10 ways to connect people to nature

10 ways to connect people to nature

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Danielle Nierenberg
The United Nations’ World Environment Day (WED) is a day dedicated to focusing attention and taking positive action on issues related to the environment. The theme is “Connecting People to Nature,” and is meant to encourage people around the world to think about their connection to nature—including food and agriculture.

blue planet

blue planet

“World Environment Day is the day the planet celebrates our collective love of and reliance on nature. It helps encourage action to protect our environment and fosters a deeper appreciation of our connection to the natural world. With the major environmental challenges we face, we need environmental leadership more than ever,” said Erik Solheim, Head of U.N. Environment.
Nature’s functions in a healthy and sustainable food system—cleaning water, controlling agricultural pests, pollinating and dispersing the world plants—are an integral part of everyday work for billions of farmers around the world. These farmers depend on fertile soil, natural water supplies, and weather conditions to grow crops and raise livestock.
Through our everyday food choices, we can nourish both people and the planet. For example, we can use the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation’s Double Food and Environment Pyramid as a guide of what’s healthy for our bodies and the environment.
This year’s WED theme invites people all over the world to think about their connection to nature and how intimately we all depend on it. Food Tank is highlighting 10 WED events and initiatives taking place around the world to promote environmental wellness.
1. Celebrating biodiversity with Haikus (New York, USA)
The U.N. Development Program (UNDP) has compiled a collection of 82 haiku poems that celebrate the diversity of life on Earth. Haiku is a traditional form of Japanese poetry that takes nature as its focus, centered around a moment in daily life. Contributed by more than 60 friends, family, and colleagues from UNDP and partners, the publication will be presented at UNDP offices on WED. The publication is also available for free download at the UNDP website.
2. Exhibition: “Butterflies in Aragon” (Zaragoza, Spain)
This exhibition highlights both the beauty of butterfly and moth species found in Aragon, Spain, and the increasing risks that these species and other pollinators currently face. Highlighting the vulnerability of numerous species to the effects of climate change, the exhibition informs visitors of citizen and science efforts to contribute to their conservation.
3. Explore your habitat (worldwide)
U.N. Environment and iNaturalist have partnered to help build the world’s largest nature database. They’re asking people to get out this WED and record the wonders of biodiversity in their own backyards, to help discover and keep track of precious plants and wildlife. By downloading the iNaturalist app, people can upload their observations to share with the iNaturalist community to help catalogue biological diversity.
4. Free national park visits (Canada)
As host country for this year’s WED and as part of the country’s 150th Anniversary celebrations, the Canadian government is offering free entry to its national parks, migratory bird sanctuaries, and marine conservation areas. People can also learn about local conservation initiatives and the Ecological Gifts Program, which allows Canadians with ecologically sensitive land to protect nature.
5. King’s Cross World Environment Day Event (London, United Kingdom)
A range of activities are taking place for WED at Pancras Square in Kings Cross, London. London Wildlife Trust will be giving tours of Camley Street Natural Park. The University of the Arts London has developed the Deep Time Walk app, taking participants on a 4.6km journey of the Earth’s history where each meter represents 1 million years. Tours of Two Pancras Square, one of the U.K.’s most environmentally friendly office buildings, are also available for those interested in sustainable design.
6. Litterati – A Global Cleanup (worldwide)
The Litterati is a global community striving to eradicate litter one piece at a time. By downloading an app, users can identify, collect, and geotag the world’s litter, tracking their impact and helping to identify which brands and products are found in specific locations. The Litterati community has mapped and picked up 250,000-plus pieces in 100-plus countries, adding about 5,000 pieces each week.
7. Screening: Racing Extinction (Texas, USA)
To celebrate WED, a free-to-the-public film screening of Racing Extinction is being held at Gilruth Conference Center, Houston, Texas. In Racing Extinction, Oscar-winner Louie Psihoyos assembles a team of artists and activists intent on showing the world never-before-seen images that expose issues of endangered species and mass extinction. Stacy Shutts, Lead for Sustainability at the Johnson Space Center, and Lisa Lin with Rice University will participate in a panel discussion following the film.
8. Web Art Garden (worldwide)
Web Art Garden is an international network of people interested in art, culture, and environmental issues who share experiences from their own ecology through artistic activity. This may include performance, dance, singing, writing, lecture, meditation, and more. Events will be created throughout the world on World Environment Day and shared through the UNEP photo album.
9. World Environment Day Festival (Sunshine Coast, Australia)
Established in 1979 by the Sunshine Coast Environment Council (SCEC), the World Environment Day Festival in Queensland, Australia, hosts a range of activities to inspire an ecologically responsible lifestyle and connect the community. The festival has grown into the region’s biggest environmental event with workshops, art installations, food stalls, and more than forty environment and community groups to connect with and learn from.
10. YogiWalkie (Fégréac, France)
The YogiWalkie is a two-hour hike that combines the techniques of yoga with sensory immersion in nature. Held on June 7, the course weaves through rich forest, waterways, and marshes, highlighting the region’s flora and fauna. Emphasizing local biodiversity, the YogieWalkie aims to promote conservation efforts in the region.
(Danielle Nierenberg is the president, Food Tank. <danielle@foodtank.com>)

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