Welcome to the latest instalment of the Nearby Nature Project! Over 25 years ago I learned that fostering my relationship with Mother Nature is essential to my well-being. So I garden, walk, hike, cycle and/or kayak just about every day.
I’m not alone in discovering that being outside is good for mind and body. Mainstream media articles regularly extoll the benefits of spending time in nature. And hashtags like #playoutside, #optoutside, and #greentimenotscreentime have communities of followers. I reflect on my Nature connectedness and share resources and news stories in these Nearby Nature Project posts.
Have you ever wondered how closely connected to Nature you are? Take a short survey to find out your score and contribute to nature connectedness research at Trent University.
Have you ever considered joining a citizen science project? The 2022 Big Backyard Bioblitz runs July 28 to August 1. Register, then head out to your yard or the nearest green patch to photography every kind of plant and creature you can find. Upload your photos to iNaturalist. Don’t worry if you don’t know the names of the things you photograph. Why? Because iNaturalist’s algorithm does a fine job of recommending an identification. And then other citizen scientists will confirm or recommend a more accurate ID.
Research from Finding Nature
A couple of recent blog posts from Finding Nature summarize findings from recent research exploring the relationship between 1) garden-focused pro-nature conservation behavior; 2) noticing nature; and 3) nature connectedness. Bottom line? Visible biodiversity boosts nature connectedness – things like birds, butterflies and wildlife.
For the full report, including an explanation of why nature connectedness is a key metric for a sustainable future and simple actions for visible biodiversity, click here.
Perhaps in part because of the relatively long history of nature connectedness research in the UK, in 2019 London became the world’s first national park city. Now, three years on, Londoners are keen to see faster progress towards realizing the vision. Rewilding London is framed as a social justice issue. The plan has three components: 1) rewilding key areas on outskirts of London; 2) connecting those areas via railway adjacent lands/brownfield lands; and 3) inviting Londoners to contribute, with planter boxes, green roofs and gardens.
Canada has one urban national park. Rouge National Urban Park was formed in Toronto in 2011. In 2021, Parks Canada announced an urban national parks program. Three municipalities have already signed partnership agreements: Saskatoon, Halifax and Winnipeg. Other potential urban national parks include greater Edmonton area, Colwood (BC), Windsor (ON), and Montreal. Parks Canada aims to have at least one urban national park in every province and territory by 2030.
Monarch Butterflies Endangered
Despite migrating in greater numbers this year compared to the past several years, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature added the Monarch to its endangered species list, estimating that the Monarch population has declined 22 to 72 percent over the last 10 years. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada designated the migrating Monarch butterfly as endangered back in 2016. People like you and me can take direction action to help, by planting milkweed and not using herbicides and pesticides in our yards. We can also write to our MPs, asking the federal government to add the migrating monarch butterfly to the Species at Risk Act, so that its got some legal protections.
Cultivating My Nature Connection
Last edition, I forewarned I’d be reading Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us by Emma Loewe.
Bookended by an Introduction and a final reflection, this non-fiction work is organized into eight chapters: Parks & Gardens, Oceans & Coasts, Mountains & Highlands, Forests & Trees, Ice & Snow, Deserts & Drylands, Rivers & Streams, and Cities & Built Environments. Some are nearby nature, others not so much.
Each chapter begins with “The Remedy.” There’s a landscape description, a bit of philosophy, and several 1 or 2 page sections of relevant and recent research.
I enjoyed the middle section of each chapter: “The Practice.” The author outlined 5+ minute actions to help you tap into those mental and physical health benefits. There are also helpful suggestions on how to tap into those mental and physical health benefits even if you have no ready access to that type of landscape.
The final section of each chapter – “The Action” – briefly describes some of the pressures on that type of landscape. We’ve all seen the dire news stories. Fortunately, Loewe then goes on to suggest a series of possible mindset shifts to help cultivate a deeper connection to that type of landscape, including small to massive lifestyle changes to consider to support the landscape.
A few points that especially resonated with me:
- “the humbling” – the sense of smallness that happens when you’re immersed in Nature
- cloud spotting – a fee and universally-available fast track to restoration (I’m going to look into the Cloud Appreciation Society)
- natures does not equal wilderness
- the idea of gradually converting your yard into a personal park, keeping in mind that “my yard isn’t just for me” (i.e. for bees, butterflies, birds & wildlife, too)
- think about AWEsome views – the ideal that we feel the presence of something that exceeds expectation and makes us question our current understanding of the world and our place in it
- that a forest is any land over 0.5 hectares (about 1.2 acres) at least 10% covered by tree canopy
- forest bathing research started in 1982, and Japan has spend hundreds of millions on researching it since
- “solastalgia” – the longing for something that’s right in front of you but dramatically changed (I feel this for Arethusa Cirque, which has been “loved to death” since we started hiking there almost 20 years ago)
This is a recently published book. If you don’t want to shell out for a hard cover, consider borrowing a copy from your closest public library.
Nearby Nature Project this Month
We’re enjoying the harvesting phase of edible gardening: kale, swiss chard, green onions, strawberries, raspberries, beets, the last of the radishes, lettuce, garlic scapes and the first tiny carrots as we start the thinning process. I’m fighting an ongoing battle with leaf miners in the beets and Swiss chard, ruthlessly pruning off affected leaves every week. Note to self: plant Swiss chard and beets in a different raised bed next year.
In our pollinator garden the range of blossoms has expanded: deep blue delphinium, harebells, speedwell, Johnny jump-ups and the first of the coneflowers. Poppies are also flowering, and some hardy ground-cover geraniums. I am battling powdery mildew in one patch of delphinium, aggressively pruning back the affected greenery. Those leaves (and the beet leaf miner leaves) go into the trash; putting infected leaves into the compost bin just passes the problem on to other gardeners.
It’s peak wildflower season in the Canadian Rockies. Every walk along the trails in Canmore, I note new flowers on the landscape. Other blossoms are transitioning to the seed phase, in some cases setting the stage for next year’s wildflower display.
I continue to upload photos to iNaturalist, one of my favourite citizen science sites. When the Big Backyard Bioblitz ends on July 31, I hope to have more than 600 iNaturalist observations. I’ll be especially happy if I have at least 275 different species observed.
Well, I was going to review the Go Jauntly app, which I read about here. But I just discovered it’s very UK-centric, so that may not be a great choice. Hmmm… check back next month to find out how I cultivate my nearby nature connection over the next month or so! 😉