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Connection with nature is an oxymoron: A political ecology of “nature-deficit disorder”

Partners' Institution
Södertörn University
Reference
Fletcher, R., 2017. Connection with nature is an oxymoron: A political ecology of “nature-deficit disorder.” The Journal of Environmental Education 48, 226–233. https://doi.org/10.1080/00958964.2016.1139534
Thematic Area
Development studies
Summary
It has become commonplace to argue that greater “connection with nature” is needed to mobilize support for both biodiversity conservation and environmentalism generally, and hence to call for more effective environmental education to achieve this. I employ a political ecology lens to problematize this increasingly conventional wisdom by highlighting the ways in which a sense of separation from “nature” is in fact paradoxically reinforced by the very environmental education and related practices employed to overcome it. In response, I call for greater interrogation of the concept of “nature” as well as the political-economic structures driving environmental degradation.
Relevance for Complex Systems Knowledge
The article brings up the dichotomy between culture and nature in the context of bridging these. The focus is on how environmental education attempt to address the disconnect between people and nature. The article claims that the dichotomy as such is false and hence most attempts to bridge become misguided. Three ways of interpreting nature are identified  from environmental education literature:

Nature as an entity in the world excluding humans

Nature as an entity  including humans
Nature as not an entity at all but rather a culturally specific conceptual construction


These distinctions has had implications for debates and practice on environmental conservation. The article also problematizes effect that the culture-nature dichotomy has on the North-South divide.


Among the various attempts to find alternative wordings and concepts, the author advocates for Bruno Latour´s focus on specific "assemblages"  of human and nonhuman "actants" as a way to deal with the complexity. Writing from a political ecology perspective the author want to include  power relations in the assemblage.
Point of Strength
While not providing any answers, but recommendations for further reading and discussion, the effort to problematize the dichotomy between human and nature is commendable and useful  particularly in the context of education teachers and developmental/environmental officers. he suggested alternative -  assemblages however may or may not be the answer -  but worthwhile to approach in the search for ways of approaching complexity and inculcate systems thinking.