As this will be my 100th post, and also just over a year since I started this blog, I wanted to go back to why I started, and why I think the natural world matters. Hopefully it won’t be too much of an essay!
My fondest early memories all revolve around being out in the natural world, around science, around my family. For me, those things are inextricably linked. My love of science stems from a love of nature, and my love of nature is, at least in part, from how I was raised.
Even today, some of my familial relationships are in part defined by the natural world. The two main things me and my Dad do together is attend York City matches, and go out birdwatching. My relationship with my girlfriend is stronger because we both love nature and can go out, walk, observe, discuss, learn.
Shared experiences strengthen our relationships. If you go out birdwatching, or fossil hunting, or sketching plants and fungi, or foraging for wild fruits and berries, or any of the multitude of other activities you can do outside, you relax. You breath easier. You forget the stresses and pressures of everyday life. Do this with those you love, be it your parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, nephews or nieces, and that calm relaxation influences those relationships. Your connections become that bit easier.
It’s also worth considering how important it is for our physical health to go outside and walk. We constantly hear about an obesity crisis in the UK, and the usual suggestion is that we fix this either through expensive foods, or expensive gym equipment. Yet you can eat healthily by growing your won, and foraging when crops are out. You can exercise perfectly well by walking 3 miles twice a week. So the solutions to our health issues potentially lie outside, and they are free!
I genuinely believe it’s important we all have this sort of connection to the wider world around us. How can you possibly get why some of the wildlife crime done in the name of progress and government in the UK and around the world matters if you are not connected to that wider world?
Having worked with schools many times over my career, it’s a real shame how often I encounter young people that have never seen life outside a city. Young people that genuinely don’t know where food comes from. Even after all their science lessons at school, they cannot connect the facts to the world around them. We can make excuses and try blame others, or shift responsibility. But ultimately if we all just decide we will encourage others to get involved, that will do the job.
We have to show the value of being engaged, of taking an interest, of continuing to learn and grow as people. Our relationship with the natural world is a big part of that. So I try to get outside and walk and observe as much as possible.
I’ll end on this point. A study recently showed there are five ways to improve our mental wellbeing. Now, mental wellbeing is important to everybody. It’s not just an issue for people who happen to have mental problems. We all need to be mentally healthy. Those five ways are Connect, Be Active, Keep Learning, Take Notice, and Give. For me, this describes a walk with friends or family in a wood, or a park, or by a river. You are Giving your time. You Take Notice of what’s around you. As you try to identify the things you see, you Keep Learning. You are out and walking, which means you are Being Active. And finally, you Connect. With your family and friends, but also with the wider natural world of which you are a part. That’s the healthiest state of mind I can imagine.