Why Kids Need Wilderness And Adventure More Than Ever

These days, our kids’ lives are overscheduled, filled with pressure, and can be pretty intense. School, homework, sports and/or other extracurricular activities fill the week and often consumes many weekends as well. We all can feel like there is no time left to fit anything else in. There has to be. Our younger kids and teenagers need wilderness and adventure in their lives and who better to model it to them than us, their parents. I would actually argue that it is more important than a lot of the scheduled activities we have them in now. Wilderness and adventure will help develop them into well-rounded young adults.

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Posted in Children, Nature | Tagged ,

Lessons Learned from Centuries of Indigenous Forest Management

Over centuries, even millennia, indigenous communities have developed interdependent systems of agriculture and forestry that are uniquely suited to the ecological requirements of the land they inhabit. Yet even today says Charles M. Peters, a curator of Botany at the New York Botanical Garden, that skill and knowledge often remain unacknowledged, with some government officials and conservationists arguing that indigenous communities should sometimes be excluded from protected lands that are part of their historical territory.

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Peters — author of the recently published book, Managing the Wild: Stories of People and Plants and Tropical Forests — discusses what he has learned from 35 years of working with indigenous forest communities; explains how indigenous farming, even slash-and-burn agriculture, can actually improve forest health; and reflects on the need to enlist indigenous groups as allies in the struggle to preserve and restore tropical forests.

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Posted in Forest, Indigenous communities, Indigenous knowledge, Indigenous practice | Tagged , , ,

Why Brazil’s New President Poses an Unprecedented Threat to the Amazon

For people concerned about the environment and climate change, U.S. President Donald Trump has proven to be as bad, or worse, than feared. He is in the process of pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement, continues to flatly dismiss the science of human-caused global warming, and has worked ceaselessly to undo environmental regulations and weaken environmental agencies.

Now, however, a new leader has emerged on the world stage who is poised to do even more global environmental damage than Trump. He is Jair Bolsonaro, the recently elected president of Brazil, and his extreme views on the environment, coupled with his control of nearly all the country’s levers of power, means that he is now in a position to do unprecedented harm to the Amazon and the international battle to slow climate change.

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Posted in Amazon, Indigenous knowledge, Indigenous peoples | Tagged , ,

Rivers in the Sky: How Deforestation Is Affecting Global Water Cycles

A growing body of evidence indicates that the continuing destruction of tropical forests is disrupting the movement of water in the atmosphere, causing major shifts in precipitation that could lead to drought in key agricultural areas in China, India, and the U.S. Midwest.

Every tree in the forest is a fountain, sucking water out of the ground through its roots and releasing water vapor into the atmosphere through pores in its foliage. In their billions, they create giant rivers of water in the air – rivers that form clouds and create rainfall hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

But as we shave the planet of trees, we risk drying up these aerial rivers and the lands that depend on them for rain. A growing body of research suggests that this hitherto neglected impact of deforestation could in many continental interiors dwarf the impacts of global climate change. It could dry up the Nile, hobble the Asian monsoon, and desiccate fields from Argentina to the Midwestern United States.

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Read also: Redrawing the Map: How the World’s Climate Zones Are Shifting

Posted in Climate change, Water | Tagged ,

Stark Evidence: A Warmer World Is Sparking More and Bigger Wildfires

The increase in forest fires, seen this summer from North America to the Mediterranean to Siberia, is directly linked to climate change, scientists say. And as the world continues to warm, there will be a greater risk for fires on nearly every continent.

On a single hot, dry day this summer, an astonishing 140 wildfires leaped to life across British Columbia. “Friday, July 7 was just crazy,” says Mike Flannigan, director of the wildland fire partnership at the University of Alberta. A state of emergency was declared. By the end of summer, more than 1,000 fires had been triggered across the Canadian province, burning a record nearly 3 million acres of forest—nearly 10 times the average in British Columbia over the last decade. As the fires got bigger and hotter, even aerial attacks became useless. “It’s like spitting on a campfire,” says Flannigan. “It doesn’t do much other than making a pretty picture for the newspapers.”

Forest fires are natural. But the number and extent of the fires being seen today are not. These fires are man-made, or at least man-worsened.

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Posted in Climate change, Wildfires | Tagged ,

Sparing vs Sharing: The Great Debate Over How to Protect Nature

What is the best way to save nature – to cordon off areas for parks and open space or to integrate conservation measures on working lands? Recent research makes a case for each of these approaches and has reignited a long-standing debate among scientists and conservationists.

It is one of the biggest questions in conservation: Should we be sharing our landscapes with nature by reviving small woodlands and adopting small-scale eco-friendly farming? Or should we instead be sparing large tracts of land for nature’s exclusive use – by creating more national parks and industrializing agriculture on existing farmland?

The argument between “sparing” and “sharing” as a conservation tool has been raging since researchers first coined the terms more than a decade ago. Arguably it began almost half a century before when Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution of high-yielding crop varieties, declared that “by producing more food per unit of cultivated area, more land would be available for other uses, including recreation and wildlife.”

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Posted in Nature | Tagged

Native Knowledge: What Ecologists Are Learning from Indigenous People

From Alaska to Australia, scientists are turning to the knowledge of traditional people for a deeper understanding of the natural world. What they are learning is helping them discover more about everything from melting Arctic ice, to protecting fish stocks, to controlling wildfires.

While he was interviewing Inuit elders in Alaska to find out more about their knowledge of beluga whales and how the mammals might respond to the changing Arctic, researcher Henry Huntington lost track of the conversation as the hunters suddenly switched from the subject of belugas to beavers.

It turned out though, that the hunters were still really talking about whales. There had been an increase in beaver populations, they explained, which had reduced spawning habitat for salmon and other fish, which meant less prey for the belugas and so fewer whales.

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Posted in Ecology, Indigenous knowledge | Tagged ,

On Nature, Human Nature, and the Wealth of the Wilderness

“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — what remains?” Walt Whitman asked in contemplating what makes life worth living, then answered: “Nature remains.” But what happens when nature is in peril, no longer the consolatory constant counted on to remain? A decade before Rachel Carson catalyzed the modern environmental movement, she addressed the urgency of this question in a prescient 1953 letter in response to the government’s merciless assault nature for commercial gain: “The real wealth of the Nation lies in the resources of the earth — soil, water, forests, minerals, and wildlife… Their administration is not properly, and cannot be, a matter of politics.”

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Posted in Nature | Tagged

How the Antarctic Circumpolar Current helps keep Antarctica frozen

The Antarctic Circumpolar Current, or ACC, is the strongest ocean current on our planet. It extends from the sea surface to the bottom of the ocean, and encircles Antarctica.

It is vital for Earth’s health because it keeps Antarctica cool and frozen. It is also changing as the world’s climate warms. Scientists like us are studying the current to find out how it might affect the future of Antarctica’s ice sheets, and the world’s sea levels.

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Posted in Antarctic, Sea-level | Tagged ,

Freeing Towns From the Tyranny of the Automobile

What do we mean when we say that a city is “healthy”? Do we mean that it’s cleaner, safer, and less polluted than others? That its economy is booming? That it spends its taxpayers’ money wisely, on projects that benefit the many over the few? That it prioritizes the building of community—not just in the social but in the physical sense?

Jeff Speck believes that for a city to be described as healthy, it can’t just be one, or even some, of these things; it has to be all of them. And he believes cities can achieve them by committing to the principles of walkability, the idea that communities should be built to meet the needs of pedestrians, not automobiles.

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Read also: Walkable cities

Techniques for Making Cities More Walkable

Posted in City, Walk | Tagged ,