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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

I can’t quite remember what the ad was about – but I was struck by the images, and mostly what I felt watching. The outdoors, a person reaching out for a fruit, in a tree. My reaction was, sweet! . . . and boredom. It failed to grab me. I stopped to think, and wondered, is that how I feel, genuinely, with nature imbued narrative, usually? And my response was, yes . . . and maybe others are too?

Contrast this with the excitement from my friend, after he had just come from watching the Waste=Food documentary:

When I heard him talk about the Chinese story, and also Nike’s revolutionary process for making eco-friendly shoes, I wanted to learn more.

In the search for a more sustainable world, we humans may be more impressed by stories of  our own ingeniosity, than nature’s goodness. Technology, creativity, and news seem like a potent recipe for effective green communication, worth using over, and over again. Not so, bucolic scenes, and the romanticization of our natural world.

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It’s that time of the month again, and I am due for the Green Moms Blogging Carnival, this time over at Best of Mother Earth. I am supposed to write about gratitude, specifically three green things I am thankful for.

We behave with nature, the same way we might with a faithful lover, when we are forgetting how much we are being given, and how much our lives depends on such constant love. That’s the irony, we take nature for granted, because it’s so good to us, most of the time.

Take a few minutes and . . .

imagine a world without trees, and birds chirping in the trees, imagine the silence, and the scorching sun, and the absence of shade and coolness,

imagine a world without water, as in here:

imagine the air so polluted that you could no longer breathe freely, and would have to wear a mask 24/7, or stay indoors,

imagine . . .

While we may never know such extremes in our lifetime, we may get dangerously close, sooner than we think, if we don’t all change our ways.

Today, I am thankful for the trees, and the water, and the air.

How about you? What do you appreciate the most in nature?

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In their new paper, Where does biodiversity go from here? A grim business-as-usual forecast and a hopeful portfolio of partial solutions”, just published today in the Online Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Paul Ehrlich and Robert Pringle, two researchers from Stanford University, propose a “hopeful portfolio” of seven strategies, to remedy the global biodiversity crisis. One such strategy involves getting biodiversity onto the cultural radar screen. Here it is – I have highlighted suggested actions -

For decades, conservationists have appealed to aesthetics as a principal reason to conserve wild areas and species. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the 13-billion-plus beholding eyes of the world are drawn to many things that are hostile to biodiversity: large families, tractors, treasure, pavement, goats, and Cadillacs, to name a few. The processes of economic and infrastructural development help to divorce people from the natural world. Moreover, although outdoor recreation and ecotourism are still important parts of many lives in rich countries, biophilic impulses seem increasingly swamped by other stimuli. In the United States, the rise of electronic media has coincided with a 20-year downturn in National Park visitation, after 50 years of steady increase. Recent findings indicate that similar declines in contact with nature are common to developed nations worldwide. Such trends will not be reversed and the biodiversity crisis will not be resolved until nature can rival virtual reality as a source of entertainment, intrigue, and inspiration. Janzen offers a compelling analogy: as books are uninteresting and useless to an illiterate person, so is biodiversity uninteresting and useless to a bioilliterate person. People keep what they use, and increasing bioliteracy would enable more people to find uses for biodiversity. Demand for ecotourism and perceived ‘‘existence values” would increase and, with them, biodiversity sustaining revenues. In a world of stingy appropriations for conservation, we have a wonderful academic literature on how to maximize returns on conservation investments. But we have spent comparatively little effort figuring out ways to create a world of biodiversity fanatics and conservation voters, where conservation resources would presumably flow more freely. The earlier in the developmental process comes exposure to nature, the better the odds of inspiring devotion to biodiversity and its conservation. It is a rare conservationist who did not encounter nature as a child. Every one of us can go to elementary schools to show pictures of animals and plants and tell funny stories about ecology. The teachers will be happy to have us. More ambitious people might think about how to finance and institutionalize school field trips to natural areas. Those of us who work in the tropics can do these things there, too. Clearly, we can also use other strategies. One method is to appropriate the very technologies that are currently enforcing the divide between people and biodiversity. Biodiversity is increasingly on the World Wide Web via projects such as the Encyclopedia of Life and Wikispecies. But we can do more. We can upload science and nature shorts to YouTube and contribute our knowledge to Wikipedia and its offshoots. We can post our lectures online. We can work to add ecological dimensions to online virtual-reality platforms and video games like Second Life, which currently has 10 million registered accounts. These are obvious ideas; many more are possible. There is hope here. Online sales have helped to revitalize classical music which is like biodiversity in that its devotees have long been predicting and lamenting its demise. Some have argued that the key to widespread biodiversity appreciation is the ability to know immediately what is what in nature. Janzen believes that this requires a comprehensive library of DNA barcodes along with a handheld, nanotechnological, field-portable sequencing device. We are hopeful about this dream, as well as any other means of achieving the same end. Profound social transformations are not impossible or ‘‘unrealistic.” Shifts happen. They have happened in our lifetimes. We all know these terms: segregation, Iron Curtain, apartheid. ‘‘Anthropogenic extinction” belongs on that list. More than anything else, the long-term future of biodiversity will be determined by our success or failure in helping to precipitate such an overhaul in popular perceptions of nature and what it means.

