A Vegan’s Take on Annihilation

I had mixed feelings seeing the trailer for the film Annihilation. On the one hand, I was intrigued because I had enjoyed Alex Garland’s previous film Ex Machina, as well as The Beach which had been based on his novel (Garland started out his career as a writer). On the other hand, I was apprehensive because I suspected that the film would misrepresent nature and animals in a negative way. The title also struck me as both ironic and misleading – because of course, we are the ones causing ecological annihilation; not the other way around.

I sensed that if I watched the movie, I would feel compelled to write yet another longwinded analysis from the perspective of an animal activist and an environmentalist… but I gave in and watched it anyway (obviously, because here we are).

Over all, I enjoyed the film and found its various psychological and philosophical themes to be intriguing – namely (in Garland’s words) the idea that humans are self-destructive. But I also found the film to be misguided in that its messaging struck me as quite anti-nature. This was likely not intentional, but rather a byproduct of the times and culture we live in.

The film is reminiscent of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film Apocalypse Now in that it involves a small group of individuals traipsing into dark, menacing, and mysterious nature onto which their own neuroses are projected. But instead of men clad in camo wielding machine guns, this time it’s women. And now not only is the wilderness they’re venturing into dangerous to begin with, but it’s been mutated by extraterrestrial matter – referred to in the film as the Shimmer.

In Annihilation, it is the E.T. matter that presents the real hazard, not nature per se. However, I couldn’t escape the sense that the story casts the environment in a negative light – if only by association. Most of us are alien-ated from nature as it is, and as a result, many fail to grasp not only the beauty of our planet, but how we are dependent upon a stable environment and other species in order to exist. I can’t see film viewers, most of whom probably have never even been camping before, being particularly enthused to go out and commune with nature after seeing a film in which women go into the forest and have f*d up experiences. To the contrary, I’d think that if anything, Annihilation would make them feel more ambivalent towards the idea of spending time in the outdoors.

Head’s up – the following analysis contains some spoilers, so if you’re into or open to sci-fi films you may want to hold off on reading this until after you’ve seen the film.


Natalie Portman plays a former army soldier named Lena, now a biologist teaching at Johns Hopkins University. We learn through flashbacks that her husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac), whom she met while in the army, has been M.I.A. for over a year after leaving on a mysterious mission that he couldn’t share any details with her about. One day, he shows up at their house in the suburbs seemingly out of nowhere. He appears disoriented and starts spitting up blood. On the way to the hospital, their ambulance is intercepted by government forces and the two are taken to a facility near an area that has been designated as an environmental disaster zone. While Kane lies in a coma, Lena is informed by a cold, stoic psychologist named Dr. Ventress (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) that Kane had been part of a secret mission to investigate something called “the Shimmer.” The Shimmer is a rainbow-colored aura encompassing the area where a light house was hit by a meteor. So far, only men and animals have been sent into the Shimmer and none have returned, except Kane. Their next strategy is to send in women with science and medical backgrounds in – a team that includes Ventress herself, a paramedic Anya (Gena Rodriguez), a physicist Josie (Tessa Thompson), and a scientist Cass (Tuva Nvotony). Lena gets recruited as well, though aside from Ventress, none of the other team members are aware that her husband is the lone survivor of the last mission.

Decked out in tan safari outfits, carrying camping gear and machine guns, the five women stand before the Shimmer. Helicopters hover overhead. The next thing we know they are in the Shimmer with no memory of having made their way in. They estimate from their food supplies that they’ve been there for three days. Progressing further into the mysterious area, the women come across mutated plants and flowers that are pretty in a creepy way and eventually animals – some benign, like a deer with a double mirroring their movements; others deadly like a blood-thirsty crocodile, evocative of the freakish creatures in the Alien franchise. They also encounter evidence and clues left behind by the last crew that made the expedition into the Shimmer, of which Lena’s husband Kane had been a part.

Lena eventually makes her way to the lighthouse, the place where the meteor crashed and from which the Shimmer is metastisizing. There, she has a trippy experience involving more alien energies and makes a disturbing discovery about her husband.

Nature as evil

From the outside, the Shimmer looks both mesmerizing and sinister. It has an oily appearance with subdued rainbow colors.

Journeying through the forest, the women find mutated flowers that Josie notes are reminiscent of a wedding cake – dainty-looking with creepy undertones. Lena arrives at the conclusion that everything within the shimmer is a prism that refracts everything – including plant, animal, and human DNA. Though they are beginning to understand how the Shimmer works, why the Shimmer is there in the first place remains an enigma.

