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The Natural World: Our Ever-Present Home – Part 2 of 3

Murray at a flower garden at the age of 7 (2007) in Japan.
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Undeniably, we all interact with the natural world on a day-to-day basis. However, people’s views of this natural environment vary around the world. Even in urban locations, there are aspects of nature everywhere.

For example, climate refugees are facing displacement from their homes due to the natural world. Consequently, the changing climate has diminished their environment and forced them to leave their homeland. To climate refugees, the natural world is harsh, taking from them, harming them, and has proved to be capable of great levels of damage. (Read ‘The Natural World: Our Ever-Present Home – PART 1 OF 3’ here.)

For other people, thinking about the natural environment can bring up happier, more lighthearted memories. For Military B.R.A.T. Audri Murray, nature played an important role in the life of her and her family.

Nature can be an important aspect of the life of Third Culture Kids (TCKs). While different cultures have varying views of nature, it can bring a sense of connection or common ground. Meanwhile, within different cultures, nature can take on different meanings.

Nature’s role in child development

In “Third Culture Kids and Experiences of Places,” authors Oliver Picton and Sarah Urquhart look into how TCKs’ highly mobile lifestyles have the potential “to both expand and simultaneously limit engagement and identification with place and non-human nature.”

The diversity of places that TCKs are exposed to in their lives is greater than that of the average child. Forming connections with nature can promote an inclusive and globally minded sense of place for TCKs, according to Picton and Urquart.

Kids in Nature.
(Image by Wolfgang Eckert from Pixabay)

In Picton’s studies, he found that TCKs have a unique relationship with nature.

He found that kids with highly mobile lives and multiple “homes” find having “sense of a global, interdependent and interconnected environment is particularly important.”

Furthermore, Picton notes that there is a global acceptance that children are environmental stakeholders. Being an environmental stakeholder is important on not just a local but a global scale. For TCKs, this means that regardless of where they are living, the environment may hold importance to them.

Murray’s Military B.R.A.T. background

Murray was born in Ogden, Utah, U.S.A. on July 25, 2000, where she spent the first year of her life. Because of her father’s position in the U.S. military, she soon began to move quite often, including to Norfolk, Va., and then to Okinawa, Japan.

While Murray spent the majority of her childhood in Japan, is was mostly spent in and around military base camps with other TCKs.
Murray (in the middle) as a child at a school program on a military base camp in Okinawa, Japan. (Image courtesy Audri Murray)

Murray spent the majority of her childhood in Okinawa, living there from age six to 13. At the age of 13, Murray and her family moved back to the United States to North Carolina. Seven years later, Murray moved to Fort Collins, Colo.

Nature to Murray

While Murray’s family moved around the globe, the family always had one consistent priority. This was to take the environment into consideration when moving.

Nature has always been important to Murray, here she is pictured surrounded by flowers in a garden in Japan.
Murray at the age of 7, at a garden site in Japan. (Image courtesy Audri Murray)

“We loved going places with scenic nature and overall just enjoying the nature of the places that we lived,” Murray said. “I’ve been surfing, scuba diving, cave tours, and many other outdoor activities to appreciate the surroundings where I lived.”

“All the places I have lived have had vastly different environments,” Murray said. Between the dry, Rocky Mountains in Colorado and the dense jungles in Japan, she has experienced an array of nature. The regular snowstorms through Colorado’s winters were a first for Murray.

Japanese culture and the outdoors

According to Statistica, Japan’s urbanization rate is 91%. This means “less than 10% of Japan’s population of 126 million inhabitants do not live in an urban setting,” stated data expert Aaron O’Neill. The average world rate of urbanization is only 55%.

Nature -- Kanazawa Castle in Japan
Kanazawa Castle in Japan (Image by japanibackpacker from Pixabay)

Despite Japan’s densely packed cities, over two-thirds of the land is covered in forested mountains and hills. Japan has over 30 national parks and four natural World Heritage Sites.

When Patrick Mackey, a freelance writer from the United States, moved to Japan, he picked up on a unique perspective of what is “wild” or natural in the country.

“They (Japanese people) tend to prefer well-groomed gardens, bonsai trees, artistic ikebana flower arrangements, hot spring baths housed in modern facilities, and other such forms of what one might call ‘controlled nature.’ This is a defining part of the Japanese view of nature,” according to Mackey.

While somebody from the United States may disagree that such elements are “nature,” in Japan it is a common and accepted view of the natural world.

Okinawa, where Murray spent the majority of her childhood, is Japan’s southmost prefecture. Okinawa consists of over 100 small islands, with four major, larger islands.

Nature -- MIyakojima, Okinawa, Japan
Miyakojima, Okinawa, Japan (Image by アカネ from Pixabay)

According to Japan-Guide.com, “The seas surrounding Okinawa’s islands are considered among the world’s most beautiful with coral reefs and abundant marine wildlife. Consequently, snorkeling and scuba diving are among Okinawa’s top attractions.”

What’s to come

This article discussed how nature may be a home, no matter where on earth someone is located. The first article of this series discussed how harsh nature can be. The raising climate has and continues to impact the environment in detrimental ways, leading to climate refugees. (Read “The Natural World: Our Ever-Present Home- Part 1 of 3” here).

The coming article delves into how nature can also be a healing force. 

Bianca Acosta grew up in a village in Mexico before moving to Colorado at the age of 15. For her, connecting with nature is more than recreation or a hobby. To Acosta, Nature or Mother Earth is a teacher and healer. The food produced by the earth arises as a “global common language” used as a “vehicle for healing and building community,” says Acosta’s profile on Grow Haus. Bianca has witnessed firsthand how nature can heal, and be an anchor for a TCK. 

Read Part 3 here tomorrow.

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