Where does your love for nature come from?
“I grew up in a fairly industrialized city and I still vividly remember the sense of curiosity and wonder that I had as a child when I got to be out in nature. I remember what it felt like to climb a tree and play in the backyard or a nearby park. I had a difficult family situation, and nature became more and more the place where I felt that I was at home and where I felt safe. It was a comforting place.
By the time I was around twenty, I realized that nature, unlike other things in life, was always the same as, or even better than, the last time I had experienced it. That sense of comfort and wonder was always there. And it still is. It’s the only thing in my life that never really disappoints me, especially when times are rough.”
The title of your latest book is The Eight Master Lessons of Nature. What do you think is the most important lesson?
“The most important thing is how nature shows us that everything is connected. We walk under the trees that give us the oxygen we need. There are millions of bacteria in your stomach that help you to digest your food. Sunlight triggers the production of serotonin, which helps you focus during the day, and also creates Vitamin D in your body, which you need for strong bones. Everything is connected.
In the US we love the rugged individual; the individual that doesn’t need anybody. I believe there’s less of a fixation on that outside the US. That’s fortunate, as that individual is an illusion. If we build a society on an illusion—everyone lives for themselves and grabs what they can—then that will lead to chaos in the end. I think we can create a better world by harking back to that basic lesson about how connected we all are. And we can learn to see that connection.
If you were to wake up in the morning and think about how we are all connected, with everything that lives and with the planet, then we would also be more capable of tackling problems such as climate change.”
What is your most important message?
“Go outside more often! Several studies now show what a walk in nature does for you: Your attention shifts from yourself to everything that’s happening around you. When you go outside and realize that you are not the center of the world, but that you are on the edge of it, it brings you peace.
Sometimes it feels almost scary to sit under a tree without your phone: What if someone is trying to reach you? But when you get through that, the attention and consciousness come. Then you look. And because of that you come back in a completely different mindset. And you don’t necessarily have to know why that is. Let it happen and let nature’s effect just roll over you. Just experience it.”
- You can read the complete interview with Gary Ferguson in issue 36.
- Find Gary’s book The Eight Master Lessons of Nature here.
Text Sjoukje van de Kolk Photographer Anton Darius