It’s easy to feel disconnected from nature—our busy modern lives mean we live much of it indoors in front of screens, even if we have better intentions. But there are lots of ways that we can help ourselves and our children gain a greater appreciation for Mother Earth.
Watch a documentary
You’re already in front of a screen – why not put it to good use and watch a few nature documentaries to learn about the kinds of life Mother Earth sustains in different environments or ecosystems? Make a standing eco-viewing night with your family and choose a different animal, location or eco-adventure. Before you know it, you’ll have a team of budding naturalists ready to save the world.
Download an app
Prime up your phone to be a nature-learning tool. With apps like Leafsnap and Audubon’s Bird Guide, you can quickly build your knowledge of local flora and fauna, impressing your friends with bird-call and plant identification.
More importantly, you’ll gain a stronger understanding of how local species interact with and depend upon each other and of the critical role ecosystems play in maintaining the overall health of the environment. It can be a great activity to do with kids, too, and help them to establish a sense of ownership and responsibility for the special resources they’ve come to know.
Take up a hobby
Use those individual apps to develop a hobby such as bird-watching where you “collect” as many species as you can. It may lead to involvement with local organizations that conduct annual bird counts, where you can help keep track of bird migration trends and spot any changes. Some people even help raise monarch butterflies to increase their numbers.
Taking up an activity like protecting butterflies helps you not only to learn about the life cycle of these beautiful insects but also the importance of maintaining milkweed plants and wildflower gardens to ensure they have a place to thrive.
Join an organization
Another great way to gain a genuine appreciation of our planet is to experience a connection to it right in your own backyard. National environmental organizations like the Sierra Club have local chapters where you can get involved with local environmental and wildlife protection, and they offer online and printed publications keeping you up-to-date on issues of importance to Mother Earth.
It’s also a great way to connect with other people who share similar interests, and those folks also can help you gain new insights and appreciations for your local environmental assets.
Some organizations seek volunteers to help with fundraising events, trail-building or other activities. Check your local resources as well for ideas. Some communities have nature centers built on an area of preserved land with trails, nature programs, small museums and special events.
The Rails to Trails Conservancy reclaims abandoned rail beds and turns them into networks of trails that connect communities and provide pathways for runners, bikers, cross-country ski enthusiasts and snowmobilers. Local programs are always seeking interested people to get involved, and it’s a great way to show your kids the joy of giving back.
Eat lunch outside
Already overloaded with activities? Shake up the routine you already have. Step outside your workplace for lunch. Pick a place near water, if you can, or in a wooded area. Turn off your phone, just for a while. Listen to the sounds around you—the birds, the wind in the leaves, the sound of the water.
Spending time in green spaces not only helps us gain a better appreciation for nature; it also has significant impacts on reducing stress and depression as well as increasing our immune system’s ability to fight off viruses. Mother Nature has some serious healing powers, and while we’re out there, we might learn a little more about the unique places our towns and cities have to offer.
Choose an eco-vacation
Ecotourism has grown from a small niche market in the 1990s to today’s mainstream travel market interest, and it’s easy to see why—destinations are often beautiful and remote locations and can incorporate unique experiences that range from rustic to luxury. Some resources can connect travelers to reputable companies that offer travel to natural areas in a way that minimizes impacts both to the local environment and on local populations.
Choosing one of these vacations helps both to support the areas that you visit, and often they have an educational component built in. These kinds of vacations can create a strong interest in a location, culture or issue and help you to grow your understanding of the world.
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