Walking In Wildness, For The Sake Of The World

PreservationThis book to the left, first published the year I was born, was always on the coffee table in the home I grew up in. I have mentioned a high school exposure to Walden–the writing, the place, the idea–and I have been thinking about that recently as I ponder Chan Chich Lodge’s own little aquatic wonder. Thinking, of course, while walking, frequently encountering living relics of prehistoric wildness on those walks. Douglas Brinkley’s tribute to the legacy of Thoreau–the walker, thinker, writer, conservationist–as we approach the bicentennial of his birth a few days from now, is perfectly timed: Continue reading

Swamp Is Not A Bad Word

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The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina and Virginia has been dramatically altered over the past few centuries by human development. Rebecca Wynn/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Thanks to Sarah McCammon at National Public Radio (USA) for this story:

“Drain the swamp” may be a popular political slogan, but it doesn’t always work so well in nature. Continue reading

Maps, Walking & Health

Emily has been reworking the maps for nine miles of walking trails surrounding Chan Chich Lodge. On a typical day I walk 45 minutes at dawn, and 45 minutes at dusk and I have tended to stay on the same trail for the last year. Now I am looking forward to the various loops I had not yet wandered onto, and checking the maps. I tend to believe in the link between nature and health, and especially when walking is involved the benefits are a broader form of wellbeing. Gretchen Reynolds, writing the Phys Ed column for the New York Times has this to say:

For Exercise, Nothing Like the Great Outdoors

Long walks can improve moods and reduce anxiety, but the benefits may be greatest if the walks take place outdoors rather than in a gym, according to a new study by researchers in Austria. And while the Alps may be a particularly fine place to hike, a vigorous walk in the woods or paths near home may provide the mental boost we need to keep us moving.

We all know, by now, that for optimal health, we need to move. Continue reading

Technology, Wilderness & Balance

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An illegally flown drone gives scale to next to a lava tube in Hawaii Volcanoes national park. Photograph: Andrew Studer

Some in the hospitality business will likely embrace technologies that I cannot picture using in our hospitality operations, ever, but that is fine. Good for them, I say. Recent events at Chan Chich Lodge have reinforced my wonder at, and love for, technology as a tool to support conservation. There is no doubt that guest photos of big (or small) cats and monkeys, shared via social media, help our conservation mission. There is no doubt that tech tools such as eBird and Merlin (Belize edition recently released, just in time for Global Big Day for those of us who need it) also move our conservation mission forward.

That said, I still have a preference for digital detox among our guests, as much as possible. Artificial noises, visuals, aromas and structures are best minimized in order to maximize the many benefits of nature. Distractions, which may be normal things and habits quite common at home, are the spoilers of visits to great places. The problem first came to my attention nearly two decades ago while visiting Mont Saint Michel, where helicopter tours were just becoming a thing, which clearly annoyed every individual who was making the wondrous visit on foot.

I hope, but doubt, that such tours have been limited in the time since then. The evidence seems to point to more distractions in monumental places, whether natural or cultural, that had previously been visually and sonically protected (thanks to Sam Levin at the Guardian for this):

‘Turn it off’: how technology is killing the joy of national parks

As drones, smartphones other gadgets invade America’s most tranquil trails, many lament the loss of peace and quiet Continue reading

Winged Muses

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The composer John Luther Adams in Central Park, listening for his winged muses. Credit James Estrin/The New York Times

Occasionally we have reason to think of muses; every day we think of birds. Today birds are the muse. We have linked to this composer’s work once previously, and I am happy with the coincidence of reading again about this composer on Global Big Day in this review by Michael Cooper, Listen to ‘Ten Thousand Birds’ and Its Warbling, Chirping Inspirations:

New York is not usually considered a naturalist’s paradise. But John Luther Adams, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and former environmental activist, did not have to walk far from his Harlem apartment this week to be serenaded in Morningside Park and Central Park by choirs of robins, sparrows, flickers, catbirds and, finally, a wood thrush, with its poignant “ee-o-lay” song.

”That’s the one that started it all for me, 40-however-many years ago,” Mr. Adams, 64, said as he paused in a sun-dappled spot in Central Park’s North Woods to savor the wood thrush’s melody. Continue reading

Happy Plants?

