On October 4-8 2013 I attended WILD10, the 10th World Wilderness Congress in Salamanca, Spain. The congres is held once in four years and is a gathering of environmentalists, nature conservationists, scientists, politicians, writers, photographers, hunters, sailors, etc. from all over the world with one common passion: love for nature. This event has started in South Africa in 1977 and was originated by Dr. Ian Player, the founder of the Wilderness Leadership School. Special emphasis was given this time to the Rewilding Europe initiative.The return of wild nature across Europe – wilderness, wildness and wildlife on land and in the sea, from the biggest cities to the most remote corners of the continent is well-documented. This is occurring for many reasons, not the least because conservation works in Europe in combination with favourable socio-economic and demographic changes. It offers a singular opportunity for Europeans to both re-shape our own relationship with the nature upon which we rely for health, prosperity and enjoyment, as well as to create a modern-day model from which other countries and regions can gain inspiration and practical guidance. If we can show that wild nature can successfully and remarkably return on the world's most densely populated continent, we have a message of hope and real potential for a wilder world.

Yes, wild nature is returning, but Europe’s environment is far from perfect and much work is needed for us to redirect unwise exploitation, save the remaining wildlands and seas, and rewild areas that can help recreate a better, more fascinating, richer Europe.

We have in Holland a beautiful example: the Oostvaardersplassen., of which recently a very successful movie has been made, The New Wilderness.

After a long time…..

It has been a long time that I have been writing on this blog. By no means this is caused by lack of motivation or that nothing has happened. On the contrary, a lot has happened as well on my personal circumstances as on the development of my research.

Let me start by explaining my personal circumstances. At the beginning of this year, in January, I visited the University Medical Center in Utrecht for a routine examination of my eyes. They established heightened eyeball pressure in my left eye. This can cause glaucoma, which can permanently damage vision in the affected eye and lead to blindness if left untreated. So I got medical treatment by eye drops and had to return in a couple of weeks. When I came back the situation appeared not to be any better and it was concluded to do surgery called trabeculectomy. Trabeculectomy is a surgical procedure used in the treatment of glaucoma to relieve intraocular pressure by removing part of the eye's trabecular meshwork and adjacent structures. Two years ago I was successfully treated for the same on my right eye. The pressure has since then be stable between the right brackets. So, on March 5th I went in a good mood to the hospital. However, the surgery lasted for more than two hours, much longer than with my right eye, due to complications. I got bleedings behind my retina and the next morning it appeared that I lost my sight in that eye. After a lot of pain and two more surgeries in the months thereafter the result was that I have to live further with one eye. In itself, that is doable, there are more people living quite well with only one eye, but it was not what I expected at the start of all this. Since then I experience that my brains are working very hard to get used to the new situation. Apparently, my visual cortex has to adjust itself to receiving only information from my right eye and it has to learn how to see depth now. This requires a lot of energy, which I noticed by having trouble to keep my concentration ability at an acceptable level. For example, after reading an article for a quarter of an hour or so I found myself fading away from the meaning of the sentences. This lasted until about September, then I realized that I started to get used to the new situation. I could read much longer and understand what was written.

Since then I picked up my research again, although from time to time I had coded trail reports in the previous months.

The current situation is that I am writing my first article on the basis of the qualitative content analysis of more than 100 trail reports.

The participants have written trail reports at the end of their wilderness journeys, guided by four main questions: a) What have been your purpose or goals in participating this journey? Why did you go on this trail? What was your quest? b) What have you experienced during the trail? What happened with you? c) What insights were wanting to be born? Which were the flashes of insight that you saw? d) Which intentions did you formulate on a personal level, a private level and a professional level?

I found some interesting themes, which I will elicit in this article.

The bases of the participants’ new insights are personal experiences of being in nature as well as of sharing thoughts and feelings with their co-participants. Experiences are first-person perceived, and thereby subjective, qualitative, psychological realities. In that scope experience is the sensing of meaningful or formative activity at the contact boundary between organism and environment (Ecopsychology, 2012, p.93). Phenomenologically, the participant’s description of what he or she perceives is a result of intentionally, conscious awareness of his or her explicate and implicate environment. This experience of physical nature is not only the perception of their spatiotemporal structure, but it is widely spread accepted in the world of physics that the physical could also have an intrinsic nature or aspect that corresponds to subjective qualitative experience. In my article I will hold forth on these processes.

Meeting with my promotors

Last Tuesday I had a pleasant, fruitful and inspiring meeting with my promotors at Wageningen University & Research. We discussed my proposal for the qualitative content analysis part of my research. Qualitative Data Analysis is a rigorous methodology for interpreting qualitative data in a very disciplined way. In my case the database is the sample of anonymized trail-reports.

