We're enjoying the Easter long weekend and a few days to slow right down and take time out together with each other and with the world around us. We're always keen to go adventuring, whether it be to visit somewhere new or to revisit a favourite spot and observe changes there. Our most recent adventure was to the bit of land we can see from our kitchen window, on the other side of the river. A totally different landscape to the one we're on, and to many others we've visited. It's soon to be converted to a golf course, so it may not be so easy to visit next time, but I'm glad we made time to visit it this weekend. Days in nature always bring us closer together.
Stopping and observing nature can be a great educator and motivator for change. And change is what we need! This Earth Day, with potentially a few days off up your sleeve, we reckon one of the best things you can do to get motivated to care for the earth and formulate a plan for how you're going to do that, is to get outside. In honour of Earth Day, here's a little excerpt from our book, where we share some of our favourite things to do in nature, and why.
We think that one of the root causes of wastefulness in modern society is a disconnection from nature. There is a tendency for people to feel (and often be) apart from nature, rather than a part of it. But when we observe nature and see it as something we are connected to and part of, we can begin to view it differently. Research shows that a connection with nature promotes the adoption of pro-environmental behaviours and the most effective way to form a connection with nature is to get out in it. So, as far as we’re concerned, it’s absolutely vital for the future of our environment that we experience nature regularly and we provide meaningful experiences in nature for our children.
You can bring yourself a little closer to nature very simply, by spending time in your garden or backyard, or (if you don’t have a yard) at a local park or reserve. Your children may already spend time interacting with nature, making mud pies, collecting insects and climbing trees – we hope they do! Or you can go on bigger adventures that take you into wilder spaces. In any case, here are some ways to broaden your family’s interaction with and observation of nature, by utilising all of the senses and having a little adventure.
Observing different ecosystems in nature gives us clues as to how we can keep our own home systems in balance and it helps us connect with natural processes and nature in general. Observing an ecosystem can be as simple as wandering outside your back door, or going on an adventure further afield and it’s well worth doing at any time of year.
Go on a fungi walk
Fungi are the unsung heroes of native ecosystems. They’re the ultimate zero-wasters. They help to decompose dead and decaying matter and many species have mutualistic relationships with plants. However, it is easy to walk through a forest and overlook these often small, but beautiful, organisms. The easiest place to look for larger fungi is in a wet forest or rainforest, although they occur in almost all ecosystems. You may even notice some in your garden. Fungi can usually be found at any time of year, although autumn tends to be the best time for viewing. Children tend to spot fungi easily, once they’ve got their eye in for them, as their eyes are usually closer to the ground! Take a camera along and see how many species you can find! Our philosophy is to try not to pick or disturb fungi needlessly, so that the next walkers can see and enjoy them!
Hunt for beach treasureOur coastlines are a diverse and interesting place, where things can grow and nutrients collect. They can also be where a lot of our waste ends up, both new and old, so you might like to have a beach clean-up. Otherwise, go for a stroll along a beach and see what treasure you can find there! Children adore treasure hunts and while you’re looking, you can check in with the balance and health of this very fragile and important ecosystem.
Evening neighbourhood walk
Our local areas can look completely different at night time and you may be surprised by the wildlife that is living alongside you most nights, if you go for a wander outside your door. Our neighbourhoods can come alive with possums, bats, owls, cats, foxes, insects and so much more. Urban environments especially, can be spaces where certain nocturnal animals thrive and they can even have a hidden connection to us through the waste we create, or the food that we grow. Make sure you’re warmly dressed, grab a torch and some friends and go for a wander around your local neighbourhood. Spend some time being very quiet and listen to the sounds all around you and just observe what’s going on. How many animals do you see? Is there anything you come across that is unexpected?
While you’re outside, flop on the trampoline or grass, rug up and spend some time looking up at the stars. What do you notice? Do you recognise any constellations? Try drawing lines between stars to invent your own constellations! Consider your place on the planet and in the universe. Remember that you are made of stardust. Tell stories, watch for shooting stars, satellites, look at the moon and enjoy the space and peace of the evening sky.
As this year's Earth Day theme is Protect Our Species, you might like to research local threatened species in your area an consider how you can help them. You might also like to spend Earth Day writing to local councillors, political candidates, or businesses to solve problems and create change. After all, Earth Day began in 1970 as a protest movement, and to tackle all the issues this earth faces, we need to create change quickly, and on all levels.
You can also read about change in our book, "A Family Guide to Waste-Free Living'. It's available in all good bookstores and libraries, or you can find signed copies in our shop. Published by Plum Books.