I am committed to being outside more this year and learning more about natural history. It’s one of my New Year’s resolutions and one that I fully intend to keep. During this time of the pandemic, social unrest, and personal challenges both large and small, I need a mental reset. I’ll bet you do too.
Remember that last time you stepped outside into a natural space? Chances are the first thing you did was exhale deeply. You may not even realize that you did it. The anticipation, the change of scenery, your perception of something
grander than anything you were just experiencing, subtly coaxed that release of breath.
Nature has a knack for bringing us to our senses, both literally and figuratively. Who couldn’t benefit from that?
On the other hand, please don’t think that I see nature as a docile and altruistic benefactor of humankind. The natural world is not always safe nor tame nor giving. It’s not even always beautiful, though many have bought into the fantasy that this is so.
I am not interested in nature and natural history purely as a philosophical or restorative exercise.
Having had a fairly rigorous scientific education, I understand that we are all part of this closed system called Earth. What happens to one organism affects what will impact another even if it isn’t always immediately evident. Because of this, I want to better understand each part. I want to see the connectedness. I want to see the diversity of adaption to environments. I am eager to delve into the realms of tiny organisms and great beasts. I want to understand the ‘how,’ the ‘why,’ and the ‘what does it mean.”
With luck, I may learn insights into biology-inspired design (i.e. foxes ear-flaps concentrate sound waves), find leads for advancement in human health (i.e. horseshoe crab blood used for COVID-19 testing), or uncover new models for social network organization (i.e. species of ants that don’t wage war on other colonies). Who knows what we will find to inspire us.
Along the way, no doubt, I will pause to marvel at the inherent beauty. I will smile at the cleverness of it all and wonder about what we will next discover.
I hope you will join me.
Commit to learning more about our natural world this year. You don’t have to have any pre-existing knowledge. Just a desire to learn and a willingness to step outside.
You don’t have to focus on the negative aspect of environmental degradation, in fact, I’d encourage you to not. That’s not to suggest that it is not important. Rather, the more you find those points of wonderment the more committed you will ultimately be to preserve, restore, and advocate for them.
After all, within nature lies the keys to our humanity — our compassion, our empathy, and our creativity.
Let’s go outside and learn.