10 Ways To Connect With Nature

Nature. Whether it’s the flies that slipped in through the open window or the spider that decides corners should be smoother, we often complain about those little bits of nature in our lives.

These days, we’re all so glued to work, to our smartphones, and inevitably, to ourselves. So much so that I think we’ve lost a big part of our connection to the natural world. You probably remember when you were a child, if you’re pre-2000 that is, riding a bicycle, running through fields, or climbing trees. These days, it’s wearing virtual headsets, shooting through two-dimensional flattened leaves.

But there are many extraordinary ways to connect with nature, even if you live in the city, or you’re busy, there’s no excuse! I’ve chosen some of my personal favourites.

  1. Volunteer At Your Local Animal Sanctuary

Chances are, there’s more than one animal sanctuary, shelter or NGO close to where you live, and chances are that their money is tight and their resources overstretched. While donating is an admirable thing to do, simply donating money can feel impersonal, and sometimes you may not be sure where your money is going. If you love working with animals, then this is a great way to connect with nature, even if it’s in a domestic setting. Helping out around the cattery, feeding the youngsters or simply walking dogs out in the country can be a great stress reliever, with the added benefit that you’re giving something back.

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  1. Bring Nature Into Your Home

The simple addition of a few pot plants and flowers inside your home can do wonders to liven up your spirits. A few beautiful green leaves and some carefully coordinated flowers can really transform a room from a mundane space into one that feels alive. It’s good for the air, too!

  1. Paint, Write, Create Outdoors

Instead of keeping yourself locked indoors like a hermit (an activity my writer husband is most most fond of), get out and create. Leave the laptop at home, grab a notebook or a sketch pad and head out into the open. It could be as simple as a quiet seaside café, or somewhere entirely more rural – Malta has some wonderful outdoor spaces to get out and create, from wonderful hidden caves to expanses of open garigue where there’s plenty of space and little disturbance. A change of scenery is proven to help boost creativity, and even inspire completely new ideas.

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  1. Build A Roof Garden

If you live in an inner-city apartment or a shared building, or if you’re like me and don’t exactly have a garden, make one! Transform your roof, yard or airspace into a green space. Fill it with hanging plants, flowers, some delightful benches, add a bird table or two, and nature will come to you.

  1. Go For A Hike

Hiking is a great way to get the heart rate going. Going hiking gets you some much needed Vitamin D, and you’ll be surprised by all the interesting scenery along the way.

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  1. Horseback Riding

If you don’t feel like traipsing over rocky terrain by yourself, why not go horseback riding. You can opt for a leisurely walk, or perhaps something a bit more intense if you’re confident. There’s nothing quite like the gentle clopping of hooves to set your mind wandering.

  1. Sit By The Sea

The sound of the waves gently rolling against the sand or the rocks has to be one of my favourite sounds, only surpassed by the gentle swish of wind through a woodland. I’m not talking sunbathing or beach lounging, just grab a blanket and a few drinks and sit on the beach at sunset. Talk, or don’t talk. Think, or don’t think: it’s up to you.

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  1. Learn Photography

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a pretty poor photographer, but skill aside, there’s nothing like having a camera in your hand to make you look at nature a little closer. Think you’re not terribly interested in insects and flowers? Try holding a camera.

  1. Go Birdwatching

Birds are everywhere. Whether you can find a local pond, woodland or a designated bird sanctuary of birdwatching space, take a pair of binoculars and keep your eyes peeled. However, make sure you don’t disturb any nests or baby birds! And no feeding them bread.

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  1. Embrace A Healthier Lifestyle

I don’t mean go vegan or suddenly start running marathons. I mean making small, daily lifestyle changes such as eating more fresh fruit and veg, perhaps going shopping at your local farmer’s market instead of the supermarket. If you hate the gym, go for a walk in your local area instead.

As you can see from the list above, I am not talking about any green-movement, hippy, tree-hugging or alternative ideas about ‘feeling the grass beneath your toes and the Earth Mother within you’. Instead I’m talking about realistic, practical suggestions that don’t need any spiritual awakening or higher purpose. If you want to stand on your head and feel the Earth’s vibrations, that’s up to you. For me personally, nature is inspirational enough all on its own.

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I Eat Meat

This is not a blog about activism, or elitism. This is a blog all about what makes us individual, what makes us human. The ability to rationalise, reason, formulate opinions, and to politely agree or disagree.

I eat meat.

