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Reimagining Care: Our Bond with Nature and a New Ethical Paradigm

It is not the load that breaks you down. It's the way you carry it.

—Lena Horne

Care Outdoors =

Caring In, With, and For Nature

Caring In, With, and For Each Other

People and Planet, All Our Relations

We Are Nature

We are All Carers

people plants and animals

From the moment we are born, we weave in and out of giving and receiving care, as caregivers and care receivers. In this sense, we are all carers.

Yet, all too often, we do not fully embrace or understand our responsibility as carers, to each other and to the ecosystems that sustain us.

Reviewing an Ethics of Care

Caring is Relational

In Joan Tronto's Five Stages of Caring, each stage of the care process is associated with a guiding moral principle. The first stage is Caring About and is driven by the principle of Attentiveness. Caring About can be thought of as a form of awareness, noticing unmet needs, suspending self-interest, and embracing other's perspectives regardless of familiarity.

The second stage of caring is Caring For. In this stage, Attention transforms into Intention, where we take action to address the identified needs. Caring For stems from a sense of responsibility, not an obligation.

The third stage is Caregiving, the work of care guided by the principle of Competence. The Caregiving stage is an intricate balance of knowledge, empathy, and the skills required to provide compassionate care.

As the care process continues, we enter the Care Receiving stage, guided by Responsiveness. In this stage, those being cared for are granted the right to respond, evaluate, and provide feedback on the care they receive, care receivers are active agents of care.

The center of the care process is Caring With, guided by the principle of Reciprocity, designing and implementing care practices that recognize care receivers' dignity, knowledge, and empowerment. Caring With, nurtures a mutually beneficial cycle of giving and receiving; caregiver and care receiver become carer, carers sharing care.

Caring With extends beyond the confines of therapeutic spaces to include caregivers, care receivers, the wider community, and the ecosystems that sustain us. Caring With nurtures learning, sharing, growth, and empowerment in all the stages of the care cycle.

Those we are caring with, receiving care, are also carers, giving and receiving care throughout their lifespan. By acknowledging and empowering care receivers, and enabling them to also participate in Caring With, we can lesson care burnout, and generate a more relational and reciprocal care experience.

Nature is Our #1 Care Ally

We Are Nature's #1 Care Ally

Our health and Nature's health is 100% interconnected.

How can we care for and with each other if we are not caring for and with the ecosystems that sustain us?

When we are immersed in care tasks, the natural world is as near as the other side of our window panes and often far from our sensory awareness or thoughts.

The changing clouds, the way the trees move with the breeze, and the sounds of birds often go unnoticed.

While the therapeutic benefits of Nature on human health are widely recognized, from bolstering the immune system to fostering inner tranquility, there are seldom any adverse effects associated with embracing the Nature prescription. However, our current care practices often fail to fully integrate Caring About, Caring For, and Caring With Nature. Meaningful moments outdoors, breathing fresh air, noticing and appreciating the beauty of butterflies, or growing native plant habitats are rarely recognized as a form of care.

The key to unearthing the full benefits of the Nature prescription lies in nurturing a symbiotic relationship with Nature. We cultivate a reciprocal partnership with the natural world by caring in, with, and for Nature. This approach not only aids in restoring Nature's wellbeing but also promotes human health and wellbeing. Diverse and robust ecosystems play a pivotal role in generating clean air, water, and soil—essential elements for maintaining a healthy and vibrant life.

The Case for Care Outdoors

Caring In, With, and For Nature

I invite you to think about our connection with the natural world, by focusing on your breath. Breathing in, follow your in-breath all the way through, breathing out, follow your out-breath all the way through. Continue to be aware of your breath.

With each inhalation, we engage in the vital oxygen cycle, a dance of reciprocity with Earth's flora. Trees and plants, through the magic of photosynthesis, transform carbon dioxide into the life-giving oxygen we inhale. Breathing symbolizes our intricate interdependence with Nature. We release carbon dioxide with each exhalation, completing the cycle and returning an essential element for photosynthesis to the environment. The oxygen cycle is a wondrous reminder of our interconnectedness with the ecosystems that sustain us, caring with.

