Get an up-close look at a beetle – and other calming distractions
One Change: The natural world – via documentaries, podcasts or simply looking out the window – is about as therapeutic as it gets these days
David Attenborough’s nature documentaries are calming distractions these days
Watching a beetle trying to roll a ball of dung up the side of a sand dune is probably the best thing I’ve done in weeks. The footage of this tiny creature, which lives in the lethally-hot Egyptian desert, comes about halfway through the fifth episode of David Attenborough’s Africa series.
And the bit of dung – deposited by a passing camel – is essential, we discover, because it could provide a lifetime’s supply of food for the beetle if only it can get it to a moist spot to keep it fresh. But it’s not easy; the dung keeps tumbling down the hill and soon, Attenborough tells us, the beetle will “be baked alive”.
Getting up close with the natural world is about as therapeutic as it gets these days. Reminding ourselves that there are entire societies of insects, for example, just trucking on with their daily grind of getting food or not getting devoured by some predator, is a kind of tonic.
Similarly, the footage of faraway places such as the White Desert in Egypt and its strange chalk pillars, give a sense of perspective and wonder at the expanse and diversity of the world and its varied landscapes. (Seeing large open plains, green spaces and sparse expanses of desert – without humans – is also surprisingly calming, it has to be said, in these times of social distancing.)
Climate activist Greta Thunberg has spoken about how nature documentaries were a huge inspiration to her. “That’s what made me decide to do something,” she said, when speaking to Attenborough over Skype last year. Attenborough responded by saying he was very grateful to Thunberg for waking the world up, and “achieving something that many of us who’ve been working on it [climate] for years have failed to achieve”.
Environmentalist and author George Monbiot also made a video with Thunberg last year about the importance of natural climate solutions, such as peat bogs, mangroves, coral reefs and forests.
It’s a positive, short video and is a good reminder of how our appreciation and care for the natural world is key to tackling the climate crisis. If you haven’t listened to How Trees Talk to Each Other, a TED talk by Suzanne Simard, add it to your list. She describes her fascination, as a child, with forests and how that led to her ground-breaking research into how trees communicate.
Now is the perfect time to deepen your knowledge about the environment – and if you can’t get outdoors, get listening or watching online, and enjoy the benefits that slowing down, and tuning into the world of nature can bring.
One Change is a weekly column about the changes we can all make in our daily lives for the good of the planet.