected from our roots.

In 2008, the United Nations said that half the world now lived in urban areas and this trend will continue, and more recently estimated that two-thirds of humans will be urban dwellers by mid-century. In high income regions such as North America and Europe more than 80 per cent of people live in cities, towns and villages. It is a huge change. For most of history humans were rural dwellers, harvesting food and natural resources and later farming and fishing with big boats. People understood nature and natural processes because they depended on that knowledge for success, even survival.

As people move into cities, some of which hold more than 30 million people, they lose connection with nature, the basis of life. Many millions have never been outside urban areas and millions more have only seen bits of nature from the windows of a car, bus, train or aircraft. This lack of connection to our natural roots becomes more and more of a handicap when experts try to explain why we need to protect biodiversity and preserve natural spaces where nature can operate on its own cycles.

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