The Problem with Nature Therapy

In a popular online video, Nature Rx, a depthless-eyed, rakishly bearded man prescribes nature as the drug of choice for your stress, cynicism, narcissism, and other “crippling symptoms of modern life.” There are scenes of campfires, mist-covered lakes, and much denim. “Golf is not nature,” admonishes one bit of onscreen text.

A send-up of pharmaceutical ads, Nature Rx is a genuine shoestring project, put together without major backers by four friends led by filmmaker Justin Bogardus. A former New Yorker and self-described “city guy,” Bogardus first felt the transformative power of nature on family wilderness trips as a child. He earned a master’s degree in contemplative psychotherapy at Naropa University, a Buddhism-infused institute in Boulder, Colorado, where he is a teaching assistant. “My real idea was, from a psychology background and from a filmmaking background, how do you show the kind of instinctive, unconscious value we have for nature?” he says.

IS NATURE RIGHT FOR YOU? : Nature Rx, a short video, spoofs pharmaceutical ads by introducing nature as “a non-harmful medication shown to relieve the crippling symptoms of modern life.” The video reflects a genuine trend in psychology and health.

Nature Rx is also a refraction of a deepening trend: the medicalization of nature. In an increasingly tech-driven global culture, with more than half of humanity living in cities and your typical North American spending 90 percent of his or her time indoors, concern has become widespread—first among psychologists, but now also parents, educators, urban planners, artists—that our disconnection from the living world comes at a high price to our health.

By the standards of nature and health research, golf absolutely is nature.

The condition to be treated, in a term coined by the writer Richard Louv in 2005, is “nature-deficit disorder,” and the symptoms are a roster of the most talked-about medical obsessions of our times

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