Connections to Nature–reflection on natural disasters

Joplin tornado

I have family in Joplin, MO.  They are safe and their homes in tact, but not so for many of their friends and the community at large.  Like other cities that have been devastated, decisions for rebuilding are underway.  After the tornado destroyed Greensburg, KS, government officials decided to set a LEED (green building) standard for all their municipal buildings, and encouraged residents to do the same.

Nearing 3 months later, Japan still struggles to rebuild after their tsunami and earthquakes.  Below is one reflection on how to rebuild considering humanity’s relationship to nature from Junko Edahiro, newswriter for Japan for Sustainability Newsletter. For the full article, go to 

Okawa Elementary in Ishinomaki, Japan

Should humanity regard nature as an object that needs to be suppressed and controlled, or just let it go and go along with its natural oscillations? The earthquake and tsunami disaster has given us an opportunity to reconsider the relationship between humanity and nature and how we should perceive it.

People in the disaster areas, including those in Ishinomaki, have started discussing and working on reconstruction plans. Some towns might choose to build higher and stronger seawalls, while others might decide to pass on the tough lessons from the tsunami disaster this time to future generations by telling them that we should not live too close to the water’s edge because it is the realm of nature. There is no single and ultimately correct answer. Yet I strongly hope that future city planning is developed with longer time perspectives to enhance resilience, not just short-term efficiencies, and that planning and reconstruction in the affected areas are carried out using the hard lessons learned from this disaster [my emphasis]. Written by Junko Edahiro

Green building is one way to work with a longer range view focused on efficiencies and connecting with nature.  Faced with daily survival for food and shelter,  nature may not be the first teacher considered.  Abraham Maslow, a humanistic psychologist, wrote that our basic needs for survival and safety take precedence over higher needs for connecting with others and nature. Yet, controlling and fearing nature’s forces will only lead to false hope and a disconnect from her. I agree with Junko Edahiro, we need to reflect on the powerful long-range lessons of how humanity can connect and learn from nature. Like her, I believe this will assure more resilience for our rebuilding solutions.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s