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Author: HRH Princess Irene of the Netherlands - Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld

( Article Type: Sustainable Development )

We are nature.
Have you ever felt a profound loneliness? In essence, the pain is not the absence of a loved one, but that of a far greater loss: your separation from All life. We have forgotten that we are part of the whole. We live our lives oblivious to the fact that we are part of nature, oblivious to our own inner nature, our natural selves.

But just by opening up to our surroundings, we can let the sound of a bird be a song in our heart.

Biologists know we are made out of the same substance as the stars; all elements in our body are present in the universe.

Our breath, the air, the winds, are in essence one.

For our segmentary structure we thank the worm.

The bone of the fish is our backbone.

The calcium of our bones originates in limestone.

Our eye mirrors that of the octopus.

The rhythm of our heart stems from the insects.

For our lungs we thank the amphibians.

For our skin the reptiles.

For the warmth of our bodies we thank our

feathered friends.
And so, as we are part of all life, let us consider our place within the web of life. Let us have the humility to open up to the kinship with all living beings. Let us make space for the natural within ourselves, as well as for the animals and trees, the mountains, the water and the sun, for the Earth herself.

Let us respect the unique wisdom and power within each life form; let us learn to listen to the life force that flows through every creature on Earth. Where there is life, there is feeling; where there is feeling there is a form of awareness. You are not alone, you belong to life itself and life is interconnected, intertwined, and interdependent in a deep and primal communication. Let us be friends and partners of the life forms that surround us: respectful, aware, and thankful.

I want to quote the wisdom of a wise Zulu, Professor Koka: “I am because nature is, and because she is I am.”

Each individual that sets out to mend the human-nature divide helps to heal the overall separation and at the same time contributes to the healing of the Earth. That is the foremost important contribution that each and every individual can make to turn the tide: from greed to love, in the understanding of the dynamic oneness of all life.

At this moment in history something truly important is asked of each and every one of us. We live on this beautiful Earth and do not seem to value her. Many of us feel disconnected from our environment and have placed ourselves away and above all other life forms, forgetting that we cannot survive without them.

Maybe during weekends or vacations we enjoy a lovely sunset, the sounds of the wild animals, a swim in the ocean… or even book an eco-holiday … but, during the rest of the year we pollute, destroy and our greed is boundless. Let us be conscious of the fact that even in the near future, as increasing populations will compete for diminishing resources and because of global climate changes, we can expect an even increasing number of conflicts in the world if humans do not change their consciousness and patterns of relationship with the Earth and one another.

We need to start to think in terms of being part of the community of life, and actively contribute to the process of a transformation of our present mindset. Then, automatically all tourism will become eco-tourism, anywhere and always.

Fortunately more and more people are challenging the myth of human dominance over the Earth and supplanting it with a vision of humans as part of the community of life. This is a major transformation in our way of thinking and acting that requires a transformed consciousness that will hopefully result in reformed policies on all different aspects of human society, respecting the wellbeing of all life forms. We humans carry a unique and joyous responsibility because the quality of our thinking and awareness enables us to anticipate the consequences of our choices and lifestyles. We now have more influence than a tsunami or an earthquake. We have manoeuvred ourselves in a position in which we cannot escape our responsibility for this world and the well-being of each and every living being in it.

 About 12% of the Earth’s surface consists of protected areas. They represent special places for restoring ourselves after a hard years work, for restoring our inner balance, and for opening up and connecting with the non-human and the spiritual values they represent. In this way they provide benefits far beyond their boundaries.

Protected areas are invaluable in providing space and protection for the biosphere, for the future of humankind and the livelihoods of local communities. I strongly feel that in addition, this wild and protected nature can be a powerful stimulating force for the necessary change of consciousness and as such form a powerful tool for restoring the relationship between mankind and nature, so that we will stop destroying her and start loving her.

 I am sure many of us have experienced moments of deep connection with Nature and even what I call: ‘Magic Moments’, when all seems to be one and you as a human being feel part of it all.

To enhance the Magic Moments in the parks, we need guides who can help the visitors experience the Wild on emotional and experiential levels, so that they reconnect with the delicacy and beauty of nature, of which we all are part. It asks for an open heart, to be able to listen and receive the magic of the lion’s roar, the miracle of the flight of soft pink tainted flamingo’s, of a flower blossoming in the desert. It asks for a deep and true communication with the sacred and the unknown.

 Learning how to listen, to see, to hear and feel. To be very silent and emotionally open to receive the other life form as it is. Then names and specifics of the animals and plants become less important than what they emanate from within. You feel mentally and spiritually touched, you feel seen, you realise you belong; as you – in turn - see and mentally touch the other. The parks and other protected areas can offer an opportunity to recover the harmony within the visitors themselves whilst being in the wild. Even a glimpse of our own true nature can restore us. In the same way: a glimpse of nature herself can restore us. And we restore nature.

 All around the world there are local people and guides who take visitors into the wilderness in such a way that they can experience magic moments; moments they will never forget and which can in effect change their attitude towards life.

However, it could become a policy of the parks to train all the guides to follow such an approach. It would be a marvellous step forward in bridging the distance between humans and their environment, to change the consciousness from the spectator to partner and participant.

 How can this be promoted?
By asking the guides themselves. They have so much experiential knowledge of nature. Not only from what they have learned, but also from what they know by their own experience and heartfelt wisdom.

 Being participants of nature was natural to the ancient peoples. But surprisingly, I can also quote Albert Einstein here:

“Human beings are a part of a whole called by us the ‘Universe’, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. The delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Let us put this wisdom into practice! Wherever we are, whatever we do.

 We live within the life community, but usually not even recognize the existence of a community as such. Many feel the need to emerge in nature to recover from busy lives. Unconsciously we know how nature and especially the wild can heal us, bringing us peace and clarity again in our lives.

Eco-tourism could be more than choosing an eco-lodge and biological food. It includes a willingness ‘to embrace all living creatures’ as part of the community of life: an understanding that we are part of nature. This can move us from the alienated state in which we often find ourselves, towards experiencing ourselves as part of all life.

In eco-tourism, local communities can play an important role. Their traditional practices and wisdom have been ignored for far too long with negative consequences. We are just starting to recognise their enormous value. Not only as sources of protection of nature, but also by their spiritual and practical traditions that show how to live in close and constant contact with nature. We need to be reminded.

 Each one of us can help to change the attitude from being the spectator to becoming the participant. Let’s allow our souls to reconnect.

 This is the way I see it: every human being is like a drop in the ocean of life. The clarity of each drop of water affects the quality of the ocean. To know that, is an invitation to live sustainably. We are each responsible for that clarity and it is our homework for the rest of our lives....

Editors Note:
Princess Irene has worked tirelessly over many years to restore the ecological balance at her Bergplaas Nature Reserve in the Karoo, where she runs a deeply insightful Programme which she calls “Spirit of the Wild “ . This was a most special experience for me that I would recommend to anyone wishing to experience a profound re-connection with Nature.