With regard to places for meeting nature, S.R.L. Clark, a prominent defender of environmental holism and an advocate of the better treatment of other species, holds that the point of the world is to exemplify beauty, or all the forms of beauty. We communicate the discovery of beauty by creative writing and pictures, which derived their power and beauty from natural phenomena. In this context, we, as conscious beings, are making statements that we do not exist outside of nature's sway. It’s force impels us and informs the central root of who and what we are? This is the stuff of Wordsworth and the English romantic poets which placed an emphasis on the action of nature on the senses.

One of the arguments of ‘deep ecology’ is that moral integrity can be realized through solidarity and identification with nature. That is to say, a person will do what is good for others and for the environment because she sees her welfare as one and the same as the welfare of the rest of the world. A similar idea seems to have been conjured up when Wordsworth visited Tintern Abbey. Afterwards he connects his feeling about…

….a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man,
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.

with the thought that he is…

…well-pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.

In these two passages from his poem on 'Tintern Abbey', Wordsworth appears to identify with, and feel himself a part of, the natural world as a whole. This sense of solidarity teaches him morality.

From the age of Wordsworth, which initiated the beginning with the advent of the modern age, we have regarded nature as a beast that we can tame. We have embanked rivers to contain their seasonal rush of water and piers to rebuff the ocean's swell; we have produced voids in the earth oil to fuel our engines. We have constructed dams that carry electric power in a skein across the globe — our night-time cities are bathed in comforting light that rivals and occludes the stars. It's very easy to presume we hold the upper hand. Now the glaciers melt, the tides are roused to meet us with a challenge and a message that we can't ignore. There are technological fixes but many would argue that to apply them means taking a point of view of what we can gain spiritually from contact with nature. In 1987, this view was embodied in policy statement of the Society Friends Policy which set out twelve ‘routes to ecological awareness’ for a corporate witness for sustainable living.

Through our meetings with nature we become aware of the scale of the problem:-

  • the scope and the scale of the destruction of life on earth, of the poisoning of the air and the water, of the decimation of rain forests and of habitats of threatened species, and of the unprecedented erosion of productive agricultural land.
  • a spiritual malaisespiritual malaise, especially in our large cities, that is partly rooted in a lack of direct relationship with nature, a lack of connection with the earth, and with the natural rhythms of the seasons, and a lack of awareness of the sky and the stars.

Then we have to realise the global crisis of ecological sustainability is at root a spiritual crisis that requires changing our attitudes to nature through an awareness that:-

  • spiritual leaders frequently sought the wilderness, the desert, and other natural places to find communion with God.
  • a response to nature speaks of a spiritual sustenance that can be gained from the earth, as if God were speaking to us through nature.
  • passages in the Bible tell of God's concern for the natural world, perhaps the parable of the lilies of the field, or perhaps finding in Genesis an expression of all life on earth, and in the universe, as being an expression of a Divine creative energy.
  • teachings from other spiritual traditions -- for example, Native American, Taoist and Buddhist -- have spoken clearly of a reverent response to the earth and to all life.
  • an ecological spirituality sees nurturing and caring as key elements in a healing relationship with the earth.
  • there is a channel of communication from the realm of nature -- from plants or trees, from animals, rivers or rocks -- perhaps speaking of the necessity of a transformation in our relationship with the natural world, and of a need for that relationship to be based in the Spirit.
  • the intricate web of life in the world around us and our interrelatedness, and interdependence with all life cam produce a sense of awe and wonderment at the complexity, diversity, harmony and beauty of creation.
  • an organic or biodynamic approach to growing things produces a first hand experience of the presence of a microcosm of the web of life through which our own actions could nurture and support that life, and in the process nurture our selves too.
  • there is a path towards wholeness which involves our relationship with the whole of nature and with the earth, and which leads us to integrate our spiritual and earthly paths.
  • we have an obligation to be responsible stewards, to restore the natural habitat where it has been damaged, and to maintain its vitality.