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Nature does not enjoy us anymore. They disappear from films, songs and literature

How often we speak, write, or talk about nature, or how often we use descriptions of nature, documents the depth of our relationship with it. Is it true that we are witnessing the loss of our own contact with nature? The topic is published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.

An interesting "science" study does not have to cost millions, and you can actually do it more or less from the comfort of your office from your computer. That's what Professor Selin Kesebiro from London Business School has worked for. Her main research activity is to study organizational behavior and fashion topics such as gender, morality, or inequality, her latest work published in the journal Perspectives in Psychological Science hit black. It has focused on the empirical assessment of whether people "as a whole civilization are really gradually losing contact with nature . " Although this claim belongs to the standard canon of all nature conservationists, the real proof of it still lacks. Thus, Kesebiro collected and evaluated material that confirms this sad fact. Data sources have become "human cultural links" , especially lyrics, films and books created over the last decades. Based on the long-term development of the words she used, she found that we were really culturally distant in nature.

Dictionaries without words

Kessebirova has come to this circle of research-as it usually happens-by accident. In January 2015, she noticed a published letter in the newspaper, which was sent to the publisher by the acclaimed contributors of the Oxford Dictionary. They complained that a few words like the canary, the pasture, the clover had disappeared from the new edition and were replaced by words like an attachment, a blog, and a voice message. Sure, dictionaries are not inflatable, and there are some changes in content each year. It must correspond to the current trend. But blackberry (blackberry) became the new BlackBerry edition (cell phone and data synchronization tool) that did not come right. "In the light of what we know about the benefits of nature and its contact with us, we are afraid that the deletion of these words was not a happy solution and could bring problems in the future," the contributors wrote. Similar votes were more. There were talks about "faults caused by lack of contact with nature" and questions such as: "What happens to an animal species that loses contact with its environment?"

Absol, Jirachi, Latias ... the ground beetle and the hedgehog

The fact that contact with nature greatly benefits people and that those who are in contact with nature have a stronger tendency to protect them, a number of studies show. Kesebiro focused on "loss of contact" . Is it just a supposed phenomenon? Something like the statement, "that it was better before?" And is it any way of measuring the loss of contact with nature? This is not easy, because the different observable trends do not reflect this fact equally at the social and individual level. Just look at a couple of available information. Representation of greenery in cities? In recent years, it has grown steadily. Number of visitors to national parks? Regionally on the rise. Traveling beyond exotic nature across the world? He's experiencing a boom. And in contrast: general knowledge and awareness of domestic nature? Gross Fall. "Already in 2002, Balmford published a study demonstrating that an average eight-year-old child in Britain can identify and name 78% of Pokémon characters, but only 53% of common wildlife species," says Kesebirova.

Snow from the suburbs

Therefore, she focused on "cultural products" , popular books, films and music, because of their influence on both the individual and society. It makes sense in some ways. Take a look at cartoon stories from Walt Disney's workshop (from 1938 to the present). How many of them are taking place today " in the countryside" or at least in the countryside? And in contrast to how often cities, cars, factories are displayed today in his fairy tales? Take a look at the old picture books for children. How often are elements of nature, animals, plants captured? For example, children playing on a meadow with a dog. And today? Kesebirova attempted to objectivize this trend change and, for individual genres (film, literature, song lyrics), compiled a random selection that corresponds to the given timeframes. It was not easy, because her "catalog" read on average 5924 items per article. In the case of literature, she worked with the database for 16 million words.

Natural selection

Her next step is not funny from the reader's point of view. She had to compile a selection of keywords about nature that would be sought in cultural links. The party had to go too general terms (chicken, fruit, wood) that are related to other areas of human activity, or names rather professional (flora, habitat, larva). Nature has also been dropped by descriptions of words that do not reflect the reality of the environment in the UK (volcano, giraffe, jungle), but also grateful meanings that mean nature as a threat to humans (earthquake, hurricane). Her choice of terms was then tested by 140 volunteers. The result was 60 terms generally related to nature, 34 bird names, 37 tree names, and 55 flower names. A total of 186 words she searched for in the mass of text published, sung and played throughout the twentieth century.

Civilization that gives up contact with its environment

And the results? "What we see in cultural production during the 20th century is a significant decline in the frequency of all nature-related terms, across all genres," Kesebir says. Still in the 1920s, these terms were on the rise. A significant dividing line has become the 1950s, from which the loss of "nature" in human cultural production can be clearly and demonstrably observed. In the texts of the songs fifty years ago, the words of nature were heard in 1.07% of cases, later only in 0.40%. "That's a drop of 63%," says Kesebir. "So we can say that the three words about nature fifty years later are just one today." There is a drop in the films at a slower rate, reaching 8.8%. But be careful if we talk about documentary works, the decline in natural themes is more rapid (43.3%). Similarly, the used tree names fell (a decrease of 22.3 and 23.4%).

What does it mean? According to Kesebi, the decline of the used "natural dictionary repertoire" reflects our departure from nature. Even in terms of loss of interest in environmental issues and efforts to protect nature. "Cultural products not only reflect the prevailing level of society's culture but also shape it at the same time," he adds. "Loss of physical contact with nature combined with the parallel loss of symbolic contact through cultural products creates a gap in our perception."

When we do not see nature or hear about it elsewhere, our interest in it continues to fall. And our tendency to somehow contribute to its protection is all the lower.

Author: Radomír Dohnal

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