The aura that pervades the Shimmer is subtle – slow-moving and mysterious. Most of the time the Shimmer seems apathetic and neutral in that it appears to let the women be. However, in the background, it’s working on them – mutating their blood and the cells of their bodies and altering their psyches, causing them to start doubting themselves and each other. When their guard is somewhat down, it pounces, in the form of one of the monster-animals.

Inside the Shimmer, the mist evokes the fog that lurks along the banks of the Nung river in Apocalypse Now. Because we can’t see what’s beyond it, there’s no way of knowing what it conceals. This leaves room for the characters to project their worst fears and phobias onto the surrounding forest.

Both films portray the wilderness as appearing beautiful and alluring on the outside, but harboring potential danger within.

The women’s expedition into the mutated wilderness also reminded me of the Jim Mason’s description of the descent down the “hierarchy of being” as laid out in his book An Unnatural Order: The Roots of Our Destruction of Nature – which I would described as a hierarchy of good vs. evil.

At the top are men (closest to God, and basically gods themselves), followed by women, “others” (those of a different ethnic or cultural group), then animals, and nature. The wilderness in general considered to be lowest of the low:

On the rungs below the Others stand animals, first those useful to men, then farther down, all the others. At the bottom of the ladder is raw, chaotic nature itself, composed of invisible organisms and an unclassifiable mass of life that feeds, grows, dies, and stinks in dark, mysterious places. This is muck and swamp, and steamy jungle and all backwaters and wildernesses far from pruned orchards and weeded crop rows of agrarian civilization; this is nature at its least useful, nature at its most mysterious, and therefore nature at its most hostile and sinister. This is the realm of nature described by Marlow, Joseph Conrad’s narrator / hero in Heart of Darkness; it is ’ …all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men.’ This is nature at its lowest level, at the pole opposite God and civilized man and therefore evil and dangerous to men. As Marlow makes his way up the Congo river on a steamboat, a passenger gestures to ‘the forest, the creek, the mud, the river,’ which Marlow sees as a land with a ‘sunlit face,’ but loaded with ‘lurking death…hidden evil,’ and a ‘profound darkness of its heart.’ It is wild nature so powerfully evil that it can suck away a man’s civilization, as it did to Kurtz, the ivory trader’s station chief in Conrad’s story.

For those unfamiliar with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, it’s the book off of which Apocalypse Now is based. Set in Africa around the turn of the 20th century, Heart of Darkness involves an Englishman travelling up a river in the Congo to find an ivory trader who has “gone mad.” Apocalypse Now offers a more modern interpretation of the story and takes place in 1969 during the Vietnam War. The protagonist, Captain Benjamin Willard (played by Martin Sheen), is an army captain with PTSD who is recruited to travel up the Nung river in Cambodia in order to find a colonel also named Kurtz (played by Marlon Brando). Kurtz was once highly respected by his colleagues, but is now living amongst the “natives” and being worshipped as a god.

In an early scene when Willard is briefed on the mission and Kurtz’s descent into madness, the basic theme is laid out: western civilization = good, orderly, wholesome; nature and undeveloped countries = chaotic, threatening, evil. A general explains to him:

Well, you see, Willard, in this war, things get confused out there. Power, ideals, the old morality, and practical military necessity. But out there with these natives, it must be a temptation to be God. Because there’s a conflict in every human heart, between the rational and irrational, between good and evil. And good does not always triumph. Sometimes, the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. Every man has got a breaking point. You and I have. Walter Kurtz has reached his. And very obviously, he has gone insane.

The idea is that without the order, rationality, and morality of Western civilization, everything descends into chaos. And that by spending too much time in nature, among indigenous people who are connected to the land, we risk losing our sense of humanity and succumbing to “the dark side.”

In his favorable review of Apocalypse Now, Roger Ebert discusses the idea of nature as evil, reaffirming that this way of perceiving nature is valid: 

A boat sets out to find him, and on the journey the narrator gradually loses confidence in orderly civilization; he is oppressed by the great weight of the jungle all around him, a pitiless Darwinian testing ground in which each living thing tries every day not to be eaten…

What is found at the end of the journey is not Kurtz so much as what Kurtz found: that all of our days and ways are a fragile structure perched uneasily atop the hungry jaws of nature that will thoughtlessly devour us. A happy life is a daily reprieve from this knowledge.

