Shane O'Mara and Florence Williams will appear live on Crowdcast to discuss their books, In Praise of Walking & The Nature Fix.
About In Praise of Walking: In his new book, In Praise of Walking: A New Scientific Exploration, O’Mara celebrates the full sweep of human walking, from its origins in deep time, through how the brain and body perform their mechanical magic, to understanding how walking can both set our thoughts free and draw us together, building intimacy and fellowship. Ultimately, he demonstrates how walking is good for the body, for the brain, and for society at large. To make this argument, In Praise of Walking surveys the latest scientific research on the subject, bringing together insights gleaned from various disciplines, including psychology, neuroscience, physiology, anthropology, developmental biology, and computer science. In Praise of Walking traces the implications of a society that encourages walking versus a society that ignores or even discourages this human need. Specific chapters trace the health benefits, the evolutionary advantages, and the cognitive developments that arise from the act of walking, while others explore the social implications of walkable cities, of pedestrian migrations, of lovers hand-in-hand and protesters marching to song. Shane O’Mara’s core lesson is this: walking enhances every aspect of our social, psychological, and neural functioning. Although walking arises from the depths of evolutionary time, from bottom-dwellers on the ocean floor and undulating tetrapods seeking food on sandy beaches, it is our future as well. In Praise of Walking captures the science and philosophy behind the commonplace wonder of pounding the pavement, of feeling the wind and sun and rain on our skin, of sensing the ground beneath our feet, and of measuring the rhythm of our step.
About The Nature Fix: In an era when humans spend much of their time indoors staring at the dim glow of a screen, many of us have forgotten the simple pleasure of a stroll through a wooded glen, a hike up a secluded mountain path, or a nap in the grass. In 1865 Frederick Law Olmsted, the mastermind behind Central Park, wrote that nature “gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system.” But many of us have lost this connection and essentially forgotten about nature’s potential for reinvigoration, self-reinvention, and basic well-being. “The dramatic loss of nature-based exploration,” notes Florence Williams, “has happened so fast we’ve barely even noticed it.” Sure, Williams muses, many of us have a dog or go to the beach occasionally. But is that enough? In The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative, prize-winning science journalist Williams asks, “What if?” What if something serious is missing from our lives? What if an occasional trip to the neighborhood park isn’t enough? What if we’ve turned our backs on something that isn’t merely pleasant and enjoyable, but is in fact vital to our happiness, our capacity to learn, and even our survival? And if the latest science shows that nature is necessary in our lives, how do we recapture it? To answer these questions, Williams visits parks in Helsinki and forests in Korea. She studies the brainwaves of urban pedestrians in Edinburgh and examines the healing effects of river-rafting in the American West on veterans afflicted with PTSD. In prose that is by turns conversational and incisive, witty and reflective, Williams dives into the inventive science that seeks to plumb what it is about mountain air, about clouds and wind and glittering sunlight, that echoes so deeply through the human consciousness. The result is a book as urgent in its necessity as it is roving in its investigations. Williams’s prose crackles with good-natured warmth, introducing us to thoughtful characters, singular settings, and original experiments that she sometimes tries out on herself. Reading The Nature Fix: is like being transported into the wilderness by the cleverest and friendliest guide possible. With The Nature Fix:, Williams has provided us with an intriguing and provocative investigation into our most basic and primal needs. Nature, she finds, is a surprising, key ingredient to civilization.
About Presenter Shane O'Mara
Shane O’Mara is professor of experimental brain research at Trinity College Dublin. He is also the author of Why Torture Doesn’t Work and A Brain for Business—A Brain for Life. He lives in Dublin, Ireland.
About Presenter Florence Williams
Florence Williams is a journalist and contributing editor to Outside magazine. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, and National Geographic among others. Her first book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2012 and the winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Science and Technology. Williams lives in Washington, DC.