It is one thing to recognise our dwindling relationship with the natural world, but it is quite another to take concrete steps to rectify the situation.

The Climate sat down with Duncan Grossart, founder of Journeys With Purpose, to discuss how they are reawakening our connection with the natural world and how this might just be our ticket out of the climate and biodiversity crises.

An increasing number of individuals are beginning to realise the profound importance of nurturing a deep and meaningful relationship with the natural world. This realisation may be sparked by introspection and self-discovery or ignited by the compelling narratives shared by prominent figures like David Attenborough, Jane Goodall and Jacques Cousteau. As our understanding expands, a growing body of evidence increasingly supports the notion that forging a positive connection with the natural world bestows numerous benefits on the individual. However, it also forces us to wonder: could this connection serve as the key to addressing the climate and biodiversity crises?

For a while now, it’s been common knowledge that spending time outdoors offers various health advantages. However, following a two-year lockdown, it appears that immersing oneself in nature has gained newfound popularity and cultural significance. 

Forest bathing, known as shinrin-yoku in Japan, emerged in the 1980s as a remedy to combat burnout caused by technology-driven lifestyles. More recently, the NHS has started giving Nature Prescriptions to patients (similar to the Norwegian Friluftsliv), aiming to provide non-medical support for their mental and physical well-being. Both of these contemporary practices underscore the scientifically proven benefits that nature offers. 

Beyond science, alternative perspectives like Kantian philosophy, which views nature as purposeful without a specific purpose, or psychological theories suggesting that nature helps us accept chaos as natural or even normal, provide additional insights. 

Regardless of the individual benefits, can we also argue that by fostering a deeper connection with the natural world, we contribute positively to the well-being of the planet?

To find out how a positive connection with the natural world can help us save it, The Climate spoke to Duncan Grossart, founder of Journeys With Purpose, a company with a mission to catalyse the celebration and advancement of nature conservation projects across the world. 

The solution “is multi-layered and often begins with rewilding what’s going on inside our heads”, Grossart said when asked about the most effective ways to support the planet. He was referencing specific issues, notably prevalent in Britain, where there is an undue fixation on meticulously groomed lawns and a misguided preference for barren hillsides.

The concept of ‘rewilding the mind‘ seems to be a driving force behind Journeys With Purpose’s existence. “We don’t run wildlife holidays. You’re going to see some spectacular wildlife, but really our immersive experiences are people-centric. Because, at the heart of rewilding, it’s really about re-engaging with the natural world. We are put into the travel bucket but that was never really the overriding purpose of this. We are a mission-led business, about creating impact on the ground through direct experiences. Travel is simply our medium.”

“I think people want to find out more about how they can restore their relationship with nature.” Given the constant exposure to horrifying climate-related news stories, it is understandable that people seek to restore their connection with nature as they grapple with the sometimes overwhelming “eco-anxiety” that these stories can provoke. 

“As we regain our connection, we begin to understand that we think we’re much more important than we actually are,” Grossart continued. With a background in zoology, Grossart is a champion of rewilding and finds the idea quite intoxicating. “We need to be imagining our relationship with the natural world in a different way; celebrating its complexity and diversity and getting familiar with it; just being in awe of the melee, the noise and the humdrum of life bursting in a functioning ecosystem.”

Recognising the degradation of our ecosystems is one thing, but actively addressing it is another. Explaining his motivation, Grossart said, “I thought ‘we can intellectually acknowledge that something needs to be done about how we all contribute towards restoring our natural world in order to mitigate climate change, but how do we do it?’” 

Journeys With Purpose does it by empowering individuals to arrive at their own conclusions. Through transformative experiences, they inspire people to reassess their relationship with nature and subsequently initiate change in their own lives from the grassroots level.This is a stark departure from the prevailing top-down, bureaucratic approaches of today. 

By getting the right people on board, the impact of Journeys with Purpose can be far reaching, Grossart hopes:  “We’re looking at recruiting people who can pull big levers. So, we are looking at bringing guests [who] are philanthropists, members of family offices or next generation wealth who can help through financial means. We’re also looking at strong voices and advocates. They could be in [the] media, in politics, in sports; not necessarily helping with their own financial means but through other ways of championing nature restoration causes both on the land and at sea”.

Journeys With Purpose was created to show people what is achievable when we rekindle our relationship with nature, forgo control, and view ourselves as part of the bigger picture. The Tompkins in South America, the Knepp Estate in the UK and Europe’s answer to Yellowstone — the Carpathian Mountains — demonstrate how we can all flourish when we better understand our place within the natural world.

In today’s world, we’re inundated with guidelines on how to save our planet. We often seek guidance from experts, yet their vigorous debates, amplified on social media’s rapid-fire echo chamber, can fuel polarisation and indifference. Sadly, apathy is a luxury we cannot afford. Our current crises have their roots in our disconnection from our origins and our beginning to perceive ourselves as god-like beings. As prescribed by Journeys With Purpose, we must now humbly acknowledge that we are just one part of something much bigger and more connected. We have to find ways to reconnect with nature.

To find out more about Journeys With Purpose and the work that they do, you can find them here.