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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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12 by 8. That’s the universe I live in. 12 by 8, inches. Twelve hours a day, glued to my computer screen. I know, I can use my eyes, and my ears, and my mind to visit the world, from that tiny window. Still, that feels pretty limiting. I hadn’t really thought about it that way, until last weekend, when I decided to follow Charlotte’s hint to plant some vegetables in our yard.

In the midst of pulling out some weeds, it hit me big that I hadn’t been out in the world, really out, in a long long time. Out, as in getting down close to the earth. Out, as in getting drunk from forgotten smells, the grasses, the dirt, the air. Out, as in hearing the white noise from the dancing stems. Out, as in seeing the nearly invisible hairs on the tiny leaves . Out as in fighting with the subterranean roots, that threatened to overtake the fertile soil. Three hours later I rose, my body aching, and happy.

Since then, it has come to my attention, that the wonder of the Internet, and more broadly technology, comes at a price. We have shrunk our world to a series of metal boxes and rectangles. Computer, TV, car, plane, it’s all the same. A world that is tasteless, odorless, and cold. A world that filters all the noises and sights from the outside, according to some pre-established programs. A world that takes us further and further away from nature.

No wonder I feel cut off. 12 by 8, inches, that’s the extent of my connection.

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On this Super Tuesday morning, I woke up wondering about the Obama phemomenon. What is ‘it’ about him that so enthuses me, and so many of my fellow Americans? ‘It’ has to do with the heart, and the imagination, and the soul, and yes, love also. ‘It’ has been cruelly absent from American politics for many, many years. ‘It’ was very much a part of the identities of John Kennedy, and Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. ‘It’ belongs to the feminine realm. Oprah did not use the f-word in her LA Rally speech, but I am pretty sure that’s what she meant:

The fact that ‘it’, is absent from Hillary’s package, must be confusing for all the women yearning for a ‘she’ presence. The 100 New York feminist icons, who signed a petition to endorse Obama understand the difference. Same with Maria Shriver, and Caroline Kennedy, and Joan Baez. The feminine is a human value that transcends race, age, gender, occupation, and all the ways that one likes to classify humans. When ‘it’ is present, community, belonging, and harmony are restored. Which brings me to my next point.

In my mind, global warming is the symptom of a much deeper unrest. Nature’s way of telling us that we have gone too far with our dehumanized way of living. This morning the Associated Press released findings from a Nature Conservancy study on ‘Nature Giving Way To Virtual Reality’:

As people spend more time communing with their televisions and computers, the impact is not just on their health, researchers say. Less time spent outdoors means less contact with nature and, eventually, less interest in conservation and parks.

Camping, fishing and per capita visits to parks are all declining in a shift away from nature-based recreation, researchers report in Monday’s online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Declining nature participation has crucial implications for current conservation efforts,” wrote co-authors Oliver R. W. Pergams and Patricia A. Zaradic. “We think it probable than any major decline in the value placed on natural areas and experiences will greatly reduce the value people place on biodiversity conservation.”

“The replacement of vigorous outdoor activities by sedentary, indoor videophilia has far-reaching consequences for physical and mental health, especially in children,” Pergams said in a statement. “Videophilia has been shown to be a cause of obesity, lack of socialization, attention disorders and poor academic performance.”

By studying visits to national and state park and the issuance of hunting and fishing licenses the researchers documented declines of between 18 percent and 25 percent in various types of outdoor recreation.

This is no small matter. When people stop relating to each other, and with nature, relatedness and belonging, those two hallmarks of the feminine, start to break down and to create a vacuum. What happens next? Trash on top of Mount Everest, disrespect for nature, excessive focus on the I, at the expense of others, emptiness that no amount of goods can ever fill, logging of entire forests, covering of the earth with vast expenses of concrete, the illusion of man as ruler of the Earth, and last failure to listen to unmistakable signs that the Earth is heating too much, too fast.

There are signs of the feminine making its way back, though. The overwhelming response of the crowds to Obama is one. Let us see tonight, if they really meant it.