Happiness and nature, Ebert suggests, are mutually exclusive and though western civilization provides a buffer against the “pitiless Darwinian testing ground,” our perch above nature is precarious. Even Kurtz, a highly respected individual with an impeccable resumé, was not immune to the “hungry jaws of nature that will thoughtlessly devour us.”

Annihilation recaptures the atmosphere of impending doom of Apocalypse Now, with the women realizing that for all the gear and technology they brought with them, they are helpless and inadequate amidst the wiles of nature as mutated by the Shimmer.

The further the women journey into the forest / Shimmer, the more a sense of dread builds, reaching its climax when Lena approaches the lighthouse. To humanity and civilization, lighthouses represent safety and guidance amidst the raw chaos of nature. This too has been corrupted by the Shimmer, or in my reading, nature.

The shimmer as the shadow

To me, the Shimmer not only represented nature in general but also the protagonists’ shadow – psychoanalyst Carl Jung’s term for the unconscious, repressed aspects of one’s psyche. When the women journey into the unknown of the Shimmer and / or nature, they venture into the disowned and uncharted territory of their own unconscious minds.

This is the part of the mind which we’re often afraid of looking at, and as a result it continues to fester in the background and subtly wreak havoc on our lives.

Like Martin Sheen’s character in Apocalypse Now, who has PTSD, we eventually learn that from the outset, each of the five women were psychologically compromised: Ventress has been diagnosed with terminal cancer; Cass lost her son to leukemia; Josie cuts herself; Anya is a recovering alcoholic; and Lena has been cheating on her husband even though she loves him.

Alex Garland said in an interview that the main concept he wanted to explore in the film is that humans are self-destructive. He finds this idea that we are self-destructive to be inherent in most people, even those who seem to have their act totally together on the outside.

I would agree with him that self-sabotage is a common trait among people in western civilization and that most of us have it in some form. This tendency towards self-destruction is especially evident in how we’re committing ecological annihilation on a massive scale – and can’t even bring ourselves to have an open dialogue about it.

But then I’m reminded of the Krishnamurti quote: “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

Which brings me to this question: is self-destructiveness a characteristic that we’re born with, or is it a trait that develops in us over time as a result of living in “sick society”?

Some might argue that our destructive behavior would be more accurately understood as our minds’ way of trying to assimilate the trauma of being disconnected from a sense of kinship with animals and natural world.

In An Unnatural Order, Jim Mason makes the case that the reason we have so much self-loathing is because we’re taught from a young age to emotionally distance ourselves from animals and the environment, and to disown our animality. He says:

Animals are central to our learning about the world, and they give form and shape to our vague notions about the world, about nature. If we hate animals, we hate just about everything in the world – including some part of ourselves. Our agri-culture’s contempt for animals / nature runs so deep that it works unconsciously in ways that never occur to us… 

What could be a more loving, whole human spirit is maimed; what could be a greater sense of kinship, of belonging in the world, is cut off. Consequently, our feelings for the world, and life in it, run more to the negative pole than the positive. We feel disenchanted, despirited, disillusioned. Our deepest feeling for this life is malaise, so we long for the next. Our deepest feeling for the living world is horror, so we strive to destroy it.

As Mason explains, the contempt we are taught to have towards animals and nature at large eats away at us and our sense of belonging in the world. In being dismissive and cavalier in our treatment of animals and the natural world, we do something that may seem like not a big deal but is ultimately ruinous to our sense of self. This is because we know that on some level we are connected to animals as our fellow earthlings and are ourselves a part of the web of life. In the process of shutting down our innate sense of reverence for animals and nature, we also diminish our ability to appreciate ourselves and other humans.

It’s possible that our tendencies towards self-destruction might actually be a form of repetition compulsion. Repetition compulsion is a psychological term describing someone’s tendency to continually attract circumstances that parallel a past traumatic event. It is thought that this compulsion can eventually lead to the person integrating the experience, even deriving insights and wisdom from it, if they gain enough self-awareness to be able to see their situation from a more enlightened perspective.

However, with the process of repetition compulsion, there’s also a good chance the individual might not make it. They may not awaken out of the trance in time. An alcoholic or drug addict may not live long enough to reach their “rock bottom” moment or they may not have the wherewithal to recognize how bad the situation really is. They may choose their addiction over life itself.

