New ABC series takes us Back to Nature

Holly Ringland and Aaron Pedersen in the Springbook National Park, Queensland. Picture: ABC
Holly Ringland and Aaron Pedersen in the Springbook National Park, Queensland. Picture: ABC

When did you last immerse yourself in nature? Listen to the birds in a forest? Stand under a waterfall? Walk barefoot on the earth? The holistic power of connecting with nature is well documented. It lowers stress, increases immunity, improves sleep, overall happiness and wellbeing.

So why do so many of us remain disconnected?

Most Australians spend 90 per cent of their time indoors. Three out of four adults played outdoors more often than indoors when they were young, but only one out of 10 children do so today.

The ABC's Back to Nature hopes to counter that. The series was born from a hope that celebrating the pleasure and beauty of connecting with nature, and telling stories about the land, might contribute to inspiring care and respect for the Earth.

The eight-episode series is hosted by actor Aaron Pedersen and writer Holly Ringland, who are joined by an eclectic cast of special guests, from singers John Williamson and Missy Higgins to cook Poh Ling Yeow, and many proud indigenous people.

Pedersen, who is also an executive producer of the series, says it couldn't be more timely.

"The world at the moment is full of unknowns, everything is unpredictable - with devastating bushfires, floods, the ever-present threat of climate change, and the uncertainty of COVID-19," he says.

"What I want to come out of Back to Nature is people finding themselves again, and believing that Earth is the best medicine."

There's something quite meditative about the series as it travels the nation, from the lush green Gondwanan rainforests of Springbrook National Park, on Yugambeh country, just behind the Gold Coast to the red soils of Arrernte country in the Northern Territory.

"Most nature shows feel like they sit above the earth, like they're separate from it," Pedersen says. "This series feels like we're part of it, like there's a relationship."

Aaron Pedersen and Holly Ringland in the Macedeon Ranges, Victoria. Picture: Supplied

Aaron Pedersen and Holly Ringland in the Macedeon Ranges, Victoria. Picture: Supplied

For Pedersen, a descendant of the Arrernte and Arabana people, it was important to hear the stories of Country.

"Our commitment in this series is to reconnecting and listening to the stories of this ancient land, and acknowledging the wisdom of indigenous peoples," he says.

"Valuing First Nations' cultural relationship to the land will realign us and bring us all closer together.

"Land is life for indigenous Australians. When you look at our systems, our family structure and the way we lived, we didn't have suicide, or mental illness on the level that we have today.

"A lot of people are physically and spiritually removed from the land. They see it as an inanimate object, but it's not. The earthlings are not taking care of the Earth, and I think that means that we're not taking care of ourselves.

"No matter what environment I encounter, whether it be rainforest or mountains, or cliffs or desert, or ocean or sea, or river, rocks, trees - or even in a park - that's when I have a sense of belonging and a sense of connectedness.

"We're all a part of nature. As caretakers we need to protect and honour the land."

Back to Nature also gives the audience the experience of being fully immersed in nature, not just a bystander. A "connect and share" moment in each episode invites the audience to go into nature themselves, and a recipe at the end of each episode reminds us how the land's abundance sustains us.

  • Back to Nature: Tuesdays from August 10, 8pm, (AEST), ABC and ABC iView.
This story A chance to listen to Country first appeared on The Canberra Times.