August 6, 2012

Getting Nearer to Nature

By Peter Kleinhenz, Program Intern

Nature seems to be one of those “so close, yet so far away” aspects of our society. We rely on nature for our food, for our water, for our shelter, and even for the air we breathe, yet it seems so…distant. Why is that the case, and what can we do to change it?

Humans, in a sense, belong in the natural world. Recent studies have highlighted the importance of being out in nature as a child and the effect it has on things like attention and the ability to learn. On an even broader scale, nature can teach us so much about the world and the benefits we can all reap from treating it with care. More and more, nature needs all the care it can get which stems from the human race choosing to separate itself from nature at an ever-increasing rate.

If the world is a giant art gallery, humans are tearing masterpieces off the walls and replacing them with framed scribbles on paper. Sure, our society has advanced which requires more buildings, more space, and less nature. But, lately, things have been getting ridiculous. An example here in New Hampshire is the clearing of wetlands and forests for strip malls, to put in the same stores that can be found only blocks away. Have we, as humans, forgotten the beauty of a cascading waterfall, the sounds of migrating birds, or the stillness one can only experience when amidst ancient trees? We are making it harder on ourselves to enjoy a world at its more basic, at its most peaceful, and at its most awe-inspiring. The great news, though, is that there is plenty of nature left, right under our noses, which we can still explore if we just know where and how to look!

I moved to New Hampshire about two months ago and was instantly struck by how few people knew about the awesome places right around them, including the Science Center. The Nature Conservancy, as it does in every state, has done an absolutely fantastic job of protecting the most significant natural areas in the state. Preserves such as Mt. Tenerife, Ossipee Sand Barrens, and Packer Bog are easy to find places that harbor some of the most interesting, and threatened, species of plants and animals in the state. Similar preserves, whether owned by The Nature Conservancy, other private organizations, or the state can be found throughout New Hampshire and provide the eager naturalist with plenty of opportunities to discover nature they may not have the chance to see otherwise. But what if you don’t want to drive all over the state? Don’t worry…nature is closer than you may think.

Even in the face of wanton destruction, nature has a resilience and adaptability that is quite impressive. Because of this, interesting finds can be made close to home at any time of the year, even if the amount of “nature” is minimal. You just have to be out there and keep your senses open. In March and April, follow the sound of calling frogs to vernal pools, where you can literally watch spring arrive on warm, rainy nights as salamanders and frogs migrate to the pools to lay their eggs. From mid-April to mid-May, scan trees for migrating warblers, the jewels of the tree tops, as they pass through during their northern migration. Summer is a great time to see animals raising their young around (and, sometimes, in!) your home, which makes the biting insects at this time of year slightly more tolerable. Fall brings the return of all types of birds as they head for warmer places and the changing leaves make heading out into nature seem like stepping into a dream. Winter might be cold, but it provides anyone with the opportunity to see the tracks of animals they might not even know live in their area. Fishers, bobcats, and mink can be easily followed in the snow and you might be surprised at how close these incredible animals, commonly attributed to wilderness areas, can be found to your home.

The takeaway message from this is…get out! Set off on a new adventure, even if it is right by your house, to discover how good it feels to be connected to nature. Open your mind to all that nature can teach you and use that knowledge to motivate your friends to do the same. Your friends, and you, will be so much better for it.

Links to Help You Get Started:

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