Posted on April 3, 2009 @ 08:38:00 AM by Paul Meagher
The topic of climate change is scary for kids as it throws a veil of uncertainty into their futures. It is, in my opinion, necessary to educate kids about climate change so that they might help effect the changes that will be necessary to curb and adapt to climate change. How should we educate kids about climate change?
In the past, I have taken a direct approach by reading a children's book on climate change to my kids so that they could grasp the basic issues. I think they now grasp what climate change is about but that is about as far as they want to go on the topic. If they never had to read or hear about climate change again they would probably be ok with that - again because of the uncertainty it creates about their futures.
One important term that I learned from this book was "Phenology" which is the study of the timing of things that happen over and over again in nature. In a nutshell, the book advocates getting kids involved in phenology projects. Phenology is one of the principal ways we can learn about the concrete effects of climate change because climate change is affecting the timing of many events in our environment - when flowers bloom, when birds arrive, when frogs mate, etc.... Involving kids in phenology is not just a nice way for kids to learn about nature and climate change, it is also arguably necessary to involve kids because 1) value of phenology data is proportional to the number of nature observers there are gathering timing data, and 2) kids doing phenology are performing "citizen science" and not simply doing school work to make a grade. One way kids can "give back" to society is through such citizen science. Many scientists around the world are recognizing the important contribution kids can make to our local and global understanding of climate change and have developed phenology projects that kids can become involved in.
Spring time is a good time to start thinking about involving your kids in a phenology project as nature is starting to come out of dormancy - plants are coming into bloom again; animals are migrating into our areas again; mating rituals are beginning again. We need a thousand eyes watching and recording the timing of these events in our local communities.
Posted on January 26, 2009 @ 08:00:00 AM by Paul Meagher
In this interview, David Holmgren, co-founder of the permaculture movement, discusses the intersection of Peak Oil and Sustainability. David makes a number of interesting points in this interview, one of which is the idea that sustainability should not be conceptualized as a plateau that we might someday achieve. We need to go "beyond sustainability" by thinking about how we will adapt to a future with less available energy because we are quickly depleting our remaining reserves of high quality fossil fuels. This adaptation is not likely to be plateau-like, but it will be in constant flux because each generation will need to find their own sustainable solutions in the context of continually decreasing energy availability.
This is a very philosphical interview which challenges much current economic orthodoxy. It offers a positive outlook on our recessionary times; how it might foster more cooperative solutions, lead to a better food system, and result in less exploitation of the poor. Required viewing for anyone who considers themselves "green".
Posted on December 2, 2008 @ 09:02:00 AM by Paul Meagher
I am starting into a book by Girvan Harrison called Nature's Way: An Introduction to Forest Ecology, 2006, Earthwood Editions: Gagetown, New Brunswick.
On page 5, in the "Pause, Ponder, Postulate & Participate" section, he suggests this exercise:
Sit by yourself for fifteen minutes in the forest. What did you: hear, smell, see, feel... think? Did you think the fifteen minutes would never pass? Why or why not?
I conducted this experiment at a waterfall area in a local park. The forest encroached on the waterfall from either side but the trees were in a mortal struggle with the terrain which consisted of heavy granite rocks on which a seemingly thin layer of soil clung to. Nevertheless there are many small spruce trees rooting in and growing in improbable places. The waterfalls, however, are an inescapable focal point for the location where I found a comfortable bench to sit at for 15 minutes. To get to this location requires climbing or descending fairly treacherous stairs so I was able to enjoy my experiment undisturbed for 15 minutes.
The time went by relatively quickly for me. I checked my watch about half way through, then again near the end, and a final time to confirm that I reached 15 minutes. During that time, what I noticed was a shifting of attention between stimuli in my immediate environment (jets of water spraying of the jutting rocks) and my day-to-day thoughts and worries. The fact that I was focusing on day-to-day thoughts and worries became a bit more obvious to detect, so I tried to focus outwardly on the environment on a regular basis. My time, however, was spent shifting between internal and external phenomonon. The time that I spent "in" nature consisted of:
Some dazzlement time watching the spray coming off the waterfall
Some time being amazed at the purposefulness of water - rushing towards a point of lower energy with no time to waste.
Thought about the amount of water vapor that was coming off the falls and how significant a contribution it might be to the amount of water in the air. Also thought about how the vaporization process wasn't simply a matter of temperature differentials, but also the pulverizing mechanical force of falling water against rock surfaces.
I reflected upon how the water might have flowed before the top of waterfall found its current course. Huge mounds of heavy rock on either side of the waterfall mouth suggests that the water might have collected higher up at one point and eventually wore down the mouth to its current form. How did the rock get here? Volcanic action? Glacial action? What kinds of rocks are they?
This experiment is worth doing again. I learned a few things about nature by trying to be still in nature and observing and thinking about "nature's way". I'm interested in changing the venue and seeing what types of experiences and thoughts a new forest setting might evoke. I found that after the 15 minutes in nature were up and I was walking back to my bike, that there was was a period of hightened attentiveness to nature - I examined the plants that were growing on the thin layer of soil on the valley walls a bit more closely than I have before. I wondered if they were related to Sedums which I found out yesterday are used for green roof tops because they do well in a thin layer of soil like a green roof top. The valley wall was like a green rooftop in that respect. There is a variety of sedum that does well in moist climates called Sedum ternatum.
Before my experiment, I discovered "litchens" growing on some rocks. I've seen "litchens" before, I just didn't have the term to use for them. According to Girvan Harrison, a litchen is "a composite organism formed from the symbiotic association of a true fungus and an alga". They contribute to soil formation by breaking down rocks with their organic acids.
Posted on November 27, 2008 @ 09:48:00 PM by Paul Meagher
I subscribe to The Chronicle Herald news paper. It is the primary daily news source for Nova Scotia where I reside. One of the sections I often skim/read through is the "Obituaries". I often find interesting tidbits in this section.
Today I ready about Bill Silber 1918-2008. One thing that struck me when I read his obituary was his love of nature. Here is an excerpt from his obituary:
Bill and Kaye moved to the Dave Withrow farm in Avondale and continued about the business of farming as he had been raised to do on the neighbouring Will Withrow farm. Compelled to serve his country in the Second World War, he went to basic training in Yarmouth, but along with the other farmers, he was sent home. The farm where they lived and worked and raised their four children, Douglas, Brenda, Carl and Sharon, was a dairy farm. Bill also maintained several orchards, and grew apples, plums, pears, peaches and cherries. Bill loved his farm and toiled long and hard for it to flourish. He was an "old-time" businessman, whose handshake was his word, and he staunchly supported Farmer's Dairy, The Co-op and Avonian Motors. He was also fascinated with many other aspects of country life and enjoyed grafting trees, growing pumpkins, hunting, wood cutting, tapping maple trees, pressing apples for cider, and raising bees for their contribution to his crops and, of course, the honey. The farm bordered the Avon River and Bill owned several boats and spent many hours fishing, coming home with lots of "fish tales".