10 November 2010

Forest bathing


One of the first things I do every morning is take a pretty leisurely walk in the forest with Meg (leisurely for me - Meg tears around the trails like a bullet). This is a very pleasant thing to do and intuitively, it feels like it should be a pretty healthy thing too. This summer I read Arboraetum America by Diana Beresford-Kroeger. She talks a lot about the health benefits of being in the presence of trees because of the chemical substances they emit as they go about the business of defending themselves against insects and decay. Later this summer there were articles in the New York Times and Globe and Mail about the Japanese concept of shinrinyoku, or forest bathing. In Japan, people are encouraged, as a matter of public policy, to take in the forest air because of the proven benefits for the immune system and stress reduction. I love the idea of being in the forest as a cleansing, immersive experience. I certainly didn't need to have this kind of confirmation to know that walking in the forest is a great thing to do, but it's nice to have your intuition validated.

Knowing that in addition to the environmental and aesthetic qualities of forests, there are direct benefits to human health, makes their exploitation that much sadder. On that note, have a listen to Joni Mitchell singing Big Yellow Taxi, getting it right all those years ago:

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