Everybody is talking about the healing properties of nature. Hospitals are being retrofitted with gardens, and forests reimagined as wellbeing centres. On the Shetland Islands, it is possible to walk into a doctor's surgery with anxiety or depression, and walk out with a prescription for nature.
Where has this come from, and what does 'going to nature' mean? Where is it – at the end of a garden, beyond the tarmac fringes of a city, at the summit of a mountain? Drawing on history, science, literature and art, Samantha Walton shows that the nature cure has deep roots – but, as we face an unprecedented crisis of mental health, social injustice and environmental devastation, the search for it is more urgent now than ever.
Everybody Needs Beauty engages seriously with the connection between nature and health, while scrutinising the harmful trends of a wellness industry that seeks to exploit our relationship with the natural world. In doing so, this book explores how the nature cure might lead us towards a more just and radical way of life: a real means of recovery, for people, society and nature.
Samantha Walton is a Reader in Modern Literature at Bath Spa University, where the focus of her research for the last five years has been the link between nature and mental health. In 2016, she won a major research grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a two-year project called ‘Cultures of Nature and Wellbeing: Connecting Health and the Environment through Literature’, and she was a Writing Fellow at the prestigious Rachel Carson Centre in Munich. She is also a poet, and her collection Self Heal was one of the White Review’s books of the year in 2018. She has appeared on the BBC, and at a number of festivals including Green Man and Wilderness to speak about her research.
"Everybody Needs Beauty is a tender but rigorous corrective to the stories we are sold about nature, wellness and our planet. Walton's prose is inviting, personal, but uncompromising: she examines who profits, and who loses, in our rush to outsource wellness to an unwell planet. Beautiful, provoking and genuinely revolutionary, Walton offers us a way forward – a call to action that opens up the radical potential that both we, and our world, house within us. A book that will change the way you see the world"
– Dr Alice Tarbuck, author of A Spell in the Wild
"Beauty can seem in short supply these days. Samantha Walton punctures insipid nature cure myths and shows that not only do we all need beauty, but that it's available to everyone. Essential reading for our trammelled, troubled times"
– David Farrier, author of Footprints
"Impeccably researched. Just a few pages in and I was already analysing my own engagement with the natural world. Everybody Needs Beauty is a call to us all to find a place within the simplicity and complexity of nature"
– Lara Maiklem, bestselling author of Mudlarking
"Beautifully written, intimate and intellectually fascinating"
– Nathan Filer, author of This Book Will Change Your Mind about Mental Health and The Shock of the Fall
"An account of the different ways in which people have sought and continue to seek healing in nature [...] Everybody Needs Beauty builds to the conclusion that it is not the experience of being in nature that makes us feel better, but that the soul is bolstered by a sense of the self's complicity, presence and ability to provide care"
– Arts Desk