So often we hear the catch-cry of ‘getting back to nature’, but for many of us, just being able to find the time to give ourselves freely to a more natural life is nigh on impossible. The pressures of work, family, social networks, second jobs and all of the other myriad responsibilities we take upon ourselves drive us to distraction and exhaustion, leaving little time for rest and recuperation.
For many of us too, the weight of responsibility – the inability to ‘do nothing’ and accept that deliberately unproductive time can be good for us – weighs heavily, and our guilt response to taking ‘time for ourselves’ can often prevent us from taking any time at all. And the cycle of self-denial continues.
But what if taking ‘time out’ could mean more than just time to recharge, and could represent a true reconnection with nature – an opportunity to heal ourselves, while healing our land?
There, in the acknowledgement that we have taken a grave toll on our land, but that we have within ourselves the tools and the will to restore it, is a powerful place – a place that transcends the notion of ‘unproductive time; a place to re-centre and bring a different energy back into our own busy lives, creating opportunities for self-care, deep reconciliation and restoration.
For many Australian people, the ‘red dirt’ landscape represents home. Our collective ‘Aussie’ psyche somehow resonates with the wide-open spaces and places where you barely see another human, let alone a vehicle.
But many of these landscapes are not that way by virtue of their own history, but by virtue of ours. Our agricultural tradition of clearing the land and leaving it barren, has in many places resulted in lands which once were healthy habitats, and now are simply dry, dusty, nutrient-stripped paddocks; providing little to our farming community, our food security, or our biodiversity.
But when we think of ‘getting away to the country’, we typically think of that gorgeous, green holiday – the cabin nestled amongst lush forests, or the dreamy beach getaway. We seldom think to take our talents inland, and ask the land for forgiveness, while giving ourselves that much needed connection to our 'red dirt' country.
Many psychological and scientific studies show evidence that just being in nature has positive effects on both our mood and our physiology. Research shows that not only can interacting with the natural environment reduce our stress levels, it can also alter the ways the nervous, endocrine and even immune systems function. It also shows that people who spend more time in nature are more likely to be more community focussed and supportive – that natural connection inspires feelings of unity and connectedness. Studies using fMRI technology to measure brain activity have found that even in participants viewing simulated nature scenes, the parts of the brain associated with love and empathy were activated, but when asked to view urban scenes the parts of the brain associated with fear and anxiety were triggered.
When coupled with the mental health benefits of volunteering, which are also well documented, giving back to the ‘wide brown land’ is a double whammy of good vibrations. Being involved in something that accommodates ‘me time’ as well as ‘giving time’ could be that elusive opportunity to find health and happiness, in one perfect package, without forking out for that high priced yoga retreat.
For Kent Broad that’s exactly what the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor represents. An unlikely place for a holiday, Kent loves this special place. Each tree that Carbon Neutral plants and nurtures within the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor represents a little bit of healing; a time in nature that not only heals the land, but has a profound impact on him as well.
As a country boy and farmer himself, the time he spends with this land, and its people – both the Aboriginal community, and the local farming families – is the time Kent feels most present; away from the City, away from the constant chatter of digital lives and working for a common good with real communities of people, whose connection to Country is honest and heartfelt.
This is one of the many stories that Kent wants to share about the incredible Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor project – that it’s not only good for the environment (although one might say that restoring the biodiversity balance to over 21,000 hectares is a huge environmental achievement), but it’s good for people too. New jobs have been created, and even new industries, such as beekeeping, which were a far more limited part of the local economy before the Corridor sprang to life. The farming community is learning new skills, carbon farming techniques that will give them new uses for barren land, and new opportunities for income where few existed before.
But the local impacts are not the only impacts. For city people this Corridor can represent something wondrous and worthwhile, and an opportunity to apply that terrifying ‘unproductive time’, to something really meaningful. Being a passionate eco-tourist in our own land is not only a possibility, it’s a necessity.
So for Kent, this is an invitation to the Western Australian community – city and country folks alike, to contribute to something far bigger than ourselves. To businesses and corporations, who represent their staff, and their memberships, this can be an opportunity to drive positive corporate citizenship through major planting programs. To individuals, to take time out of our busy lives and to put our energy into something hugely worthwhile, all while ‘getting back to nature’.