It’s time to re­con­nect with na­ture

Sunday News - - WELLBEING - DR TOM MUL­HOL­LAND

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

Hav­ing just spent a month aboard a ship in the Rus­sian Arc­tic, 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, to 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 New Zealand 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 some­times seem to have a sense of hope­less­ness that global warm­ing is the end of many things.

Our crew 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-seen-be­fore sce­nario and what does it have to do with health?

The photo shows the health 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 that 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 to 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 them from the Wai­heke ferry, Devon­port wharf or around our na­tion’s coast­line. But we have been dis­con­nected from na­ture.

Climb a hill, pad­dle a kayak or take a whale watch tour and marvel at our gor­geous planet and TOM MUL­HOL­LAND the weird and won­der­ful crea­tures we share it with. Go find a kiwi, a tui or a 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, re­lax, breathe and plug into the ecosys­tem. That’s how we recharge and get our en­ergy. ● Dr Tom Mul­hol­land is an Emer­gency De­part­ment doc­tor and GP with more than 25 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in New Zealand. He’s cur­rently on a mis­sion, tack­ling health mis­sions around the world.

Healthy bears and healthy planet means healthy hu­mans.

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