Author: Sutheshna Mani
Look around at the university you’re attending–you aren’t anywhere in New York City, you aren’t in Los Angeles, or New Haven, or Atlanta. In fact, you aren’t in any major city. You are quartered among hills, surrounded by waterfalls, and traversed with lakes running through our campus, not to mention the acres of botanical gardens adjacent to Cornell and the surrounding Ithaca nature. One wonders: how can Cornellians stay constantly flummoxed with all this natural beauty surrounding them?
Nature Rx is a new mental health campaign that works to address this issue. Don Rakow, professor of Horticulture, wants to bring this concept to Cornell, and create a program for students to immerse themselves in their natural surroundings as a way to maintain a healthy mental and physical well-being. He, along with co-chairs of the Student Assembly’s Health and Wellness Committee, Carolina Bieri (Atmospheric Science, ‘16) and Matthew Indimine (Policy Analysis and Management, ‘18) have been working to make Nature Rx happen at Cornell.
At its core, Nature Rx is an initiative making picturesque strolls through greenery a requirement for a revitalized state of mind and body. They are taking on various projects to put this initiative in full force. They created an app called “CU in Nature” that displays nearby phenomenal scenes of nature, where are the closest ones, what are the features of the near ones, so over time they can explore the whole diversity of natural areas. Additionally, outreach education has created a new credit course for freshmen students called “Take It Outside,” which would be held in the Cornell Plantations and students can explore hiking trails, swim outdoors near campus and take jogs through planned routes.
Nature Rx is also being implemented through Gannett, soon to become Cornell Health Center, where “spending time in nature” is being prescribed to students. This model has been used in Washington D.C. by physicians who partnered with National Park Services to encourage patients who suffer from psychological and physical issues to spend time in nearby parks. Rakow reminded me when I spoke to him, that nature is not the “great fix” for anxiety, but merely a medium, a means of getting to a state of tranquility, not a cure.
The winters are waning and the sun is slowly shining back into our days again. So put down your cell phone, don’t think about that taxing four credit class, look up and soak in the tranquility of the waterfalls. You won’t get this daily campus experience anywhere else, and you won’t get it forever. The academic rigor that an Ivy League education provides shouldn’t require its students to be thrown in a snake pit, burdened with anxiety and high expectations. With Nature Rx, our campus is prestigious, yet an environment where the students and its faculty are not isolated, stress-free, and most importantly, happy.