As a species, we are rapidly approaching that rock bottom moment, and we will have to decide whether our love of life and our planet is more important than continuing with business as usual and the delusion of infinite growth on a finite planet.

If we are to evolve out of the prevailing paradigms of our time, we will need to have a reckoning with our shadow – the repressed and disowned aspect of our psyches as individuals and of our collective unconscious as a culture. We will need to stop anesthetizing ourselves, being lulled into distraction, and turn to face the pain we’ve been running from. We will need to slow down, reconnect with nature, and reconnect with ourselves. We will need to acknowledge and mourn the ways in which we’ve been callous and cruel towards ourselves, other human and non-human animals, and the environment in general. We will need to face up to the truth that our minds have been hijacked by advertising, consumer culture, and keeping up with the Joneses and that we haven’t been living our lives with personal authenticity. We will need to wake up and rediscover our instinctive feelings of appreciation for life and for the beauty of nature.

Masculinity and nature

In Apocalypse Now, women are generally absent, and the men admirably face down their fear of venturing into the unknown territory in Cambodia by summoning all the male bravado they can.

In Annihilation, it is women making the trek through the forest and men this time that are absent. But even though they’re biologically women, they may as well be men. They’ve each discarded their femininity and traded it in for the hardened and detached attitudes of the stereotypical macho men.

Case in point: Natalie Portman’s character, Lena. In one of the beginning scenes, we see her in her sleek, sterile-looking work environment. Seemingly apathetically, she sits before her class describing how cancer spreads. Later in the film, we see her take down a mutated alligator with repeated shots of a machine gun, never wavering, never losing focus.

This is more or less her personality throughout the film. In the scenes with her husband, we see glimpses of who she is when she comes out of her shell – warm, playful, and down-to-earth. However, throughout most of the film, she maintains a stoic and removed attitude, just the kind of demeanor men “should” have in our society. Cracks in this façade still manage to surface, as they do with the men in Apocalypse Now, but this is despite her best efforts to stay cool, calm, and detached.

To me, this was indicative of how as more women have joined the workforce, adopting the male-oriented approach to life has become more culturally aspirational. Women are encouraged to hustle and become a “boss”; to check our nurturing, caring mother-like instincts at the door and become as hardened, driven, and focused as the men.

In my opinion, this is precisely the type of energy we need to get away from – because it’s this attitude that allows us to build corporations that exploit other humans, animals, and the environment without remorse. This lack of caring and attentiveness allows us to destroy the planet and the potential for future generations to have a habitat.

If anything, everyone needs to rediscover their innate sensitivity and their feminine side. We all have masculine and feminine aspects to our personality, and there’s nothing wrong with being an independent woman or a strong man. The problem is that in our culture, we’ve allowed the masculine energy to become more dominant and advantageous, with feminine energy or “caring” being associated with weakness, and therefore falling to the wayside.

In his book, Jim Mason makes the case that animal husbandry (which traditionally has been male work – hence it’s relation to the word “husband” ) is what has created values of being hardened, stoic, and detached, because it forces men to disconnect from their innate sense of compassion and reduce other living beings to economic units:

We should not have much trouble seeing that animal exploitation, particularly animal husbandry, has fostered values that have created generation after generation of hardened, detached, domineering self-aggrandizing men. It has done a great emotional and spiritual damage to the male half of humanity. As a result, ours is a wounded civilization one made by soul-damaged men; one marked by their violence, individualism, emotional hang-ups, and male supremacist institutions. These have rung up enormous costs to girls and women, of course, but they have also put a great rip in the fabric of humanity.

One of the greatest tragedies of our culture is that somewhere along in their upbringing, boys are taught to become hardened and unemotional. They’re taught “boys don’t cry” and so they repress and inhibit their emotions – the times when they’re hurt, sad, or scared. They keep these emotions bottled up inside until they boil over into rage, aggression, violence or turn inward on themselves as a form of self-loathing.

All of us, regardless of gender, need to reconnect with the feminine side of our nature, the part of us that cares. The part of us that feels compassion when we see another person or animal suffering; the part of us that is pained to hear about the rainforests – home to 50% of animals on the planet – burning or the oceans, the foundation of all life on the planet, emptied of marine animals, poisoned with agricultural runoff and other toxic chemicals, and filled with plastic trash. The part of us that is concerned not only for future generations, but for ourselves who we’re now starting to realize may be without a habitat in the near-term.

