Lockdown is very much a confirmed reality by now. One form of outdoor exercise a day as part of this may seem constrictive, as the majority of people long for the outside world more than ever. But, for those of us living near natural spaces we can take this opportunity to make even more of nature as part of our home.
Consider my daily walk: A small yet vibrant patch of grass next to my house begins the route. Nature seems unaffected by the buildings and concrete that enfold, effortlessly weaving itself through them. Blossom trees reveal hints of pink and the bees have started to show. Artificial noise is non-existent - cars are stationary, planes are grounded and the majority of building works have ceased. Social distancing has tampered with the sound controls. There is birdsong, the only sound cutting through this current silence.
Nature seems unaffected by the buildings and concrete that enfold, effortlessly weaving itself through them.
During the walk, I realise the part humans have always played in the sensory landscape of nature. It is part of our home, a safe space we as individuals have always existed harmoniously with and now can appreciate more as we savour our briefer moments with it. Our aural presence adds to it. We have always added to the natural soundscape talking, breathing and laughing outside. But with the reduction in artificial noise and in our time outside, we are contributing less and paying more attention to the sounds of the natural world. Nature not only shares these sounds but as we engage with nature it also rejuvenates our ability to feel; sunlight cradles us and the rain cleanses us, and we carry these moments with us. We can appreciate the intrinsic need to physically feel through the elements the indoor domestic space denies us. Such exposure to the natural world improves our moods. Spending five minutes outside increases our levels of serotonin, reduces melatonin to help us sleep better, and lowers levels of stress and anxiety.
But with the reduction in artificial noise and in our time outside, we are contributing less and paying more attention to the sounds of the natural world.
Just as we enjoy experiencing nature as part of our home, we can make this a two-way engagement. It is clearer than ever now how nature is inherent to our very humanity and how nature can thrive because of us. However this is a position of privilege. Frontline health workers currently do not have such an opportunity to interact with the natural world, as the domestic space predominates their essential work. Contrasting this is the plight of the homeless and refugees who crave the indoor space rather than nature and the harshness of its elements.
Those of us in a more lucky position must use it and nurture the opportunity to be on the frontline of the climate crisis. Going for a walk, a run, or a cycle can help us understand why having the luxury of the natural world is worth fighting for. We have more of an incentive to do this at the moment as the majority of us will be driving far less during the lockdown. Familiarising ourselves with nature more, we can begin to love it more. There are more direct yet equally simple ways to achieve this. A recent project in Wanstead, part of my local area, saw wildflowers being planted in a nearby park earlier this year to encourage biodiversity. The grass around them was left undisturbed so the new wildlife system could naturalise in a healthy way. Such a small act contributes to helping local ecosystems and their greenery, something we can all do. If you have a garden, you can plant new plants or get bird seed to bring out more local species. If not, it is possible to plant around trees in the streets or nurture communal green patches. Even caring for your own household plants in the domestic space forges our relationship with nature and increases awareness.
Those of us in a more lucky position must use it and nurture the opportunity to be on the frontline of the climate crisis.
As a result of the pandemic there are some new steps we can take. Some local councils, including my own, have currently halted recycling services due to the pandemic. While not everyone will have enough space, even keeping a few of these recyclable items for reuse, creative use or until services resume decreases waste. This is something everyone can do. Other feasible acts such as eating leftover food and limiting waste, although seemingly unrelated, helps nature. By reducing the amount that goes to landfill sites less greenhouse gases are emitted and CO2 levels are reduced. Equally effective is our consumption of animal products. Choosing to eat meat perhaps only a couple of times a week is a small change that can make a huge difference. Animal farming generates more greenhouse gases than all global transport systems combined. As we spend more time cooking and eating at home, minor alterations such as these can help deliver immense change.
As we spend more time cooking and eating at home, minor alterations such as these can help deliver immense change.
If there is anything that this pandemic has taught us, it is how humanity needs nature as part of a safe home space. We can easily enjoy it, engage with it and be constructive in preventing it’s destruction, allowing us to continue reaping the rewards it provides. Most importantly, it is clear how we can easily take the incredibly meaningful steps towards giving back to nature. In doing this we say thank you, demonstrating our appreciation of its place in our lives and helping to ensure that it is not us that prevent its thriving.
Written by Louder Than the Storm Writer Hana Edwards