Colleen Sharkey | May 30, 2020
In designing a recent study, Notre Dame Professor of Psychology Darcia Narvaez wanted to test the possibility of promoting the sense of ecological attachment that was inherently part of many pre-industrialized societies and is still practiced by First Nation peoples. An experiment that was part of the study, now published in Ecopsychology, showed that students reported increased mindfulness towards the environment after performing ecological attachment tasks like contemplating nature, or practicing environmental preservation tasks like recycling and limiting electricity usage. Only the tasks that had students communing with nature increased feelings of connection to it.
“Thomas Aquinas famously suggested two routes to faith and divine inspiration: the good book and the natural world. In a time when Mass attendance and parish events are curtailed by the pandemic, it may be a good time to restore the second route to God, the natural world,” said Narvaez. “Many non-civilized societies used this route, treating natural entities as fellow community members — First Nation peoples notably so.”
Narvaez, along with former graduate student Angela Kurth, now at the University of St. Thomas, and undergraduates Reilly Kohn and Andrea Bae, conducted a three-week experiment comparing two conditions: The first emphasized conservation behaviors such as turning off the lights when you leave a room; the second condition emphasized ecological attachment, which includes things like acknowledging trees and sitting in nature while deliberately listening to sounds.
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