Five simple ways to bring nature, and optimism, into your life

Shifting the focus from what’s wrong with our environment to what’s right with it

Luke McCauley (seven) and his brother James (11) on Griffith Avenue in Drumcondra, north Dublin, with conkers they collected. Photograph: Tom Honan

Luke McCauley (seven) and his brother James (11) on Griffith Avenue in Drumcondra, north Dublin, with conkers they collected. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

The study of nature is the oldest science, from which physics, chemistry, biology and ecology emerged. These days, nature is synonymous with the natural environment, consisting of living organisms and the environments they live in. With all of the doom and gloom around the state of nature, including the biodiversity and climate crises, it can be uplifting to focus on nature positivity and conservation optimism.

Losses and changes in nature have been observed, and are predicted to accelerate, due to our unsustainable use of the earth system, but a focus on positivity and optimism can inject some much-needed hope and a positive vision for what we can achieve with action.

Conservation optimism details stories of species recoveries and effective conservation action, demonstrating what is possible when the right action is taken. Nature positivity seeks to set a global goal for nature by 2030 to halt and reverse nature loss and set it on the road to recovery by 2030. Conservation actions can work, nature recovery is possible and ambitious goals at the global scale can motivate the action that we need.

Here are five ways that you can be nature positive in 2022:

1. Experience nature.

The slow return of longer days through late winter and spring helps us to appreciate the role of nature in regulating our mood and improving mental health. The “1,000 hours outside” movement advocates the value of spending time in nature, with lots of examples of how to achieve this. Research shows that just an hour or two a week in nature is beneficial for people’s wellbeing.

If the three hours a day needed for 1,000 hours a year is a bit steep, rest assured that just getting out for 30 minutes a day can give you a nature boost. Reconfigure your Covid-cancelled book club or choir into a walking, hiking or nature club. Take advantage of your neighbours’ gardens to spot birds on a walk around the suburb.

2. Protect the nature around you.

That tatty bit of the garden with long grass and weeds is a wildlife haven for hedgehogs, pollinators and birds. Practise “low mow” and take a break from the lawn mower until mid April and enjoy the dandelions and daisies on your lawn.

Put up a bird feeder and a bird nesting box to attract sparrows, robins or blue tits to celebrate your nature haven. Join your local tidy towns group and join in with their wildlife-friendly gardening activities. Most tidy towns groups have signed up to the evidence-based All Ireland Pollinator Plan.

3. Get involved with groups that work for nature recovery.

There are thousands of volunteers around the country doing brilliant work for nature. The Irish Environmental Network has a list of environmental organisations actively working for nature in Ireland. Many of these groups work locally, with opportunities to meet new people, spend time in nature, get fit and do something positive for the environment.

4. Learn about nature.

By learning about the animals, plants, fungi and environments around us, we uncover a multi-dimensional world of wonder. Until you learn that there is more than one species of moss on a wall, all you see is a sea of green. As you learn more and more species, that sea of green resolves into a complex weave of many shades, textures and shapes.

Learning about nature is like putting on a pair of glasses for the first time: everything suddenly looks sharper and more detailed. On cold, dark days where 1,000 hours outside seems like your worst nightmare, you can learn about nature from the comfort of your own home. Research has shown that watching natural history films sparks a big upsurge in online interest in the species featured.

5. Talk about nature.

Share what you have seen with friends and family. Talk to your local representative about nature and what you would like to see done locally, nationally and internationally to enable more people to get benefits from nature. Nature can speak to us in many ways but it needs advocates so that the many values of nature can be brought to the table where decisions are made.

Yvonne Buckley is an ecologist, Irish Research Council laureate and professor of zoology at Trinity College Dublin

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