27 April 2011

This Common Ground is Green

The other day, I happened across an interesting idea on The Nature Conservancy's Web site. A group of young Seattleites has formed to bring together people who share an interest in conserving and connecting with the natural world.

Washington's Next Generation caught my eye for a number of reasons. First, I thought it was cool that the group, which is for people in their 20s and 30s, was getting ready to pick up the baton as a new generation of environmental advocates in a state where the environment is a major focus.

Second, I liked the idea of using The Nature Conservancy's superstructure to form a local group that can further develop the organization's relationship with people. Such an extension contains the promise of fostering greater engagement.

Finally, it's a great example of centering oneself around the environment. The group helps make the environment a common cause and gives people additional opportunities to connect with the natural world.

The message: Regardless of your age, reach out to those around you who share your interest in the environment. Together, you can share resources, information, and encouragement that lets you strengthen your relationship with nature.

26 April 2011

Faulty Connections

A documentary, The Elephant in the Living Room, is exploring the ramifications of allowing people to keep exotic pets. Check out the trailer below.

The issue of exotic pets certainly has plenty of angles to make it interesting: human safety, environmental destruction, animal welfare. Along with these aspects, I have always been interested in what the phenomenon says about our connection to the environment.

To me, the popularity of such pets indicates that people seek to maintain or reestablish a connection with the natural world. In other words, having these animals as pets fills a void left by a general disconnection from nature. However, attempting to domesticate the wild represents a distorted connection, one that puts animals in circumstances that shackle their spirits and places people in danger.

The best indication of the problems in this connection is that most people end up having to give up their exotics because they can no longer control them. In the best case scenario, the animal finds a home behind the fence at some facility that houses and cares for it at a considerable expense. Many times, however, the animals are released into the wild or destroyed.

Some part of us feels a need to affirm our links to the environment, so we should definitely explore healthy ways of doings so. We must remember though that we don't have to lock up nature to experience it, and there is power in even little connections such as going to a park.

24 April 2011

Watch the Birdie

Those of you who will be in the Grays Harbor region of Washington state next weekend should consider attending the Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival, April 29-May1.

The festival takes place at various locations, including the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge, Ocean Shores, Westport, and Lake Quinault. Events include lectures, guided walks, and, of course, bird-watching (birding), and they range in focus for skill level from beginning to advanced. Even those who are just curious about the possibility of becoming birders will find activities fit for them.

At the very least, it's a great opportunity to get out and experience nature and see some cool birds.

For more information about the festival, click here.

17 April 2011

A Day of Reconnecting

Last month, we had Earth Hour. Friday, April 22, is Earth Day.

Because it began as an attempt to produce actions that help improve the environment, Earth Day can sometimes be seen as a time that is just about "saving the planet." After reading some ideas for things to do on Earth Day, I realized that, indeed, I was carrying this faulty assumption.

While it's great if you can turn the day into a chance to limit your carbon footprint (walk or take the bus instead of your car), improve wildlife habitat, or support environmentally friendly policies, you can also make it about relaxing and reconnecting with the natural world. For you, maybe it's a 15 minute stroll outside to get some fresh air, an hourlong walk near the river, a quest to photograph as many different bird species as you can in three hours, or a day at a state park.

Whatever you choose, you can turn this year's Earth Day activity into an initial step, one that you might possibly expand upon next year.

You don't have to be an environmental activist to observe Earth Day. It's about strengthening the connection between people and their environment, and there is no reason you can't reap the benefits of that, so think about setting aside some time (no matter how much) on Friday for an "environmental experience."

06 April 2011

Ideas from Finland

I couldn't continue to use the envirofinn title for this blog if I didn't mention the following story.

Finland's capital city, Helsinki, is developing some new ideas about how to live in the environment.

I think what strikes me most is how the Finns have accounted for and responded to their environment instead of trying to override or conquer it. Another key element is their ability to maximize the use of energy, tapping into the entire cycle and turning the byproducts into additional resources.

Overall, the message is not that this is only feasible because of Helsinki's particular situation; rather, it's a lesson in looking around one's own situation, determining what is possible given the constraints, and committing to the best system for both people and their environment. That's sustainability.

05 April 2011

Something Small, Something Great

We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the horrific story of the event continues to unfold as sea turtles and baby dolphins wash up dead in record numbers this spring.

Although many responded to the spill by denying their responsibility and/or complicity in what happened, an 11-year-old girl got active and sought to make a difference.

Olivia Bouler called the Audubon Society and offered to help. She began selling her bird drawings to raise money for the Gulf cleanup, and she has now released a book of drawings, Olivia's Birds: Saving the Gulf, for the same purpose.

It's heartening to see Olivia step up like this, and her actions send a great message to anyone--adults and children alike--about how to be proactive on environmental issues. Her efforts represent an awesome story about a small act that stood in the face of a massive disaster.

Check out the book. It's available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com, and I'm sure you can find it at other booksellers as well.

01 April 2011

Snap to It

As mentioned in February, the National Wildlife Federation holds an annual photography contest, which includes categories for pros, amateurs, and children 13-17.

This year's contest just began accepting submissions. The deadline is July 14.  Along with submitting, you can also vote for the People's Choice Award.

Check out the Web page here.

Children 12 and under can submit to the Ranger Rick photo contest, which has winners announced every four months with deadlines January 31, May 31, and September 30.