Relationships between nature immersion, animism, empathy for non-human matter, and environmentalism
LE3 .A278 2023
Bachelor of Community Development
Environmental and Sustainability Studies
Despite worldwide knowledge of climate catastrophe and hundreds of credible scientific studies providing evidence of the importance of climate action, mitigation efforts remain too low to avoid climate disaster. Moreover, environmentally-destructive anthropocentric worldviews (rooted in settler-colonialism) have caused immeasurable environmental and social harm. Emerging research suggests that challenging these worldviews and encouraging Nature connectedness as well as respect and empathy for the Earth (which is in alignment with several Indigenous and other animist cultures’ philosophies) inspires love-based, and therefore passionate and sustainable, pro-environmental values and behaviours. Nature immersion, consciousness beliefs in non-human matter, and empathy for non-human matter can significantly impact pro-environmental motivation. While several studies have found that outdoor immersion positively impacts mental health and relationships between Nature immersion and pro-environmental behaviour, few have explored how timed Nature immersion (especially through timed ‘sit-spot’ practices) affects animist-inspired empathy for non-human matter that elicits pro-environmental motivation. This thesis aimed to explore whether reflective time in Nature shifted participants’ anthropocentric views of Nature (rooted in settler-colonialism) toward more environmentally conscious perspectives. Nine participants engaged in pre-and post-test interviews before and after engaging in twenty-minute daily ‘sit-spot’ practices for two weeks to understand how their beliefs about the consciousness of, and empathy for, various forms of non-human matter shifted as a result and how these shifts impacted participants’ environmentalist motivation and values. Interviews were further used to explore relationships between the abovementioned concepts and to understand why participants’ perceptions shifted due to engaging in their ‘sit-spot’ practices. All nine participants reported experiencing mental health benefits from engaging in their ‘sit-spot’ practices. Moreover, every participant reported changes to their beliefs in the consciousness of non-human matter, empathy for non-human matter, or environmentalist motivation. Eight participants reported increases in their beliefs in the consciousness of non-human matter, eight noted increased empathy for non-human matter, and five reported rises in their pro-environmental values as a result of partaking in their ‘sit-spot’ practices. The results of this study demonstrated a marked increase in animistic beliefs, empathy for non-human matter, and pro-environmental motivation after participants completed their ‘sit-spot’ practices. The results also suggest that Nature immersion elicits reciprocity between people and the Planet, wherein time in Nature encourages pro-environmental values while improving the mental health of individuals. Finally, the results indicate that ‘sit-spot’ practices can inspire connectedness to Nature, animistic beliefs, and empathy for non-human matter that encourages pro-environmental motivation. The relatively short ‘sit-spot’ study period amplifies the importance of these results.
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