Down to Earth (Nature)
Down to Earth (Nature)
Down to Earth (Nature)

Down to Earth (Nature)

Nature: are you getting any? How the plant world can help heal those hard-to-reach, emotional places.

Last Updated: June 22, 2022
Contributor: Meghann Shantz

Meet a US military veteran who healed his PTSD with nature therapy, an environmental expert on how being outside can have profound benefits on our health and wellness, and an author on rethinking our relationship with the wild.

Explored in this episode

  • The power of nature to help heal us, emotionally and physically
  • The importance of cultivating a relationship with the natural world
  • The medical benefits of spending time in the outdoors
  • How our connection with nature could support our return to heath, as well as the planet’s return to health
  • The idea of moral trauma, or guilt from being part of experiences that go against your morals
  • The value in looking in your own backyard (as opposed to the drugstore) for solutions to your wellness
  • The incredible and accessible benefits of breathing deeply
  • How spending more time in nature will encourage you to think about the meaning of life
  • The concept of shifting baseline syndrome, and how that impacts our perception of the natural world

Voices in the conversation


Robert Vessels

Leader of Sierra Club Military Outdoors Program

When I’m out in nature, all the stresses of life and my negative thoughts really go away.

Robert Vessels is a conservationist, a climber, and a US military veteran. He currently leads the Sierra Club’s Military Outdoors program, which connects 14,000 service members, veterans, and their families to the outdoors each year through outings and outdoor leadership training.

He recently relocated to Washington, DC, in hopes of fostering a new generation of environmental stewards by providing veterans with the proper tools and knowledge to leverage their unique voice in defense of America’s public lands and opportunities for all to enjoy and explore them.

Prior to that, Vessels served five years in the Army as an infantryman with the 10th Mountain Division, during which time he deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon returning home, he moved to California, where he used the state’s many wild landscapes and a close-knit community of fellow veterans to cope with struggles with PTSD and adjustment into society.

We spoke with Robert to hear more about the value he found from spending time in nature. He has seen firsthand, and in the lives of others, that time spent outdoors can foster mental and physical health, emotional resilience, leadership development and help ease the transition from military life to civilian life.

He also participated in a recent study called The Great Outdoors Lab: Unlocking the Science of Awe:, a partnership between the Sierra Club, UC Berkeley and REI. It was the first study of its kind to measure physiological data and monitor the emotions people experience when participating in outdoor activities in an effort to understand the effect of nature on well being.


Nikki Sanchez

Environmental Educator, Indigenous Media Maker, Wilderness Guide

We can’t be well if our environments aren’t well, and our environments can’t be well if we are not well.

Nikki Sanchez is a Pipil/Maya and Irish/Scottish academic, Indigenous media maker and environmental educator. Nikki holds a masters degree in Indigenous Governance and is presently completing a PhD with a research focus on emerging visual media technology as it relates to Indigenous ontology.

Until recently, she acted as the David Suzuki Foundation "Queen of Green" where her work centered on digital media creation to provide sustainable solutions for a healthy planet, as well as content creation to bring more racial inclusivity into the environmental movement.

Nikki has been teaching and facilitating decolonization and anti-oppression training for the past five years for universities, corporations and NGOs. She has been involved with social justice and Indigenous rights work for over 15 years and most recently completed the 8-part documentary VICELAND series “RISE” focused on global Indigenous resurgence. RISE was debuted at Sundance in February 2017 and has received global critical acclaim, most recently winning "best documentary" at the Canadian screen awards.

For over a decade, Nikki has worked as an wilderness guide, Indigenous environmental educator and decolonial curriculum advisor.


JB MacKinnon

Independent Journalist, Author, Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia Graduate School of Journalism

Almost any landscape, if you spend time with it and get to know’s going to pay back to you in a whole bunch of enriching ways.

J.B. MacKinnon is the author or coauthor of four books of nonfiction. His latest, The Once and Future World, is a national bestseller in Canada and won the U.S. Green Prize for Sustainable Literature. Previous works are The 100-Mile Diet (with Alisa Smith), a bestseller widely recognized as a catalyst of the local foods movement. As a freelance journalist, MacKinnon contributes to The New Yorker on consumer issues and ecology, and his work appears in publications like National Geographic and Adbusters.

He has written extensively about how, in the last few generations, many cultures have actively separated humans from nature—creating “land reserves”, parks, and walled gardens. MacKinnon believes this approach has led to a denatured society and the destruction of the natural world. In his latest book, he calls for an “age of rewilding” to change how we interact with our one and only planet.

Meghann Shantz, The Host of Well Now
Meghann Shantz
The Host of Well Now

Managing Editor at Saje Natural Wellness, Meghann Shantz brings her personal story of healing and a love of storytelling to Well Now – a podcast born out of a desire to help us all discover the hidden side of health and how to achieve wellness. She draws from her experiences navigating western and alternative medicine to heal her anxiety and physical injury to connect with guests about their own stories of overcoming physical and emotional challenges.

Naturally curious and on a quest for meaning, Meghann holds space for the raw expression and authentic stories of her podcast guests, believing that our world would be better if we chose to honour other people’s journeys and processes without judgement – and believing in the power of telling your story.