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A dense carpet of woodland perennials. Thomas Rainer, a landscape architect, calls plants “social creatures” that thrive in particular networks. Credit Mark Baldwin

Thanks to the landscape architect Thomas Rainer, and the author, for these observations:

Thomas Rainer and I have both been doing the botanical thing for decades; we know, and use, many of the same plants — and even much of the same horticultural vocabulary. But what he and I see when we look at a butterfly weed or a coneflower, or what we mean when we say familiar words like “layering” or “ground cover,” is surprisingly not synonymous. Continue reading

Biophilia Bathing

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
― John Muir

Muir has long been a muse for many on this site, as we ponder the concept of Biophilia and the power of nature in our lives. We are motivated to work on conservation initiatives for plenty of reasons, including our belief in the link between wellbeing and a fix of nature. From bonsai, bamboo fountains and the meditative sand raking in Zen gardens, the Japanese have a long cultivated the restorative forces of natural elements, so their embrace of forest bathing is no surprise…

The Japanese practice of ‘forest bathing’ is scientifically proven to be good for you

The tonic of the wilderness was Henry David Thoreau’s classic prescription for civilization and its discontents, offered in the 1854 essay Walden: Or, Life in the Woods. Now there’s scientific evidence supporting eco-therapy. The Japanese practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing. Continue reading

Green Farming Productivity

Thanks to Anthropocene, for this article, which adds to today’s green food theme:

On many farms, reducing pesticides probably won’t hurt profit or yields

A Book For Our Times

thunder-lightning-cover.jpgThis book just came back to my attention, after reading a review–excerpt after the jump–many moons ago. I am reminded that it looks worth the read; the publisher’s description may prompt a yawn at first, but let it sink in (i.e. a blurb about a book about weather might make your eyes droop just as the thought of seeds in a vault might, until you let that sink in):

In Thunder & Lightning, Lauren Redniss reveals how weather shapes our world and daily lives. She takes readers on a journey from the Biblical flood to the defeat of the Spanish Armada, from the frozen archipelagos of the Arctic Ocean to the ‘absolute desert’ of Atacama, Chile, unearthing surprising stories of savagery, mystery, and wonder. Continue reading

A Novelist, Birding, Wades In Murky Territory

FranzenWNYC.jpgIn 2012 we started a string of posts featuring him, but have not linked to a Franzen-related birding story in a while. Best in epic category was likely here. Last time might have been here. He would no doubt love Chan Chich Lodge. If you appreciate his passion for birds, you should take a few minutes and listen to this, featuring him during an outing near his home:

Before achieving success as a novelist, Jonathan Franzen couldn’t imagine doing something just for fun.  But now, he’ll spend an entire afternoon dodging puddles of manure for the pleasure of looking at birds, “these very visible, very beautiful, very intelligent bipeds who are a lot like us.” Through the “portal” of birds, Franzen says, we can get to know the natural world.  He took our producer Rhiannon Corby along on a trip to MoonGlow Dairy, near on Monterey Bay, where the birds are as plentiful as the cow pies. Watch your step!

The Nature Fix, Interview & Links

LopateNature.jpgThis is 20 minutes well spent if you share our interest in the links between nature and wellbeing; one hypothesis on this topic we favor being biophilia. But science is the realm of the nonstop quest, so the author’s explanation in this interview, of her motivations and her methodology, are worth hearing.

lopatenat2We have a preference for supporting independent bookstores so if this book goes onto your shopping list, before you otherwise get pulled in the direction of an online superstore, Powell’s is a great option; see what they have to say about the book:

9780393242713_198An intrepid investigation into nature’s restorative benefits by a prize-winning author.

For centuries, poets and philosophers extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods: Beethoven drew inspiration from rocks and trees; Wordsworth composed while tromping over the heath; and Nikola Tesla conceived the electric motor while visiting a park. Intrigued by our storied renewal in the natural world, Florence Williams set out to uncover the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain. Continue reading

Looking Forward To The Debate On Nature As Climate Technology

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We cannot help wondering, with the political upheavals in the USA and Europe, what will become of our commitments to take care of serious environmental issues, and specifically climate change; we are looking forward to this debate on the Intelligence Squared podcast, and will post a reminder when the podcast drops:

NATURE: OUR BEST CLIMATE TECHNOLOGY?

It was historic. The 2015 Paris climate agreement saw every member country of the UN pledge to cut its carbon emissions to zero by the second half of this century and keep global warming at well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

There’s just one problem. To reach this goal the world would need to shut down all of its coal-fired power stations by 2025 and ditch the combustion engine entirely by 2030. To reach its own targets, the UK will need to decarbonise the vast majority of its electricity supply within a mere 15 years. Eliminating fossil fuels this way is going to be extremely challenging. An extra lever is needed to reach the Paris climate targets. But from where? Continue reading

Scientist, Illustrator, Forgotten Metamorphosist

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In some of Merian’s drawings, butterflies and caterpillars didn’t match. CREDIT MARIA SIBYLLA MERIAN, METAMORPHOSIS INSECTORUM SURINAMENSIUM, AMSTERDAM 1705, THE HAGUE, NATIONAL LIBRARY OF THE NETHERLANDS

