nature

Resolving To Find The Beast Within

By Amy Miller

There are people who make New Year’s Resolutions and those who think we are silly.

January 1 gives the former a date to wipe the slate clean. On Feb. 1, we might decide to consume less or moisturize more. On March 1, we might swear to eat more healthfully or exercise more diligently. But on Jan. 1, we reinvent ourselves.

The other day I found the kind of inspiration one needs before crafting resolutions. It came from Malaysia in an award-winning documentary about purposefully choosing one’s path. It also happened to be about protecting our planet.

“Man & Nature,” an 8-minute video, was produced on the tropical island of Lankawi and it features Irshad Mobarak, who was a banker before he became a naturalist.

“After five years of banking I realized this is not what I want to do,” said Mobarak, whose sister is my friend in Maine. Mobarak concedes some people may want to be bankers and “that’s fine.” But Mobarak found “I had this connection to nature …I really wanted to get back to.”

Mobarak asks each of us to park ourselves in a corner and watch the birds. He thinks we’ll find they are not so different: they also go through challenges and relationships. If we keep watching we’ll learn how animals protect each other. The squid, for instance, gives an alarm that an animal of prey is coming. And we can learn cooperation from the little bird who attacks the eagle.

“We are caught up as human beings in a fast moving world and we have lost our connection to the environment; this is something that has left us empty,” Mobarak said.

My job at the EPA is to write, to promote a government regulatory agency. But it is also to be part of an organization that aims to give humans and trees and animals a healthier more vibrant connection.

As with many people, my dog is my most intimate connection with nature. When she ate one of our live chickens recently I was reminded that she is still a beast. When she refuses to obey me, I am reminded that the Husky in her is determined genetically to be fiercely independent.

As my New Year’s Resolution, instead of putting on more controls – eat less, exercise more, organize better – I will work on removing some controls. Perhaps I will resolve to honor the beast within and the human connection to nature.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Electronics vs Nature

By Lina Younes

Recently, I went camping with my youngest daughter’s Girl Scouts troop. We went to a camping ground in Maryland. Contrary to nearby Camp Schmidt that has cabins with bunk beds, our camping site was in a wooded area where we had to pitch our own tents.

My daughter was very excited to go on her very first camping trip.  The excitement started during the packing process.  What did we need to take for the trip? These were some of the important issues we needed to address as we got ready. Since we knew that we would be out in tents, a sleeping bag was the first order of business. She was well aware that she needed a flashlight, basic toiletries, etc. Then, she wanted to pack all these portable electronic gadgets and that is where I drew the line. “What if I can’t fall asleep at night? What am I going to do?” It was interesting to see that she hadn’t even thought of the notion of just taking in all the sights and sounds of the night without any electronic gadgets. Are our children so disconnected from nature that they cannot even think of enjoying natural surroundings without a hand-held device?

We were very fortunate to have great weather.  A little brisk in the evening, but it was nice. The camping trip was a great success. The girls had a lot of fun exploring the area, sitting around the campfire, roasting marshmallows and the like. Some of the girls were slightly apprehensive of the thought that we might encounter some scary wildlife in the woods at night.  They were expecting to see some bears or wolves.  The scariest creatures we saw were a few birds, frogs, and plenty of daddy long legs.

When we woke up early morning, some of the girls were surprised to discover the moisture out of the tent. “Why is the ground wet if it didn’t rain?” “Morning dew, honey.”  That was a great opportunity to teach the children about the natural environment. Now, I’m not sure who is more excited about the next camping trip–my daughter or me.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as the Multilingual Communications Liaison. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Reconnect to Nature!

By Wendy Dew

Many children today have a disconnect with nature. Many children have not had the opportunities we had growing up to freely and creatively play outside – running in a field, or tromping through the woods or wading in a stream…

Programs all over the country are popping up to take the lead in getting kids outside in an unstructured, creative play format. One such program in Florida was funded by two Edge of Excellence grants obtained by a local teacher. Funding from the Education Foundation of Sarasota County provided the teacher with the tools to develop interactive nature-based programs for her students. The money covered the cost of binoculars for each student and field guides to watch Florida birds, trees, flowers and butterflies. Thanks to these grants, the teacher was able to obtain additional books for the classroom as well as transportation to local parks. The students truly experienced nature. Their learning experience did not end once they left the parks. The students documented each flower, plant and bird they spotted after identifying them with their field guides.

I remember spending my childhood in the woods watching nature, playing with my friends, and roaming the neighborhood on my bike. I feel kids today are truly missing out on creative play in nature. I think every child should have the opportunity to explore the great outdoors. I think every child should be allowed to develop a sense of place. I think every child should grow up appreciating nature and strive to protect it.

About the author: Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

The New Teen Scene: Leaf Looking!

(c) JVick 2010

(c) JVick 2010

You hear a lot about kids and teens not spending enough time outdoors these days. Teens are constantly “plugged-in” texting and staring at the TV all afternoon, etc. I know when I was growing up we played both outside and inside. This past weekend I was incredibly pleased to see a ton of teens out “leaf looking” at the base of Pikes Peak.

Here in the mountains of Colorado, you always see the “leaf lookers” come out every fall to see the beautiful colors of the changing trees. We always giggle a bit because they are usually older and drive REALLY slow through the mountain roads.

But this year, I was amazed to see how many kids, especially teens, were out enjoying the beautiful fall colors. Teens were running, laughing, taking photos on their phones and sending them to their friends. Nature and texting DO mix!

I think teens and parents hear a lot about getting outside more. I worry it becomes a “to-do-list item” instead of an enjoyable, repeatable experience. So, in my view, let the kids play video games, tweet and text, but balance it out with fun outdoor family or group activities – like going to a favorite hiking trail and seeing all the great fall colors. Make it an annual family event!

About the author: Wendy Dew has been with EPA for 13 years and is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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When You’ve Got a Case of the Blues…See a Specialist…a Prairie Dog!

By Wendy Dew

This past weekend I was feeling a bit blue. So what would any red-blooded American, 30-something female do? I decided to go shopping! On the way to my favorite shopping area there is a super busy intersection where right nearby, believe it or not – a prairie dog colony lives (I know – only in Colorado!). At the intersection there is a large “park and ride” parking lot and a hilly field with tons of prairie dog mounds all over it. I have passed by the area hundreds of times and always try and get a peek at the prairie dogs.

As I headed to the shopping area, I decided to go to the “park and ride” and watch the prairie dogs for a while. The prairie dogs were running, eating, playing and making the funniest little squeaks and peeps. The sun was low in the sky and the field was lit up with golds, oranges and yellows. It was breathtaking! All in the middle of a busy urban area.

Prarie-DogsSitting there watching nature at its best put a really big smile on my face. The antics of the funny little prairie dogs made me laugh and chased my blues away. I think so many of us have forgotten the healing power of our own environment. I think it is so important that kids get exposure to nature, even in little ways, so they can learn to turn to nature when they need a little pick me up.

Well, of course I did go shopping and had a great time! But, when I look back on this day I will remember the nutty little prairie dogs and how they made me smile. I doubt I will remember anything I purchased that day.

About the author: Wendy Dew has been with EPA for 14 years and is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.