I am a passionate wildlife artist, advocate for conservation, and firm believer in animal rights and animal protection.

But yes, I do eat meat.

Meat has been a part of the  human diet for at least the last 2.6 million years, and even our closest living relative the chimpanzee is known to indulge in meat-eating on occasion.

Our teeth are omnivorous, our brains require extremely high-energy foods, and our digestive system resembles more that of a carnivore than a herbivore – we don’t have a four chambered stomach, a rumen, or an appendix that does anything more than go septic and occasionally rupture.

But my argument here is not that meat is or isn’t an important part of our diet. It is about how we can eat it.

I am very lean, so whilst I admire those who adhere to a plant-based diet, I feel that our diet, and mine particularly, should be just that, plant-based, not plant-only. A good dose of healthy protein fuels our brains, our energy levels, and provides us with vital nutrients and minerals that plants simply can’t provide.

I believe that the eating of animals is not ethically wrong, but the way that we consume them certainly is. Nature is cruel; animals are slaughtered on a daily basis; babies ripped from their mothers’ wombs by hungry, slavering predators, wild dogs chewing on the legs of their prey, consuming them alive, or the Komodo dragon, that gives one bite and leaves it victim to die an incredibly slow, painful death from infection.

But nature doesn’t know any better. We humans have the unique perspective of rational thinking, of empathy, and I suspect that this insight developed pretty early on in our meat-eating habit. We developed weapons and hunting tactics to dispose of our prey as quickly and as cleanly as possible, to avoid unnecessary injury to ourselves or our victims.

As the intelligent species, we have a moral obligation, if we do wish to consume meat, to do it in a way that causes the least suffering. Why condemn a hen to a life of confinement, disability, darkness and disembowelment, when that hen can be provided high quality food, adequate movement and a flock? Financial gain, increased productivity and a twisted air of superiority.

There are more cattle than humans on the planet today. The more our human population swells, the more our demand for beef swells with it. Cattle are an enormous contributor to global warming, producing vast amounts of methane, and they require large amounts of land and grain to bring them up to slaughter weight. In fact, cattle need ten times more land then pigs or chickens do.

Switching away from beef, we can perhaps save vast amounts of land and grains that could be directly consumed by humans. We can use this surplus land to raise pigs and chickens in more ethical conditions, giving them sunlight, room to move, socialisation and enough freedom as any pet deserves.

Eating meat is not without its problems. We are rapidly running out of space for ourselves and our need for food. Climate change is exacerbating the problems of drought, famine, over-cultivated and deforested land, making it more and more difficult to grow crops, to feed  our animals.

I have of course, barely touched upon the cruelty of animal slaughterhouses, not because I wish to shy away from the topic, but because this subject is already extremely well-known and contested. But at least there are people within animal husbandry seeking to change this; take Temple Grandin and her work with some of the biggest cattle raisers in the US and around the world, adopting simple yet radical tactics to ease an animal’s suffering once its fate is determined. Even such simple things as changing the way they are led into the slaughterhouses; the colour and the texture of the ground the walk on, can all ease their journey.

As much as I enjoy meat, I feel that it is my responsibility to make the right decision, even though it may be a sacrifice to choose one item over another. I am lucky, I can make that choice. We are victims of our own success; we can raise and enjoy such a huge quantity of beef is a great sign of progress, however, taken to an extreme, the consequences start to outweigh the benefits. There is no need to go to the extremes of raw eating or veganism either, it’s all a matter of common sense, and a little bit of empathy. Obviously eating less meat is good for us health-wise, and environmentally.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/beef-uses-ten-times-more-resources-poultry-dairy-eggs-pork-180952103/

http://www.nature.com/articles/nature16990.epdf?referrer_access_token=Dvw4Oy4jOcYXUeaNGq1HhtRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0M8YcVenEcO7CgRz5HSvoTFoxs-22vo5cVzlc-7sejkjL83ZSX8tCP9TAi4GEE5frJaJMgJRLWWJOIVMjH_elhYqsIPOiJI5TaBhYGLDw1ehi1v_AH5K1C2YWQ4wP9TT8S5w6WQcrc78tOVXtZS8mezAVwWMde_WZRvetX3FPXoo_SnbBgNY1hePpzJ-7oDAA8%3D&tracking_referrer=time.com

http://time.com/4252373/meat-eating-veganism-evolution/

http://theplate.nationalgeographic.com/2015/08/19/temple-grandin-killing-them-softly-at-slaughterhouses-for-30-years/