Today, I’m musing about Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD). I have concluded that, while thankfully not as bad in Waupaca County East as it in the rest of the world, NDD underlies a lot of what ails us humans in the year 2011. As a veterinarian, I am book-trained regarding almost all aspects of farm animal health and husbandry. More to the point (like most of you), I know and have seen with my own eyes where food comes from. Having lived in big cities, I have come to realize that many people have never seen an animal butchered. Most have no clue what steps occur before meat, poultry, or fish is neatly plastic-wrapped and are presented so clean for us on a brightly lit refrigerator shelf in our grocery store. Two other things just came to my mind to illustrate the rising incidence of NDD: 1) the horror a lot of city folk have regarding hunting and 2) the medical condition “Seasonal Affective Disorder”.
I am a student of history. I received a big “Ah Ha!” of understanding when I learned about the word “bourgeoisie”. To me, bourgeoisie was a term used to describe rich and powerful people who ruled over working-class people (the “proletariat”). It turns out that the word arose in the 1100’s. Its word-root is from the old-French word “burgeis”, meaning simply “citizen of a town”. Two big steps occurred long ago. The first was the commercialization of agriculture. The second was the monetization of our economy. These two steps resulted in a division between our self-sufficient family farming forbearers and bourgeoisie (city dwellers).
As of 2008, 82% of Americans lived in cities and suburbs. To me (while technically incorrect), a city is a city because it has a lot of people living there. By my way of thinking, none of us in Waupaca County live in a city. Yes, we have three urban environments in Waupaca County: Waupaca, New London, and Clintonville, but no true cities. When I think of cities, I think of a combination of structures and infrastructures that can be identified by aerial or satellite photography. Cites, from sufficient distance, fulfill the “ABCDE” criteria used to distinguish a normal mole from a mole that is potentially cancerous: “A” stands for asymmetry, “B” stands for border, “C” stands for color, “D” stands for diameter, and “E” stands for elevation. Seen from afar, all cities are asymmetric, have irregular borders, their colors do not match the surrounding countryside, they are large in diameter, and their structures are elevated.
Shortly after bow season began, the woman who cuts my hair (Mick Egan) stopped me outside of the New London Kwik Trip all excited to show me photographs of the handsome 10-point buck she dropped four hours after buying her license. It thrills me that my hairstylist a bow hunter. I feel honored that Mick has shared with me how a bobcat has mesmerized her as she sat in her stand for a couple of years in a row. As someone who has been a city dweller I can assure you, such interactions and conversations are unusual. This morning, I heard an expert on Season Affective Disorder—when people get depressed each winter–on Wisconsin Public Radio. Simply spending 20 minutes outside each day can successfully treat the condition.
I am currently hurrying to complete this column, because I want to get outside to finish a stone retaining wall. I am 100% confident that this experience will be medicinal, that I will experience the joy of being in nature (and that my wife will find me easier to live with). I want to conclude with a quote and two questions:
The quote: “In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through man, in spite of real sorrows.”—Emerson
Two questions: What can each of us do to treat NDD? What can each of us do to not confuse the world of TV, video games, and the internet for the real world (our mother earth)?
Published in the Waupaca County Post East newspaper, 11/17/11.
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