Fear of animals

In Annihilation, the grotesque animals the women encounter symbolize the dark, menacing energies of the Shimmer as it seeks to consume and destroy them.

As Jim Mason says in An Unnatural Order, to us humans animals represent nature at large:

For the human mind, animals equal nature. Animals have always been our way of understanding the world…They give form, shape, and personality to nature; they symbolize nature.

Indeed, the animals in Annihilation represent the Shimmer, but they also represent on a more basic level, nature in general, and our fear of it.

The first freakish creature the women come across is an alligator in a dilapidated house. The alligator attacks Jodie, but Lena kills him or her by firing away with her machine gun, using zen-like focus reminiscent of Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator. There’s a similar scene in Apocalypse Now, where a cougar jumps out of the mist but is taken out with a machine gun.

Next, a bear comes along in the middle of the night and takes off with Cass. Anya – already a bit on edge – becomes increasingly suspicious and eventually goes rogue when she finds out that Lena’s husband Kane was in the last mission. In the middle of the night, she ties up Josie, Ventress, and Lena in order to interrogate them. The monster-bear takes this opportunity to return to the shack they’re staying in. The bear mauls Anya, then comes up to the three women and growls in their faces. In the growl, we hear the voice of Cass screaming. Josie, Lena, and Ventress manage to escape the bear – thanks to some clever maneuvering on Lena’s part; Anya doesn’t.

Josie later says to Lena:

It was so strange hearing Sheppard’s voice inside of the mouth of that creature last night.

I think as she was dying part of her mind became a part of the creature that was killing her.

Imagine dying frightened and in pain and having that as the only part of you which survives. 

I wouldn’t like that at all.

Josie’s words stood out to me for a few reasons – the first being that bears kill on average under 3 people per year, whereas we humans kill 56 billion animals per year (not counting fish and other aquatic life, which is measured by tonnage and is by some estimates in the trillions). With regards to bears specifically, U.S. wildlife services kills hundreds of bears per year. Though bears have been portrayed as bloodthirsty in films such as The Great Outdoors and The Revenant, the truth is that bear attacks are extremely rare. Bears found in North America are generally shy when it comes to interacting with humans, and are more liable to retreat than attack. Moreover, although we tend to think of bears as carnivores, most bear species are in fact omnivores and the bulk of their diet come from plants and insects.

Given these facts, representing ourselves as the victims and bears as the attackers is misleading and reinforces the idea that bears and other forms of wildlife are threats to be exterminated.

The second reason this dialog stood out to me is that I think that this is exactly what happens when we eat animal products – in other words we take on their energy. As woo-woo as it may sound, I believe that when we consume the flesh and secretions of animals who were confined, mutilated, and slaughtered, we take in the frequency and vibrations of fear, anguish, pain, and frustration into our own bodies and energy fields.

I have no means of proving this except through my own experience. When I went vegan, within a few days I felt an enormous weight lift off of my shoulders I hadn’t even realized was there. As someone who had been a staunch atheist at the time, I found myself contemplating that there must be more subtle energies that cannot yet be measured that get encoded into the foods we eat. I later came across a quote by Louisa May Alcott that summed up my feelings on the matter: “Vegetable diet and sweet repose. Animal diet and nightmare.”

The irony of the portrayal of the freakish monster bear in Annihilation is that it is we humans who are in fact the ravenous bear and alligator – killing millions of animals each day and destroying everything in our path. We are the ones carrying the grief and pain of the slaughtered animals around inside our bodies. We are the ones to be feared. It is our own folly that is causing the ongoing apocalypse, not anything “out there.”

To quote author and animal activist Anthony Williams, “There are millions of animal species, but man is the only animal capable of destroying them all. When humans act with cruelty, we characterize them as ‘animals,’ yet the only animal that displays cruelty is humanity.”

The human body as other

In Annihilation, the human body, as an extension and manifestation of nature, also gets its fair share of fear, dread, and distrust cast on it. Like the Shimmer, cancer is seen as a lurking threat – something over which we have no control and for which we are unassuming potential victims.

Alien and unpredictable, it is something to napalmed rather than a signal that something is wrong that merits some investigation as to what the root cause of the problem is.

In the biology class she teaches at John’s Hopkins, Lena dispassionately describes the process of how cancer spreads. This sets up the human body as something to be feared; something that could betray us and perversely turn against us at any moment – as opposed to something that is doing the best it can given the circumstances.

