Friday, October 31, 2008

Nature is good for you

Tara Parker-Pope had a great article in the New York Times on Monday that discusses research demonstrating that nature helps alleviate brain fatigue. She writes:

"As it turns out, everyone appears to benefit from the restorative powers of nature. ... The human brain has two forms of attention: “directed” attention, which is what we use most of the time to concentrate on work, studies and tests, and “involuntary” attention, which is what occurs when we automatically respond to things like running water, crying babies or wild animals.

The problem is that directed attention is a finite resource — everyone has experienced the fatigue of taking a test or a big project at work. Attention restoration theory suggests that walks in nature and views of green space capture our involuntary attention, giving our directed attention a needed rest."

This has some interesting implications for the designs of schools, office buildings, and work environments of all kinds, as well as the "design" of the work and educational schedules for everyone. More frequent breaks with more ready access to nature may be justified on many, many levels.

Read More......

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wolf howl

I love the video clip and look forward to a time when we all can hear this no matter where we live in North America. I'm not so sure about some of the commenters on the YouTube site, though. Anthropomorphizing much?

Read More......

Quote of the day

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.

Aldo Leopold, from The Land Ethic in A Sand County Almanac with other essays on conservation from Round River

According to Leopold then, our practice of natural history provides a moral grounding for being able to distinguish right from wrong.

Read More......

Winter birding

Few things get me more excited than being able to emerse myself in the rhythm of the year. Living in New England as I do, I am especially blessed with distinct seasons, each with their own characteristics. Friends who are less enamored of cold climates than I cannot understand how I can possibly live here, but in truth I love winter just as much as any other season. This is in part because the natural world takes on a character all of its own. This is especially true for the birds here. Rather than being devoid of birds as most of our summer residents head south to warmer climates, New England and most of the northern tier of states become the winter home for a wide assortment of birds that move down here from Canada.

But no two years are ever alike. Some years, we see few of these winter migrants; in other years, they are thick as warblers in the summer. Which is why I was so please to see this posting on the VTBIRD discussion list the other day ...

"As many already know PINE SISKINS are waging a very large irruption from Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Ontario, and from Maine south to Georgia already.

"Certainly an invasion of this size has not been seen in many years. An impressive and widespread WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL invasion has also materialized with modest numbers reported at many of the same NE areas as the siskins with a few RED CROSSBILLS mixed in here and there as well.

"PURPLE FINCHES and AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES are also moving in these same areas in good numbers.

"COMMON REDPOLLS also appear to be starting to move in large numbers as reported from Quebec and in lesser numbers at Whitefish Pt. in Michigan.

PINE GROSBEAKS and EVENING GROSBEAKS are showing signs of making at least a small push too."

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! My back yard will be coming to life again, and I get to play one more time with the Rhythm of Life.

Read More......

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What is the Natural History Network ...

... and why have a blog?

Well, my friends, it's like this. Our connection with the other-than-human world--as individuals and as a species--has weakened to the breaking point. Most people spend little time outdoors, have little awareness of the other species that are our neighbors, and have little appreciation for how important our connection to world is. There was a time when people had a purposeful relationship with and awareness of the natural world, and that time has passed.

Two years ago, a group of natural historians founded an organization we call the Natural History Network, whose mission is to promote the values of natural history through discussion and dissemination of ideas and techniques on its successful practice to educators, scientists, artists, writers, the media, and the public at large.

Discussion and dissemination of ideas and techniques ... That's quite a challenge, especially because one's engagement with the natural world is primarily local and personal but the need for a renaissance in natural history is continental (even global) and communal. How can we foster a far-reaching dialog about why natural history matters when for most of us it matters because of what we see, hear, smell, and touch as we live our lives each day? How can we grow a community that promotes a love of the natural world even though we won't be members of the same ecoregions, find inspiration in the same ecosystems, or share an affinity with the same organisms?

One part of the answer is simple. This blog. Our intention is to use this blog as a way for many different authors from around the country to express their ideas and share their experiences with the natural world. Over time, as the posts on this blog grow in number and everyone takes the opportunity to comment on them, our collective exposure to what we see and feel, to what others have learned, and to what tools are available to deeping our awareness will expand.

Tom Fleischner, president of the Natural History Network, has described natural history as "a practice of intentional, focused attentiveness and receptivity to the more-than-human world, guided by honesty and accuracy." Let this blog become part of our practice.

Read More......