Nature conservation is an uphill challenge as human-induced climate change and the way we manage land degrades wild habitats and disrupts wildlife migration, breeding and feeding patterns. Now nature conservation could face another human activity issue in terms of the Right to Roam campaign. Their goal of “free, fair and informed access to nature throughout England” came a step closer when the Labour Party pledged to introduce a Scottish-style right-to-roam law in England. But while we might welcome the freedom to access nature regardless of wealth, how do we balance people’s health and recreational needs with nature’s health and survival?
As autumn passes the baton to winter, we find ourselves slowing down, and shorter days and less sunlight means winter blues and even depression can strike. Colder weather keeps us indoors where there’s plenty of technology to entertain us, but too much screen time can leave us feeling stressed. We’re less connected to the natural world, yet research by The Wildlife Trusts and the University of Essex shows that spending time in nature is good for our health.
Contact with nature reduces anxiety and stress and improves mood, self-esteem, and attention and concentration. Exposure to nature also increases immunity and can help reduce symptoms of ADHD in children. Such is the importance of nature to wellbeing that Richard Louv, co-founder of the Children & Nature Network, describes nature as ‘Vitamin N’.
Winter can be the ideal time for a nature walk and Norfolk the ideal place!
Autumn is my favourite time to get outdoors and go for a walk. Pick a sunny day and the backdrop of blue sky with golden trees takes your breath away. On days like this, my worries float away with the falling leaves.
When life’s stresses weigh me down, a walk in the woods puts the spring back in my step. When I’m breathing in the earthiness of a downpour or watching birds take flight, I feel alive. Continue reading →
I lift the blinds on the back door and there he is. Every morning, the garden birds arrive for breakfast but while other birds wait in the pine trees or gather on the fence, this fledgling sits between the flower pots. As I open the door, he hurries forward to be first in line for the soaked mealworms I sprinkle on the patio and then under the table where he will be safe. I have grown fond of this blackbird fledgling, although I know he is sick. He can no longer fly like his sibling. Continue reading →
We all have favourite books. Some books explore the human condition, helping us understand ourselves and each other. Other books teach us about nature with fascinating stories of wildlife and wilderness. Books that have the power to change us are those that challenge our beliefs and offer new perspectives. These books can lead us to live a more conscientious and compassionate life.
I’d like to share some of my favourite books in the areas of health and wellness, sustainable and ethical living, wildlife conservation, and family and education. These books have enlightened and inspired me to live a more considered life. I hope some of these books may help you in your life too. Continue reading →
Education, communication and cooperation form the cornerstone from which societies build and improve on past ways of living. Whether knowledge is communicated in schools or universities, through media, or within communities, families and social circles, it can prompt us to question our thinking and our behaviour.
With technology linking us across the world, the connection of people and the communication of ideas is a catalyst for global change. Through the internet, we can exchange problems and find solutions.
Rather than welcome vegan diet popularity, vegans are quibbling over terms
I read a post on Plant Based News reporting that health expert Dr Oz dedicated an entire episode of his show to the vegan diet, predicting that veganism is going to be the “single biggest movement of 2017.”
That should be good news for vegans.
But instead of welcoming the rise in popularity of vegan diets and the positive knock-on effect for animal welfare, the environment and human health, some vegans are quibbling over terms. Continue reading →
Help garden birds through the winter and feel the warmth of nature
The rental property we moved to recently was built on land where an old bungalow used to be. Except for three conifers, the garden was cleared and laid to lawn except for an empty flower bed which I turned over the other week hoping to attract robins and blackbirds with worms.
There’s something perverse about teaching children to hunt
The slaying of Cecil the lion last year epitomises everything that’s wrong with a hunting culture that now seems to be more about pleasure and ego. A dentist who learned to shoot when he was five years old hops on a plane from the U.S to Africa and buys himself a baited lion which he slaughters, all for the thrill and the trophy. He doesn’t see the wondrous animal that others see. He sees only himself. Continue reading →
Children in Central Otago see a dark side to the Easter bunny
Easter is a time for celebration, whether it’s the Christian celebration of resurrection, or the Pagan celebration of fertility, symbolised in community Easter egg hunts and the Easter bunny.
What you wouldn’t expect is a family bunny hunt involving the slaughter of 10,000 rabbits. But that’s what happens every year in the Central Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island. The Great Easter Bunny Hunt seems to be a celebration of killing. Continue reading →
Make a decision to lose weight, change career, or have children, and friends and family generally meet the change with excitement and words of encouragement. But tell them you no longer eat meat, fish, or dairy, or even that you’re just thinking about it, and you find yourself being interrogated!
If your reasons for dietary changes are health based, you risk the usual ill-informed response that you can’t be healthy without meat. But if your reasons are ethics based, be prepared for an even rougher ride. Continue reading →
December wasn’t an easy month to be dairy free, but thinking of calves taken from their mothers kept me on track
I was already considering the next stage of my journey in eating more ethically, but the exposure of dairy industry cruelty was the motivation I needed. After witnessing the abuse of bobby calves, it was time for change. Continue reading →
The agreement by 195 countries at the Paris Climate Change Conference is a landmark consensus that climate change is a global problem requiring global commitment. Some people believe spiralling populations and associated development in India and China is the biggest issue. Others believe greenhouse gas emission control will be ineffective with the growing trend of factory farming. Not only do farm animals produce methane, but forests are felled to plant crops for animal feed.
