Art Therapy & Our Relationship with Nature

Mar 31, 2022

I'd like to share this interview I recently read with Peter Sürth and his experiences with wolves. I learned about Peter from his sister, Barbara Golden, who is a good friend of mine and longtime teacher at Lascaux Academy.

Like many notable animal advocates and wildlife conservationists, such as Jane Goodall, Rachel Carson, and Jacques Cousteau, Peter also believes that humans misunderstand wolves and the role they play in our environment. Throughout history, wolves have been portrayed as bad or dangerous, and so humans have become unjustly afraid of them. Peter goes on to say that:

Mankind has repeatedly annihilated wild animals in the past, and yet we still tend to think: here's an animal that bothers us, it needs to go so we can live in peace. That's the wrong attitude. We should rather be shaping our coexistence. After all, we inhabit this world together.

I find this attitude is often true of even how we treat our fellow humans. If we do not take the time to understand them, or as the adage goes, to walk a mile in their shoes, then as with our animal counterparts, we form false opinions and beliefs about them. And, if enough of us succumb to these beliefs, can lead to terrible consequences as we are witnessing on a global level with the war in Ukraine.

Young children intuitively understand our deep connection with nature and animals. In fact, animals, trees, flowers, and people are the most common themes 4, 5, or 6 year olds enjoy to draw and paint. Please watch this short clip on the children of Ukraine to learn more about the relationship between art and attitudes.

Unfortunately, as we grow into adults, we somehow forgot the connection between our emotions and healthy self-expression, and so we often react in a violent, fearful, or aggressive manner that has tragic repercussions like what we are seeing unfold in Ukraine, or on a broader level, like the war we are waging on our ecosystem, which includes animals, oceans, land, trees, and of course, other people. Art therapy is not a silver bullet for these issues, however, as Peter Sürth echoes in his interview on wolves, it does offer a platform to start conversations and ask questions regarding our unhealthy attitudes toward nature and how we may begin to re-shape them.