RNC brings nature connection practice into relationship with our struggles to challenge interlocking systems of oppression, such as racism, patriarchy, colonialism, and ableism and our efforts to build movements forging a life-affirming future.
‘Nature Connection’ has gained popularity in recent years and the dominant cultures which once suppressed such connection have begun to reconsider (and seek to commercialise) it’s value. The importance of connecting with the more-than-human world is increasingly recognised in mainstream approaches to health and well-being, education and conservation. More people are seeking this kind of connection, led by the alienation in their lives, which has been exacerbated by recent pandemic lockdowns. It brings benefits for individuals, communities and society, improving physical and mental health, supporting increased sense of community, and motivating care for and action on behalf of non-human life.
Nature Connection work includes a wide range of practice. Awakening the senses through play in nature and mindful walks through the woods; opportunities to observe and learn about plants and animals using skills like tracking or identifying bird language; acquiring key bushcraft skills such as fire-making, crafting with wild materials and foraging for food and medicine; spending longer periods immersed in wild natural places, either in groups or supported solo-time; exploring geological time or learning to reading the life of a landscape and place; and gradually discovering the deep transformative power of an emerging ecological consciousness where we recognise that we too are nature.
Unfortunately, nature connection work sometimes reproduces the conditioning from our dominant individualistic, consumerist, and capitalist culture. When it does, its radically transformative power can be lost. Radical Nature Connection (RNC) work applies the benefits of nature connection – such as greater clarity, resilience, vitality, motivation, well-being, and connection with self and others – to leverage social change. It seeks to harness nature-connection learning to the radical transformation of our relationship to nature, to each other, and society.
We believe that radical transformation takes place simultaneously at several intersecting levels: the individual, the social, and the ecological. It involves both individual and collective action. So, we design and develop our Radical Nature Connection (RNC) work to support deep change at each of these levels in various ways:
Building personal and collective resilience: The more connected we are, the more resilient we are. The more resilient we are, the more powerful we become. When directed towards the collective good, this power can be a truly liberating force. We apply nature connection practices to sustain and galvanise resistance to oppressive and destructive forces; to inspire action that creates conditions for the flourishing of human society and the ecosystems within which we are embedded; that recognises that the social and ecological are not – and can never be – separate.
Empowering regenerative activism: A ‘regenerative’ approach to activism goes beyond sustainability to explore how we can organise in ways that actually renew or revitalize our own resources and those of our groups – this can help us stay inspired, nourished, & more creative in our tactical approach. This work offers a range of tools, collective and personal, to make activism more effective and regenerative; drawing on ecological and systems thinking, reflective practices and holistic participatory learning.
Skilling up for direct action: Civil disobedience/direct action is an age-old tactic, and an important ingredient in struggles for social change. As an embodied practice of physical resistance rather than rationalised theorising, such tactics align well with a nature-based approach. Whether it’s remaining undetected in the woods, blockading a road or even occupying an office building, a range of nature awareness skills (such as sensory awareness, tracking, stealth, stalking, scouting and invisibility, day and night navigation, ‘survival skills’) are transferable to direct action and civil disobedience tactics to make site-based actions more effective.
Supporting movement building and strategy: Nature offers abundant wisdom to inform how we organise our movements – from starling murmurations and mycelium networks to ant colonies and forest ecosystems. Building awareness through nature connection can deepen our potential for creating change, working together, cultivating mental effectiveness and agility we can then apply to social change. From observing nature and applying its principles (‘biomimicry’) we can build resilient, effective and regenerative movements. This work is inspired by adrienne maree brown’s inspirational Emergent Strategy, and similar narratives first articulated within the alter-globalisation movements in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Supporting affected communities: Whether through being displaced from their homes and native landscapes, alienated from nature by racist narratives of not belonging, living in polluted inner-city areas with little or no access to green space, or not being able to afford the time or cost of ‘connecting with nature’ (or a nature connection course), marginalised communities are often worst affected by the dominant western culture of disconnection. RNC seeks to challenge this and create accessible opportunities for such communities to connect with nature, through initiatives such as the Natural Resilience Project, which supports women living with irregular immigration status to build personal resilience by cultivating connections to nature and community.
Working with Nature Connection facilitators: RNC involves a critical and collaborative dialogue with more mainstream approaches to nature connection work. Through this we hope to help encourage a more radical approach within mainstream spaces. Collaborating with facilitators of nature connection amplifies the potential impact of RNC work and the development of RNC as a shared exploration of theory and practice. It also cultivates networks of solidarity and support, within which skill- and knowledge-sharing can take place.
RNC related Ulex trainings include:
– Roots of Resilience
– Regenerative Activism
– Radical Nature Connection for Social Change (on hold due to pandemic)
– RNC Convention for nature connection facilitators (on hold due to pandemic)
– Nature Connection Skills for Direct Action (on hold due to pandemic)
Taking a lead in developing this strand of our work are Kara Moses and May MacKeith.
Kara Moses is a facilitator of socio-ecological regeneration. As an educator, she co-developed ‘Radical Nature Connection’ as an approach and co-holds this strand of work at the Ecodharma/Ulex centres. She delivers courses and lectures on Masters degrees on nature connection, rewilding, wild living skills and woodland management at the Centre for Alternative Technology, Schumacher College and independently. She is a freelance writer and an activist on socio-environmental issues within grassroots movements, and in the Winter months works in conservation forestry, planting trees and restoring ancient woodlands.
She also runs a Wild Recovery program for people in recovery from addiction and chairs a charity that runs the 350-acre Cambrian Wildwood project, which is restoring wild habitats in the Cambrian foothills and creating access to immersion in wild nature. She lives in a remote off-grid housing co-op in the foothills of the Cambrian mountains, foraging for food and medicine, tracking, traditional bark tanning, and crafting with wild materials.
May (she/her) is an experienced nature facilitator, who’s been helping people to connect with nature for over 15 years with Forest School Camps (FSC) alongside many other organisations. She co-founded the Natural Resilience Project, which builds personal resilience though connection to nature with migrant women in cities across the UK. She also works as part of the Ulex Trainers Network on courses in the Regenerative Activism Series.
In her free time May is a passionate campaigner and activist, and for the last decade or more has worked on a range of issues, often with an environmental emphasis. With Plane Stupid she focused on aviation, and went on to help establish Grow Heathrow, a squatted community food growing project in the path of the proposed 3rd runway. After many years spent fighting dirty big business, and standing with communities being damaged by extractive industries with Reclaim the Power, her activism most recently joined the dots between the aviation industry’s ties with the UK home Office’s brutal process of deportation by charter flight. She was one of the Stansted 15 defendants in a long running court case which spanned 2017-2021.
We would be keen to hear from you if you’re experience makes you a good person to contribute to this work. Please get in touch.
Find out more about Radical Nature Connection (RNC) on the following pages:
– Radical Nature Connection Explained
– RNC Aims, Methodologies and Influences