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Here, for a break from heavy duty green psychology and heady reflections on climate change, is a story from the heart by Elizabeth Tjader. I met Elizabeth through the green web of DotEarth, and was so impressed by the authenticity of her search that I asked her to share it in a BlogAct on La Marguerite. Elizabeth shows us yet one more path to green-ness. We each have our own. May her tale inspire you to find it.

My green quest began quite literally some 20 years ago when I embarked upon a cleansing of my body, mind and spirit to become clean and sober from drugs and alcohol. A literal “greening”, if you will. “Green” is the color of the heart chakra. I am not surprised. For it will be our hearts that ultimately lead us to make better, conscious choices for healing our Earth. Mary Anderson, author of ‘Color Healing‘ assigns attributes of balance, peace and harmony to the color green. And once again, it will be these aforementioned characteristics born from our green heart chakras that will ultimately lead us to a greener, healthier Earth.

Until I became sober, you might say I’d been living in-authentically, fraudulently, polluted. Sobriety cleaned me up. It enabled me to hear the voice of my soul, the voice of nature. Perhaps they are one in the same; the voices of God. (don’t run, hear me out!) One day at a time, one plant at a time, I was pulled to tend the Earth, investigate it with my fingers; squishing it, tilling it, loving it, massaging it. Layer upon layer of clay and sand and loam revealed earthworms, cocoons, centipedes, and myriad other earthly treasures. I heard buzzing, trilling, wing fluttering. Those utterances would become, I would later discover, the chorus of a healthy and pulsating green earth. Then, quite unexpectedly one day, a butterfly hit my forehead, or, as the butterfly might tell the story, “and then, quite unexpectedly; smack! A woman walked right into my probiscus!”.

Journey to Green, a BlogAct by Elizabeth Tjader

However it happened, it was no coincidence. No other creature embodies a greater metaphor for transformation historically, artistically and literally than the butterfly. The gift of metamorphosis. The power to change. I learned to listen, to see, to hear, to touch, to notice. There has been no greater gift to the health and well being of my own spirit than that of the butterfly. As it teaches all of us so gracefully through its own miraculous journey from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to the grandest of winged creatures; we must never, ever give up our quest to live fully. Never.

If I could entice, seduce, lure, beg, plead or even infect all of you with one passionate request, it would be to plant a butterfly garden filled with color and free of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides for the benefit of all species. One of the greatest risks to wildlife and our Earth today is poisoning. Poisoning by the backyard gardener whose shed is filled with the above mentioned toxins. Poisoning happens many ways, as we who love this planet continue to discuss. But by becoming “greener” in our gardens, our home tended sanctuaries just might ripple the tiny steps needed to build the gigantic wave of synergistic healing ameliorating our biosphere.

Prevention is the premise upon which a healthy garden is cultivated. Just like with our own bodies and taking care of them nutritionally, the greatest gift you can give our Earth and all its inhabitants is to build a green and sustainable garden foundation by incorporating compost, seasoned manures and leaf decay. Whether a tiny plot of land, several configured pots, a town park, or a great big backyard, we can create personal and community garden sanctuaries filled with greens, purples, yellows, oranges, pinks, reds, blues, whites and lavenders, giving pause to even Monet for the purpose of creating joy. Butterfly gardens benefit every sentient being. It will change your life course forever. I promise.

Butterflies remain one of the greatest indicators of a healthy environment. Did you know the word ‘psyche’ means both butterfly and soul in Greek? In her book ‘The Spirit of the Butterfly‘, Maraleen Manos-Jones celebrates, “We need butterflies to remind us that positive change is possible, that there is magic in life, that we have to be mindful of our surroundings, because if we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves. Butterflies awaken our spirits and open our hearts. They give us a sense of hope and the possibility of our own transformation and evolution”.

They’re waiting for you, the Monarchs, Swallowtails, Skippers, Gossamer Wings, Fritillaries, Blues, Painted Ladies, California Sisters, Lorquin’s Admirals, Sarah Orangetips. Along with the honeybees, hummingbirds, song birds and dragonflies, all bringing hope, and change, and peace.

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