Another question often asked when considering climate change and the depletion of non-renewable resources is why should we care about future generations? Don’t we just live the life we want and leave future generations to deal with the fallout? Continue reading →
A poem in the style of restaurant discourse to highlight the plight of New Zealand’s native birds
Although native birds are no longer (officially) eaten in New Zealand, I appeal to the reader’s sense of taste, while simultaneously stirring repulsion of how wild birds are killed.
Native birds are facing increasing threats from non-native predators such as possums, rats, stoats, cats and dogs, and also from human behaviour such as irresponsible pet ownership, beach and car use, hunting, longline fishing, overfishing and oil spills. Continue reading →
It’s easy to overlook the local nature in our gardens and neighbourhood, but regular contact helps us tap into our roots
Unless we’re lucky enough to live in the countryside, if we want to spend time in nature, we might wait for a day when we can head to a nature reserve, a wildlife sanctuary, or the coast. But in our busy life, days can turn to weeks, and weeks to months while we miss out on local nature.
Truth is that for many of us, the benefits of time in nature can be enjoyed much closer to home. Continue reading →
A story of the stresses of urban life and the need for respite in nature
The car won’t start. Flat battery. It looks like I’ll have to catch the bus. But I’ve not been on a bus for years. Anxiety charges through me.
I’ve psyched myself up and I’m ready to go, but it’s pouring with rain. The windows will be steamed up and I won’t see a thing. I’ll have to rub a circle to see out and hope that my breath doesn’t fill the space faster than I can take in the view of the hills. Then there’s the smell of damp raincoats. I loathe the smell of damp raincoats. Continue reading →
I’ve never seen an elephant in the wild, yet these majestic, intelligent, social mammals stir strong emotion. Fostering an orphan is a way of helping
I’ve long known the African elephant is endangered. But until I started writing about wildlife conservation and animal welfare, I wasn’t aware of the complexity of their survival problem. Continue reading →
Spending time in nature has many health benefits, yet we find ourselves more removed from the natural world
In economically developed countries, we enjoy medical and technological advances that improve our health and lifespan. We have education, transport, energy, and communication systems that give us greater opportunities for careers, business and travel, as well as a more comfortable lifestyle.
Scientific research backs up what conservation groups and nature enthusiasts know: spending time in nature is good for us
Research is increasingly showing the importance of a public health focus on disease prevention, with nature gaining ground as a natural approach to tackle a range of health problems. Continue reading →
Animals feel pain and suffering, so why do we deny them equal consideration, placing human preferences above compassion?
Calf in a veal crate
Philosopher Peter Singer criticises philosophy for failing to challenge accepted beliefs. He argues for a change in traditional Western ethics, which is human-centred or anthropocentric and which denies any direct moral obligation to the natural environment. In his book All Animals are Equal (1986), Singer calls for a change in attitude that gives animals equality of consideration regardless of any differences in their capabilities compared to humans. He makes a strong case for a shake-up in our cultural thinking. Continue reading →
An extract from my short memoir on searching for New Zealand’s owl
The memoir tells the story of a trip I made with my daughter to a small island in the Hauraki Gulf during her study on vocalisations of morepork, or ruru in Maori. I felt privileged to follow and watch this beautiful owl and my daughter in their natural habitat. Continue reading →
The winter carolings of Hardy’s frail thrush send a poignant message
My favourite poem, The Darkling Thrush highlights Hardy’s despair at the changes he witnessed as England’s agricultural based society was impacted by the industrial revolution. The narrator describes a bleak landscape that reflects this despair. He sees a “frail, gaunt, and small” thrush, suggesting that nature is also affected by the changes. Continue reading →
“There is more to life than increasing its speed” – Mahatma Gandhi
Like Gandhi, great thinkers pursue truth and wisdom. Writer and philosopher Henry Thoreau took himself into the wilderness of Walden Pond in search of spiritual harmony and a simpler way of life, and I’ve often thought how restorative such a journey would be. Continue reading →
The recently released World Happiness Report 2015 identifies those countries where people are happiest and highlights the value to economies of considering people’s well-being when determining public policy.
Produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the WHR examines Gallup survey data from 2012-2014 and past data from 2005-2007, looking at changes in reported well-being and happiness, as well as analysing reasons for happiness variation across nations and cultures. Continue reading →
An early education experience for your pre-schooler that teaches life skills, encourages critical thinking and inspires curiosity about their world
Little Cheverells Montessori School lay back from the lane behind a Horse Chestnut tree and hawthorn hedgerow sprayed with white flowers. Having started a diploma course at the London School of Modern Montessori, I was visiting the school to learn more about child-centred early education. Continue reading →
If you feel awe on seeing a breath-taking view, joy on hearing a song thrush’s trills, or contentment on listening to Mozart, you may also enjoy good health
Researchers in a study at UC Berkeley found a biological pathway between positive emotions and good health that involves pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Cytokines are proteins that interact with immune system cells to regulate the inflammatory response to infection, disease and injury. However, sustained high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines can be damaging and are associated with type-2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and clinical depression. Continue reading →