My way of getting biodiversity onto the cultural radar screen is to blog here, and on other blogs, and to link back to this post in my comments on other blogs. Also to tweet, and digg, and stumble, as much as I can about the topic. What can you do?

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I couldn’t help but share this with you:

How many more stories like these before we get the message?

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I was quite surprised after I returned from vacation, and found my vegetable patch, all replenished with new heads of lettuce. Could it be, I asked Prad? Yes, it’s true, you can keep on tearing off leaves and they grow back. 

 

Salad Patch

Salad Patch

 

Nature is truly Mother to us. No need to waste our paychecks on industrially grown salads, at the grocery store. Instead, better splurge on a few seeds and help with a bit of water every day. I’ve got my own salad factory in the backyard. 

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Rasio stopped by La Marguerite a few days ago, and left a comment that caused me to stop, and wonder who was hiding behind such a sensitive and responsible soul. Her real name is Clara, and I asked her to share her story:

Hi. I am a 13-year-old girl who goes to Thomas W. Pyle Middle School in Bethesda , Maryland. I love nature, books, and climbing things. I want to help save this wonderful planet, earth, from ourselves, and enlighten people in the ways of nature.

Where do I start? Well, I didn’t always want to save the world; I began as any normal child. I have never discovered the foundation of my love of nature, for even my mother does not adore it the way I do. Perhaps it was the books I often read, because I am and have always been a quiet, unsocial person. Not lonely, however. I find books and nature to be much more forgiving than any human being. I still have a certain book which I worship, about a man who lives in the wilderness with his wife. He explains every aspect of survival in an interesting, yet informative manner. I guess that was what first made me want to ditch mankind and run off into the woods, living out the rest of my life as a hermit. However, I never got the chance, and as I grew older and learned more and more about the devastation the human race has caused, I realized something: I could not just bury my head in the sand like an ostrich, pretending there was nothing wrong and ignoring the facts. I had to remove myself from that flock of birds, sitting there on the beach, pretending they were happy when they really weren’t. I had to spread my wings and explore the world around me.

Almost immediately after this realization, I severed nearly all dependency on electronics such as television and computer. I have never possessed any of those useless but common items most people own at my age, like cell phones and even laptops. In addition, I have no desire to waste my time in such a ridiculous and unproductive manner. I would prefer to go outside and sit in the sun, watching birds fly past. I also have no attachment to shopping, even avoiding it if possible. I do well in school, and give the teachers what they want, but always hear, in the back of my mind, this ticking – the ticking of the clock counting the time remaining until our end. Over the past few months, this ticking has gotten louder, and with it my morale has dropped considerably. I feel quite sad nearly all the time and mostly keep to myself. I suppose it really plummeted after my failure to convince fellow class mates that the crisis was real. I actually created a binder, for the particular object of informing people on environmental problems. I worked for an extremely long time on it and it includes global warming, critically endangered species and the great pacific garbage patch. I even printed on the backs of the papers. However, the effort was wasted: when I presented the binder to other kids in my science class, they laughed – and called me a freak.

I am quite disappointed that schools have not added environmental studies to the curriculum. I think it would increase public knowledge of this subject by an incredible amount and it may even get kids off their Nintendo’s. On that note, I conducted an informal study of people talking on cell phones in their cars. I was on the highway and looked out the window at 16 cars passing by. 6 of the 16 people in the cars were talking on their cell phones. It no longer surprises me that there are so many accidents nowadays.

I also joined the World Citizen’s Club and the Chesapeake Bay Club at my school. However, I still don’t think people have the right idea about nature and saving the world. We should do it for nature because nature has done so much for us, and… well, I can’t explain it. This is our home. Why are we destroying it? Don’t people see the beauty, the wonderful, natural beauty that is our planet earth?

The earth is terribly sick and we have a responsibility to help it get better – especially since we caused the disease!

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Last year, I wrote about Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert‘s theory regarding the psychology of global warming. I strongly recommend that you spend 15′ of your time watching these two recently released videos of him speaking at the Pop!Tech Conference:

The enemy facing us is not so much global warming itself, as our human inadequacies in dealing with the problem. The more we can be conscious of those, the greater the likelihood that we will react more appropriately, and with a greater sense of urgency.

From a practical standpoint, Gilbert‘s insights have important implications for future communication strategies about global warming. More time needs to be spent in the media, focusing on the whys of our relative inaction, and less on justifying the reality of climate change.

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