Any story with Metamorphosis in it is bound to get our attention, but a long-forgotten scientist getting her due is the intrigue that makes this story by JoAnna Klein–A Pioneering Woman of Science Re‑Emerges After 300 Years–coinciding with the republication of this book below, worthy of the read:metamorph

Maria Sibylla Merian, like many European women of the 17th century, stayed busy managing a household and rearing children. But on top of that, Merian, a German-born woman who lived in the Netherlands, also managed a successful career as an artist, botanist, naturalist and entomologist.:

“She was a scientist on the level with a lot of people we spend a lot of time talking about,” said Kay Etheridge, a biologist at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania who has been studying the scientific history of Merian’s work. “She didn’t do as much to change biology as Darwin, but she was significant.” Continue reading

Foraging Fellowship In New York City

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Reishi mushrooms (left) and Trametes versicolor collected in a folded map. ZACK DEZON

Thanks to Wired author Charley Locke for his story MEET THE OBSESSIVE MUSHROOM HUNTERS OF NEW YORK CITY:

ON A PARTICULARLY gorgeous Sunday in October, 30 explorers with the New York Mycological Society met at a cemetery in Brooklyn to hunt for mushrooms.

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Reishi mushrooms on a stump. ZACK DEZON

They rummaged through leaves, carefully inspected the headstones, and gingerly reached into tree trunks, hoping to find something amazing. A turkey tail, perhaps, or hen-of-the-wood. “It was like a scavenger hunt,” says Zack DeZon, a photographer who joined them on the search. “It struck me as the analog equivalent of Pokemon Go.”

DeZon is not particularly enamored with fungus, but a mushroom-obsessed friend’s Instagram feed piqued his interest. The fellow pointed him toward the Mycological Society which has since 1962 catered to those with an interest in mycology and mycophagy. The society, created by the composer John Cage, has 430 members and meets throughout the year to find mushrooms, eat mushrooms, and discuss mushrooms.

Continue reading

Attenborough & Visionary Realism

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Illustration by Jasu Hu

Another from the last issue of the year and part of a series that the New Yorker offers to help us reflect on the big picture (each in this series is a very short read with disproportionate impact):

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH’S EXPLORATION OF NATURE’S MARVELS AND BRUTALITY

His game-changing shows remind us that ours is an impermanent and fragile world.

By Téa Obreht

No trip to the American Museum of Natural History in New York is complete without a visit to the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. It’s a blue-tinged room, booming with surf-roar and the cries of gulls and rimmed with marine dioramas: teeming kelp forests and coral reefs, a walrus lost in thought, dolphins and tuna fleeting through twilit seas. Continue reading

National Park of the Week: Canaima National Park, Venezuela

Photo by Brad Wilson

Best known for its characteristic flat-topped mountain formations known as “tepuis,” Canaima National Park is a geologic marvel that astounds the most experienced geologists and intrepid travelers alike. Between the table-top mountains, grassy savannah blankets the valleys and the perimeters of the tepuis, which cover about 65% of the park. The park is the sixth largest park in the world, measuring  three million (yes, million) hectares, and is located in Venezuela close to the border between Brazil and Guyana.

Continue reading

Planet Earth II

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Planet Earth II has attracted audiences of up to 10.6 million. Photograph: David Willis/BBC

Thanks to the Guardian for this:

Planet Earth II a form of therapy for viewers, says Attenborough

Veteran broadcaster says blockbuster BBC nature show offers audiences respite from their concerns about the world

by Esther Addley

Millions of people are tuning into the BBC’s nature series Planet Earth II because they crave a respite from their concerns about the future of the planet, Sir David Attenborough has said. Continue reading

Agricultural Origin Story

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Various species of ants engage in some kind of agriculture. Here, a leaf-cutter ant gathers food for its fungus farm. Mark Bowler/Science Source

Thanks to National Public Radio (USA):

Who Invented Agriculture First? It Sure Wasn’t Humans

Ants in Fiji farm plants and fertilize them with their poop. And they’ve been doing this for 3 million years, much longer than humans, who began experimenting with farming about 12,000 years ago. Continue reading

National Park of the Week: Manú National Park and Biosphere Reserve, Peru

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Source: andeanamazonexpeditions.com

Containing much of the Peruvian Amazon’s  greatest flora and fauna, Manú National Park is one of the largest protected areas in the world and allows for once-in-a-lifetime sightings of rare and exotic animals.  The park is Peru’s biggest and consists of three parts: the “Cultural or Buffer zone,” where native communities live and tourists can enter unaccompanied, the “Reserved zone,” an area set aside for controlled scientific research and ecotourism, and the “Intangible zone,” the largest section that is strictly for flora and fauna preservation. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Manú offers adventurous travelers lush, untouched Amazon to explore and discover the unmatched beauty of virgin environments and unrestricted wildlife.

Continue reading