As Canada gears up to host 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, I’m working on the last instalment of the Nearby Nature Project for 2022. I fell short of my intention to to publish as new edition of the Nearby Nature Project each month. I hope host country Canada has better success getting governments from around the world to agree to specific actions that will help halt – and even reverse – biodiversity loss. Achieving the target of 30% of lands and oceans conserved by 2030 would be a huge step forward.
How to Improve Nature Connectedness
Among other things, the science of nature connectedness evaluates how a person’s sense of nature connectedness affects psychological well-being and nature-friendly behaviours. The most effective efforts to improve peoples’ relationships with nature may help unite human and planetary well-being. A recently published study (summarized here) found that simply prompting people to regularly engage with nature is a simple and effective way to deepen personal relationships with nature.
This meta-analysis of 36 studies found that the human-nature relationship can be improved, and that this improvement can be sustained. Since many previous studies used nature walks as the means to engage with nature, this study recommends broadening research to include meditation in nature, nature-based art activities and nature-based citizen-science projects. Other areas for future research include trying to isolate specific variables that prompt and deep and lasting relationship with nature; whether spending time with nature alone or with a social group is more effective; and better understanding how the quality of the natural space affects that sense of connection. This latter point has implications for urban design, parks and pathways and more.
Awe of Nature and Well-being
A paper summarizing the findings of two new studies on the effect of awe on well-being positive appears in the February 2023 edition of Science Direct. The key finding? Positive awe (as opposed to fearful awe induced by a natural disaster, for example) improves individual well-being by enhancing nature connectedness. Personal takeaways? Keep tuning into the sense of wonder and awe by noticing nature! And keep making and sharing awe-inspiring nature photographs.
Birdsong Improves Mental Health
A recently-published study found everyday encounters with birds/birdsong are associated with time-lasting improvements in mental health. This is another reinforcement of the idea that humans are deeply connected with nature. Prioritizing green space, including trees and ponds in urban areas, will benefit birds and humans.
Cultivating My Nature Connection
This relatively short, creative non-fiction book brings the reader to the Canadian north, to share two years in the life of a breeding, female polar bear. While author James Raffan uses names to cultivate a deeper relationship between reader and bears, he carefully avoids anthropomorphizing Nanu and her two cubs, Sivu and Kingu.
Raffan’s descriptions of the remarkable adaptations of polar bears are fascinating. I learned a lot about the physiology and behaviours that allow polar bears to survive and thrive in the far north – and why the increasingly late/thin ice on Hudson’s Bay puts them at risk.
What I read stoked my curiosity, to the point I did more reading on polar bears and watched a Zoom presentation on the book, given by the author, recorded shortly after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Think about your own relationship with polar bears. They’ve been turned into cartoons to advertise a multitude of products. They’re a tourist attraction in Churchill, Manitoba. This book invites the reader to move beyond all of that – to consider a world in which our decisions and behaviours “start by considering bears and people, ravens and whales, as one and the same.” In other words, to cultivate a true sense of nature connectedness.
Nearby Nature Project: Fall’s (Abrupt) Transition to Winter
Here in the Bow Valley, we’re used to summer ending in very early September, a few weeks of fall and then the onset of snow and winter conditions. This year was different. Summer hung on and hung on. Golden larch season was about two weeks later than usual. I was still harvesting kale and carrots the first week of October and picked our Norland apple crop the same week.
Yes, shorter daylight hours signaled deciduous trees and shrubs it was time to turn off their food-making process and allow the chlorophyl-supported green colours to fade away. But the additional chemical signals that trigger leaves to actually fall did not have time to fire before we moved straight to winter.
We saw wildflowers blooming on November 1st. Yet nearby ski hills opened just a couple of weeks later. Here are some photos where I tried to capture the mash-up of summer, fall and winter…
I wrote in October that birdfeeder season starts November 1 in Canmore. We hung our feeder and waited patiently. After a few days, mountain chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches were regular visitors.
But then, marauders! The evening of June 10th, hungry elk managed to pull the feeder down from it’s freestanding support pole (about 2.5 meters above ground level) and then used hooves and/or teeth to pull off the lid and get at the sunflower seeds.
I was away from Canmore when Mr. GeoK looked out the window the next morning and wondered where the birdfeeder had gone! Checking our security camera footage, we saw a half-dozen elk in our backyard that evening. Mystery solved!
Mr. GeoK retrieved the pieces. Two parts were broken. Thanks to the kind folks at Brome Bird Care, we received replacement parts a couple of weeks later. I used the down time to thoroughly was all the parts that survived. Once we reassembled the feeder, we had to decide on another hanging location…no sense tempting the elk again!!!
Mr GeoK’s a pretty handy fellow, so he scoured two hardware stores to assemble the various bits and bobs required to hang the feeder from a shelf bracket mounted more than 3 meters up the trunk of one of our pine trees. He rigged a pully system so we can lower the feeder when it needs to be refilled and/or cleaned.
Meanwhile, I hung a suet-block holder from the freestanding pole. It’s been visited by mountain chickadees, red- and white-breasted nuthatches and a Clark’s nutcracker!
I’ll be reading Forest Walking: Discovering the Trees and Woodlands of North America by Peter Wohlleben and Jane Billinghurst this month. Watch for my review in the next instalment of Nearby Nature Project.
Meanwhile, what are you doing to deepen your connection with Nature? Let me know by leaving a comment. I’m always interested in new ideas/projects to support Mother Nature.