conservation film

What is neuroconservation?

Can we apply neuroscience to solving the environmental crisis? It’s an idea that Wallace J Nichols is exploring. He argues that engaging with nature is deeply satisfying and great for our wellbeing, and that understanding the benefits of wild nature could be crucial in helping to motivate us to care for the planet.

If we understood the benefits of nature, then we would value the earth. And that makes Nichols’ approach to environmental issues one of thankfulness and respect, rather than guilt. My conservationist brother always cautions against measuring the value of something entirely by its usefulness to humans, but it’s an interesting perspective. Here’s Nichols’ TEDx talk on the subject:



  1. Surely, there can be no sustainability for humans if we ruin nature’s own sustainabilty.. It is (for me), worrying that the mega companies, like Monsanto, aim to control nature to their profit and our survival!

    (It would be interesting to hear your brother’s views – will he be writing a book or article?)

    1. My brother and I founded this blog together, as it happens, so the whole thing is partly his influence. We’re working on a new project together at the moment, details on that in a couple of months, so you will get to hear more of his perspective in time.

      It’s an interesting one, controlling nature. On the one hand we all need to do it to a certain degree – as Steve mentions below, shelter involves shutting out nature. Agriculture, industry and medicine all involve controlling nature. It’s always a matter of balance, and of respect. And that disrespect can work at the individual level as well as the scale of corporations.

  2. Jeremy:

    Nice one. Mr. Nichols presents this well, our brains on nature. (Though it’s fun to deride the rarified TED Talks there’s at least a tradition of 18th century European and American Enlightenment talks and later the 19th century Chautauqua lectures).
    The idea of our intrinsic love of nature can be considered truly old – a practically Aristotelian notion when I thought to look up “biophilia”;

    People are phobic in nature as well though!
    Shelter being one of our most necessary requirements.

    At any rate, the fear inducing approach to saving our home planet seems to be falling short – sending us through the proverbial stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. (This last stage is upon us).
    But many intuitively know what Wallace J. Nichols is citing neuroscience to confirm… we care for a thing when we fall in love.

    Yesterday astronaut Commander Scott Kelly and his Russian counterpart returned from a #yearinspace. Imagine being separated from our improbable blue sphere, and how profoundly he loves her.


    1. Absolutely, environmental campaigning needs to pick up on nature deficit disorder and look at how to reconnect us with our world. It’s not enough to raise awareness of problems if we don’t value the planet anyway.

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