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Alain Giguère

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82% of Canadians would like a more intense connection with nature (A shout out to Mahler's Symphony No. 3!)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 02-24-17 at 5:03 p.m.

May the force be with you!

The idea for this post came to me while grocery shopping. As I strolled the aisles of a "health food" (or so the banner promised) store, I was struck by the number of products claiming to be "superfoods": chia seeds high in Omega 3s, calcium and iron; Maca root bursting with antioxidants (an aphrodisiac to boot, it seems); Goji berries, another source of antioxidants long associated with than eternal life no less, in Oriental lore. The products on these shelves promised to make you (or rather, me!) 20 again.

Far be it for me to discredit the claims of these alternative products, although the scientific jury is still out on many of them (check them out on Google). But the appeal of these products derives from a strong trend in the marketplace and in popular culture. We are clearly seeing an increase in people's desire for a more intense connection with nature, to its still poorly understood virtues, in the hope of attaining greater harmony with all living things.

This reminds me of an article I read recently on the BBC website on the health benefits of feeling closer to nature. Scientifically conducted studies have concluded that exposure to nature confers physical and mental health benefits, such as lowering high blood pressure, improving chronic fatigue, anxiety, attention deficit, and much more.

To experience these benefits, you don't need to move to the country. Simply being in contact with nature is enough (with parks, trees, gardens, animals, etc.). But even more so, the crucial factor appears to be one's attitude or mentality: the desire to feel a part of nature, believing in something like a cosmic force in nature to which we all belong without being entirely conscious of it.

Biomanism: a fascinating and promising phenomenon

In Canada, 27% of the population passionately shares this biomanism mentality-wanting to be in a symbiotic relationship with nature, with all living things-while another 55% are biomanism enthusiasts; hence, a total of 82% of the population! This mentality, which we have been measuring for several years, is about mankind's not dominating but being a part of nature, living in symbiosis with it.

We find little demographic variation in this phenomenon. Women, lower-income individuals, people with teens living at home, and residents of towns or rural areas are slightly stronger on biomanism, but the differences, even if significant, are nevertheless slight. Even on a regional and provincial level, there is little variation of note beyond the Maritimes being slightly stronger on biomanism.

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What sets biomanists apart are their values, motivations and hot buttons. Their connection with nature is synonymous with potential. They share the belief that there is something unrealized in them and that a greater symbiosis with nature, with the best that nature has to offer (the ecosystem, the natural environment, foods, etc.), would help bring out the best in them, aid their personal development, help them become more creative, have more control over their lives. Such beliefs seem consistent with the results of the studies cited in the BBC article mentioned above.

Branding opportunities

I see a vast marketing opportunity here! If we take only the most fervent biomanists into account, or 27% of the approximately 28 million adult Canadians, that's almost 7.6 million consumers! Products and services, foods, clothing (natural fibres and wearable technologies), applications, sports equipment, tourism, architectural projects, a new, reinvented urbanism: the possibilities are endless! The key, across all these categories, is to offer consumers (branded) experiences that reconnect them with nature, with symbiosis. In our current hyper-urbanised lives, this is more than an opportunity; it's a necessity, for reconnecting with life! These days, everyone is talking of smart cities; in my opinion, it would be equally opportune to promote "greener" cities.

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Mahler's Third Symphony-a celebration of our union with nature

Many musical and lyrical works could illustrate symbiosis with nature but my choice is Gustave Mahler's Symphony No. 3-one of the jewels in the crown of Western music, a monumental pantheistic celebration of our relationship to nature! From an initial narrative structure evoking the biblical course of creation-"creationist," one might say-the musical framework seems totally devoid of any Eucharistic unction.

The final movement, in particular, celebrates the place of mankind in the cosmos. A symphonic fury bursts upon us, a wave of sound denoting the expansion of the universe, an orchestral flood, a wild force that catapults us into the cosmos, as if to remind us that our relationship with nature should inspire humility!

For you, I have selected the symphony's finale, under the direction of Claudio Abbado at the 2008 Lucerne Festival-a finale that moves us to consider our place in the universe.

Gustave Mahler, Symphonie No. 3, Claudio Abbado, Lucerne Festival Orchestra, 2008 Lucerne Festival, EuroArts.