The reductive approach Lena’s lane of work takes to analyzing illness reflects our society’s limited understanding of how cancer works and our assumption that cancer is a freak mutation that comes out of nowhere. According to the official story of our culture, cancer is something that is just there; it doesn’t “come” from anywhere, with the exception of possibly genes. We treat cancer once it becomes measurable without any consideration given to what imbalances might have caused it in the first place – such as unhealthy food, exposure to toxic chemicals, and chronic stress.

After a few days within The Shimmer, Lena puts a sample of her blood under a microscope and observes that it has already been mutated by the energy of the Shimmer. This indicates that within industrial civilization her body is safe, but once exposed to the unknown properties of the Shimmer it is liable to turn against her.

To me, this represented the fear that people living in cities have developed of spending too much time in nature. We think that in nature we’re vulnerable to insects, snakes, bears, etc., and anything else we lack familiarity with, so it’s best to stay “safe” within the borders of our towns and cities.

Interestingly, however, more and more research is coming out about the health benefits of being in nature and the threats to our mental and physical well-being of not spending any time in nature.

Since the 1980s, Japan has been on the cutting edge of inquiry into this phenomenon. There, researchers have uncovered that time spent in the outdoors:

  • Lowers cortisol, pulse rate, and blood pressure
  • Increases parasympathetic nerve activity. The parasympathetic nerve system, often referred to as the “rest and digest” system, conserves energy, slows the heart rate, and improves digestion
  • Decreases sympathetic nerve activity. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “fight or flight response”
  • Decreases feelings of anger and hostility
  • Decreases feelings of depression
  • Increases number of natural killer (NK) cells in the body, thereby boosting the immune system
  • Improves sleep
  • Promotes feelings of wellness
  • Increases focus

Recognizing the extraordinary health benefits nature confers, the Japanese have developed a practice called shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing,” where participants go into natural areas to recalibrate physically and mentally.

So, far from posing a threat to us mentally and physically, nature is actually a healing tonic. In fact, it is our distance from nature that makes us un-well – mentally, physically, and spiritually.

A new narrative

Today, more than ever, we need narratives and stories where people go into the wilderness and have healing experiences. Encouraging people to reconnect with nature and thereby ourselves is necessary, because when we’re distanced from nature it’s easier for us to take it for granted and forget that we need the stability of the environment for our survival. Rather than be encouraged to trust that if we live in balance with the environment, we will be provided for with water, food, habitat, beauty, and abundance, we’re generally conditioned to believe we should pursue conquest over nature or else it will “come to get us.”

And while it’s a good idea to have a respect for nature and the fact that we should not engage in outdoor activities (hiking, rock climbing, camping, etc.) without having all the right gear and taking proper precautions, we shouldn’t fear it all together either.

Given the fact that we’re causing the sixth mass extinction, polluting the air and oceans, tearing down rainforests, and otherwise wreaking havoc on the planet – the toxic and misguided story that nature is evil isn’t serving anyone; not us, and certainly not the other species we share the planet with.

Despite my reservations about how nature and animals were portrayed in Annihilation, I thought it was a solid film overall and I would recommend seeing it if you’re open to weird sci-fi films with a psychological bent. I would just encourage you not to take the anti-nature messaging to heart, and instead seek out nature as much as possible, in addition to exposing yourself to books and films that recognize the beauty and healing properties of the outdoors.

I leave you with resources that offer alternative narratives that explore the healing powers of nature and / or paint engaging with nature in a positive light.


Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness by Dr. Qing Li

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams

Your Brain on Nature by Eva Selhub and Alan C. Logan

Your Guide to Forest Bathing by M. Amos Clifford

Forest Bathing Retreat: Find Wholeness in the Company of Trees by Hannah Fries

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

The Essence of Shinto: Japan’s Spiritual Heart by Motohisa Yamakage


Princess Mononoke



Wildlife Documentary Series

Our Planet

Planet Earth


Blue Planet

Frozen Planet


Outdoorsy documentaries

Free Solo

The Dawn Wall

180 Degrees South

Banff Mountain Film Festival – annually curates a selection of outdoor films screened around the world.


Science of “forest bathing”: fewer maladies, more well-being?

Forest Therapy with Ben Page


Take Two Hours of Pine Forest and Call Me in the Morning by Florence Williams

‘Forest Bathing’ Is Great for Your Health. Here’s How to Do It by Qing Lee

And finally, my post on Health Benefits of Nature.