In the summer of 2020 I began a journey walking nearly 300 miles across Wales in search of an answer to the question we were all asking. How, as we faced both a pandemic and a climate emergency, can we rebalance our relationship with nature?
I had started walking in my local parks and woodlands around Cardiff as a way of dealing with the anxiety so many of us were experiencing during the pandemic. I didn’t really have a plan . I just knew that when I walked in nature I felt calmer and at peace with the world.
But then I learned about a plan to create a National Forest throughout Wales. I was fascinated by the idea and it gave me an idea for a new project. What if I could map an imaginary walking route through the forest?
So I set off on foot. As I walked through the woodlands of Wales I began to learn how we’d lost our connection to nature over thousands of years. I witnessed how deforestation and industrialisation had changed our view of, and respect for, nature. But I also saw how through our culture, our communities and our legends that the connection could be rekindled. And as I started to explore how the systems that govern our daily lives could be reshaped, I became convinced that we can create a new balance by once again treating nature as equals.
The potential lessons of creating a National Forest and reconnecting society to nature aren’t just relevant to the people of Wales – these are universal considerations for all of global society. However, Wales presents the perfect prototype for building this new relationship. Not only does it have sustainable development woven into law but it is small enough yet also connected enough to build a nature-based culture and economy that could provide a scalable blueprint for the rest of the world.