Qualitative research is often centered around the why and the how question, not just what, where, when. Since trail-reports are written immediately after the experience on the basis of their memory and personal field notes in their moliskine journal, they are reproductions of first person, subjective experiences. By consequence, these reproductions are hardly objective measurable and suitable for quantitative research. Therefor I choose the process of qualitative coding.To codify is to arrange things in a systematic order, to make something part of a system or classification, to categorize. When codes are applied and reapplied to qualitative data, I am codifying – a process that permits data to be “segregated, grouped, regrouped and relinked in order to consolidate meaning and explanation” (Grbich, 2007, p.21, cited in Saldana, 2012). Coding is thus a method that enables me to organize and group similarly coded data into categories or “families” because they share some characteristics – the beginning of a pattern. By classification reasoning plus using tacit and intuitive senses it will be determined which data “look alike” and “feel alike” when grouping the together (Lincoln, Guba, 1985, p.347, cited in Saldana, 2012).

The basic process of codifying, which I propose to apply, follows the streamlined codes-to-theory model: code – category – themes/concepts – assertions/theory. Whereas the data in this research is already structured by the guiding questions one could argue to pre-determine the themes along these questions: intentions, experiences, insights, actions. Therefor, in discussion withe my promotors, I decided to split the content analysis into two parts. One analysis is about the questions:Why do people participate and what are the participant's experiences? The other analysis is going into:What do participants perceive as consequences in their thinking/mindset and in their behavioral intentions? This shoukd lead to two articles to be published in 2013 in a relevant scientific journal.

FNL Congres at WNF

Last week FNL held its yearly congres. This year the main theme was 'Natural Leadership in practice. What do people, who have been on trail, differently in their normal life and professional context? What practical examples are there that you really see back as the benefits of the Wilderness Transformation Programm?

After a clear presentation by Johan Bontje on 'What FNL stands for', Herman Wijffels gave an impressive lecture about the transformation of the human, ecological and human order which we have to face in order to conserve our planet. He sees sustainability as the core for social and economic development. The base of our thinking has to become circular instead of linear. Fundamental ideas which resonate with the principles of the Foundation of Natural Leadership.

A caroussel of different speakers from FNL presented their findings on what natural leadership has brought them in practice in their respective organizations.

It was a pleasure for me to talk about the psychological processes which participants experience in the wilderness and what their intentions are afterwards.

Data security

This week i got a very good suggestion by mail from Emile Wolff about data security.

My request for anonymized trailreports has been sent out bij the facilitators to most FNL participants. The anoymization is to secure that personal data is not recognizable any more in the study. What is my approach? The qualitative data analysis consists of coding text elements and look at the clusteriing of data in an open and unbiased way. It is a sort of journey of discovery. In the end there is a collection of labels, making the data instantly more transparent. These will be categorized and conclusions will be drawn. So, the personal data is transformed into abstract description. Moreover, quotes of participants will not be used, and if helpful for understanding, only after explicit approval. I am convinced that herewith personal privacy is safeguarded. On top a of that I got this suggestion of Emile.

His suggestion is to save the trailreoprts on a sperate USB - stick only, to prevent that data will float on servers and hard discs. I will follow his suggestion.

Thanks Emile!

Trail reports

Trail reports of participants are coming in. I am very grateful with all the positive support of te FNL Board and my collegue facilitators, who take the time to send their participant the request for approval, so that I can make use of their anonymized reports.

There are two main reasons to make use of the written trail reports for a Qualitative Data Analysis. First, the reporst are written almost directly after each participant ended his or her trail. Secondly, all trail reports are wriiten along four guiding questions:

What is your purpose participating the program?

What are the essential experiences and insights that you had during the trail?

How do these touch the core of your being and your life?

What actions do you deploy in your personal, private, and professional life?

So, the conditions under which the trail reports are written are very similar, which makes them comparable and suitable for a qualitativeanalysis.

I look forward to the coming days how my inbox will be filled with trail reports.

First Post

Today the FNL Board announced to all 350 FNL participants about my PhD Research Project. It feels great that my research is now floating in the FNL universe. I already got so many positive feedback from all the facilitators, wchich I have spoken either by telephone or by direct contact at 'de Roode Hoed', where Joseph Jaworski introduced his Dutch version of 'The Source'. All this makes me very positive about the expected response. After a lot of secure finetuningwith Johan Bontje about the text of the request e-mails last weeks, I am convinced that I set the conditions for maximum response and safeguarding the personal privacy at the same time.

Boy van Droffelaar 2012