Dr Tom: Get reconnected with nature

Last updated 05:00 08/10/2017
Dr Tom Mulholland

Healthy bears and healthy planet means healthy humans.

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One of the benefits of taking a holiday, escaping from work and travelling is getting a new perspective. With technology chasing us at every second taking a break from devices is a good idea. If you can't find a destination close to home with no WIFI and cell coverage then try turning them off. 

Having just spent a month in the Russian Arctic on a ship I had plenty of time to disconnect from technology, read books, write one and reconnect with nature and the environment.

I have often thought our disconnect from nature is a major cause of our poor mental and spiritual health. We are genetically programmed to be foragers, hunt and gather. We are designed to be connected with nature, the earth and its plants and animals, not tablets TVs and traffic.

We are fortunate in NZ to have so much access to green areas and for little cost. Sometimes you just need to walk outside and listen. We often hear our planet is in peril and sometimes the doom and gloom can be deafening. Many young people seem to have a sense of hopelessness, believing that global warming is the end of many things.

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On the ship we turned a corner on Wrangel Island in the Chukchi Sea. We saw 241 healthy polar bears feeding on a dead whale, a world record. So, what is so special about this never been seen before scenario and what does it have to do with wellness? The photo shows the wellness of the bears at the end of summer when their food sources have been lowest. It also shows healthy cubs. Healthy bears, healthy planet means healthy humans.

Of nine polar bear populations which can be accurately measured, six are stable, two are increasing and only one is declining. I'm not saying that we should go and burn more fuel, buy more plastic or not continue to monitor and try and improve and protect our beautiful planet. But we should take time to marvel at what is out there, take some risks and escape somewhere. Even if it's your local forest, beach or mountain. One of the rangers on Wrangel Island dreams of seeing an orca. We can see those from the Waiheke ferry, Devonport wharf or around our nation's coastline. But we have been disconnected from nature in our urban jungles.

Climb a hill, paddle a kayak or take a whale watch tour and marvel at our gorgeous planet and the weird and wonderful creatures we share it with. Go find a kiwi, tui or rimu. Check out some of our own island refuges like Kapiti, Ulva and Tiritiri Matangi. Teach your kids to connect with nature. Turn off your technology for a decent time and relax, breathe and plug into the ecosystem. That's how we recharge and get our energy.

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