The idea that human happiness is connected to the wider, natural world, that we possess an innate urge to affiliate with other forms of life, is not a new one. E.O. Wilson wrote about it beautifully, and at length, in his 1984 book Biophilia, but it’s been around much longer than that. As Florence Williams explains in The Nature Fix (a book you’ll find in our library), poets and philosophers have been extolling the benefits of being at one with nature for centuries, and scientists today are collecting hard evidence that demonstrates how and why that’s the case. Williams’ book trailer sums it up neatly, advising us all to “go outside, go often”.
Our relationship with nature is as practical as it is spiritual. Healthy soils, clean water and air, thriving plant and animal life: these are the keys to life as we know it. Nature is our source of food, fuel, fibre, and, of course, medicine. According to Forests, Trees and Human Health (another book you’ll find in our library), the use of medicinal plants is common to all civilisations. It explains that over 80 per cent of the world’s population rely on plant-derived medicine, and as many of 50 per cent of prescription drugs are based on a molecule that occurs naturally in plants. While industrialised countries pretty much abandoned the use of medicinal plants through the twentieth century, Western pharmaceutical companies have since revived their interest in traditional knowledge in pursuit of new drugs. The book reports a gradual return to the study of phytochemicals, pointing out that an ethno-medical approach has been more successful than the random collection of plants.
Returning to rainbows, and Carole’s image of one in Beckenham, London, that reasonably rare moment when sun meets rain, sending bright bands of colour arching across the sky, is a universal symbol of natural wonder, hope, and, of course, pride.
Our collection has a few unusual and beautiful bows in it; these three are my favourites: