Michael McCarthy: Nature, joy, and becoming fully human

“We might have left the natural world, most of us, but the natural world has not left us,” says Michael McCarthy, a British naturalist and writer. “The natural world is a part of us, and if we lose it, we cannot be fully who we are. And if we were to realize that, which is hard, and if we were to realize it on a large scale, which is even harder, that might offer a defense of nature.”

“To be fully human is to recognize that the natural world is where we came from, and it remains part of us. And without it, being fully human is something we cannot do.”

McCarthy, the longtime environment editor of the British newspaper The Independent, and environment correspondent of The Times (of London) offers the world a galvanizing call by suggesting that a more effective way of helping people connect with nature – and take up the cause of protecting it—is by focusing on our joy in nature as our reason for defending it. McCarthy contends this is a more persuasive approach then relying on the language of statistics, which can at times overwhelm or distract us from nature itself’s call to action. Tapping into our bond with the natural world, as we ourselves were once part of that wildlife, can connect us to a deep legacy of inherited feelings and instinct which lie deep within us, underneath all the familiar parts of civilization. “The sudden passionate happiness which the natural world can occasionally trigger in us may well be the most serious business of all…. We are all capable of loving nature, because in us, at the very deepest level, in the bottom of our psyches, we have a link to the natural world, which really goes to the essence of who we are.”

An interview with McCarthy, was recently rebroadcast on NPR program “On Being with Krista Tippett.” The full interview episode can be found here: https://onbeing.org/programs/michael-mccarthy-nature-joy-and-human-becoming/.

McCarthy is the recipient of the RSPB Medal from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Silver Medal from the Zoological Society of London. His books include The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy and The Consolation of Nature: Spring in the Time of Coronavirus, coming in October 2020.

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