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Peter Kahn is featured in the short documentary film “Forgetting Nature.”

‘Forgetting Nature’: Peter Kahn offers warning in short documentary film

Peter Kelley, UW News

The documentary film is brief but its message is powerful: We humans are losing our connection to the natural world, at our great peril.

“In some sense, we think we are the most advanced culture — we take such pride in technology and advancement,” says Peter Kahn, University of Washington professor in the Department of Psychology and the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

“But in some other ways, we are more distant from the natural world than any culture has been. Potentially also more distant from the human spirit.”

Kahn’s words are featured in “Forgetting Nature,” a new short documentary by British-based filmmaker Ross Harrison that will begin streaming for free on March 17.

The film, production notes say, is “an urgent call to examine the effects of technology on our experiences, and the way wild nature is being squeezed out of our lives.”

Harrison creates documentaries, campaign films and events coverage; he has traveled to Cambodia, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Tasmania working on projects about rainforest conservation, education inequity, tribal rights and more.

He visited Seattle and interviewed Kahn extensively for a planned feature-length documentary project, but then the COVID virus hit, delaying the project. Now Harrison has completed and is releasing a five-minute version of the film.

Among the concerns Kahn discusses in the film is what he terms “environmental generational amnesia,” where each new generation inherits a more depleted natural world, with less understanding of what is being lost.

These are topics Kahn knows well, as director of the Human Interaction with Nature and Technological Systems Lab at the UW, or HINTS.

“Our older generations have a vital perspective,” he said. “They grew up in a time before much of the damage to the natural world that has happened in recent decades. They are also the last generations ever who will have lived in a world without social media and smart phones, often having more experiences in wild nature.”

Kahn’s book, “Technological Nature: Adaptation and the Future of Human Life,” was published in 2011. Harrison and Kahn are asking viewers to join a conversation about remembering nature — to offer memories of wildlife, or how nature has changed over the years — with #RememberingNature.

Read a press release about the film. For more information, contact Kahn at or Harrison at