Think for a moment about our neighbors who no longer drive, who depend on their care partners, us, to bring them outdoors to access fresh air, sunlight, trees, birds = Nature.

As we age, staying connected to the natural environment is essential for preserving and improving our physiological, psychological, social, and spiritual wellbeing.

For older and younger adults living in residential care communities, individuals living with dementia and or mobility impairments, and those living independently with in-home care and support, engaging outdoors and in Nature can be challenging, primarily when their ability to do so depends on others.

Research has shown one of the main barriers to Care Outdoors is care partners do not fully value engaging outdoors and with Nature as a form of care.

Become aware of your breath. Breathing in and out.

How is it possible that our current models of care do not fully integrate

the human-nature connection when it is the human-nature connection that creates and sustains life?

What if we begin to value meaningful moments, caring in, with and for Nature, as a form of care?

Care receivers are not passive recipients but active agents in the caregiving process, and they also have a fundamental human need to provide care.

Engaging in green care, nature-based practices, outdoors, fosters reciprocity, enabling care receivers to share care, caring with plants and animals. Even expressing gratitude for Nature is a meaningful way of caring for and with the natural world.

One of the simplest and most profound ways to nurture caring with Nature is to grow

Nature Connectedness through the evidence-based pathways.

According to the Nature Connectedness Research Group:

Nature connectedness captures the relationship between people and the rest of Nature. Nature Connectedness is a measurable psychological construct that moves beyond contact with Nature to an individuals sense of their relationship with the natural world

A strong connection to Nature means feeling a close relationship or emotional attachment to our natural surroundings. Connectivity and a sense of belonging to Nature improve cognitive, sensory, and social development while increasing physical activity, positive emotions, and pro-nature behaviors.

Research has shown that people with high levels of nature connectedness are happier, less stressed, and report having more vitality and meaning in their lives.

Feeling connected to Nature generates positive emotions like calmness and creativity, facilitates focus and concentration, and lessens feelings of isolation and loneliness for All Ages.

Imagine, for a moment, sharing care outdoors with Nature and experiencing these benefits. How different would your care load feel? How would your health and wellbeing be impacted?

Sharing Care Outdoors, With Nature, improves everyone's health and wellbeing, care givers and care receivers, and Nature's health Simultaneously!

The Pathways of Nature Connectedness are synergistic with

Tronto's Five Stages of Caring.

Caring About = Awareness, Immersing in Nature, Tuning in to Nature through the Senses

Caring For = Feeling alive through the emotions and feelings Nature brings

Caregiving = Noticing Nature's Beauty, the simple act of noticing deepens our connection

Care Receiving = Meaning, Nature brings meaning to our lives, we bask in all life offers

Caring With = Compassion, Caring, and Taking Action for Nature

Caring With, all carers, care receivers and care givers, engage with each of the stages of caring.

Everyone, all carers, benefit from growing nature connectedness. Sharing care prevents burnout while empowering both caregiver and care receiver, human-human and human-nature care relations.

These extraordinary times of change compel us to rethink our approach to caregiving, encompassing care for one another, the land, and the ecosystems that sustain us.

Our current models of care are broken.

By embracing our interconnectedness with each other and Nature, we can co-create a healthier way forward, nurturing our health and wellbeing and Nature's health and wellbeing.

We Are All Carers.

We Are Nature.

Are you ready to embrace a new Ethics of Care?

Caring In, Caring For, and Caring With Nature?

As a society, we stand at the brink; we know we do. Through the hole that opens at our feet, we can look down and see a glittering blue and green planet, as if from the vantage point of space, vibrating with birdsong and toads and tigers. We could close our eyes, keep breathing poison air, witness the extinction of our relatives, and continue to measure our worth by how much we take. We could cover our ears to our own knowing, back away from the edge, and retreat to the grey decline.
What does it take to abandon what does not work and rake the risks of uncertainty? We'll need courage; we'll need each other's hands to hold and faith in the geese to catch us. It would help to sing. The landing might not be soft, but land holds many medicines. Propelled by love, ready to work, we can jump toward the world we want to co-create with pockets full of seeds and rhizomes.

–Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass

Ready to nurture a new way of care?

A learning retreat for all carers.

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