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Ecological restoration and connection to nature

Furness, Ella 2018. Ecological restoration and connection to nature. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

There is concern that social and technological changes mean people are increasingly disconnected from nature. Initiatives that involve participants carrying out practical work in nature are hypothesised to remedy this disconnection. In particular ‘hands-on’ participation in ecological restoration is claimed as a way of enabling participants to develop a sense of connection with nature. This thesis examines the claim, investigating hands-on restoration as a practice and the kinds of relationships with nature that it produces among those who participate. Ethnographic methods were used to examine a case study of hands-on ecological restoration in the Scottish Highlands that specifically aims to enable groups to a feel a ‘connection to nature’. The research extends our existing knowledge in a number of key respects. A connection to nature among restoration participants is most commonly articulated as a sense of belonging to a wider community of nature, wherein ‘nature’ is understood as an all-encompassing abstract entity. This connection to ‘nature’ is enabled by entities that are representative of ‘nature’. These entities can be abiotic, degraded and humanised forms of nature, which suggests that a sense of connection to nature is not necessarily associated with living non-human nature. The physical ‘doing’ of restoration facilitates an embodied intimacy and positive affective experience of nature. The narrative of ‘restoration’ enables participants to feel their actions are making meaningful reparation to nature. This is felt most clearly when attached to symbolic tasks such as tree-planting, but less clearly to other more ambiguous tasks. In addition, the encouragement of curiosity and use of mindfulness, meditation and ritual helps participants observe nature and elevates the significance of the experience. A key paradox, however, is that feelings of connection to nature facilitated by such exceptional immersive experiences are unlikely to endure beyond that experience, into everyday life.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council and the Scottish Forestry Trust
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 24 May 2019
Last Modified: 24 May 2019 11:31
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/122818

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