Explore Everyday Nature

How are you celebrating World Environment Day?

Each day of the year is devoted to something special and the on 5th June it is World Environment Day initiated by UNEP. This year 2011 is the International Year of Forests and hence our forests and all the benefits they provide us with are in focus for the celebration. The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (Naturskyddsföreningen) uses the long, bright summer night between 5-6 June to celebrate nature with lots of activities. Check out here (pdf in Swe).
If you are occupied with other things – celebrate by just noticing a tree close to where you live and work, minimize your print outs that particular day or contemplate how trees and forests support your life.

UNEP World Environment Day
2011 International Year for Forests

An old oak tree at the Stockholm Royal City Park

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Let your senses become your nature guide

Many people enjoy being outdoors and experiencing nature. But to be honest, we are doing lots of other things when outdoors than just experiencing nature. For example, spending time with friends and family, talking on mobile phones, listening to music, exercizing, solving troubling work or private issues, trying to remember species’ names or identifying birds. Nature then becomes just background that we pay very little attention to.

Next time you are out there, let your senses guide you to new nature experiences. Give one sense at a time attention:

  • What sounds do you register close and far away, are they soft or sharp, frequent or rare?
  • How does nature feel, what about that tree trunk near by? How does the ground feel under your feet?
  • How does your nose experience nature? This time of year the shifts in temperature and the decomposition of leaves and grasses create palettes of scents.
  • The eyes are our most used sense and also the easiest to explore. One way to challenge your eyesight is to look for details, for example shades of green in a single tree.
  • There are plenty of edible berries, plants and mushrooms to be enjoyed, or why not focus truly on the taste of your picnic food during the break of your nature explorations.

This sensually-guided nature experience was inspired by Hans Landeström in his work on nature-guided therapy.

Enjoy the beauty, taste and smell of Pine needles. image courtesy Sara Borgström

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Mushroom day – September 5th

Monday, August 30th, 2010 | Environment Update, Explore Everyday Nature | No Comments

The first Sunday in September, Sweden, Norway and Denmark have devoted to celebrating mushrooms. If you want to know more about these strange creatures that are neither animals nor plants, this is the time of the year to start. There are plenty of seminars and exhibitions to visit in order to learn more about mushrooms, mostly about those that are visible to us. A central activity is of course to share knowledge about how to find and prepare edible mushrooms. Some are delicious, while others are deadly poisonous – no wonder they are surrounded by mysticism, witchcraft and folklore.

Did you know that:

  • Mold and yeast are fungi.
  • The root system of fungi are essential to many plants’ ability to absorb water and nutrients, therefore you’ll often find certain mushrooms near certain tree species.
  • It is nearly impossible to clean air from fungal spores.
  • The majority of mushrooms are found below ground and their extensive root systems can become more than 100 years old.
  • Lichen are a symbiosis of fungi and algae.
  • There are more than 1.5 million species of fungi in the world.
  • The study of fungi is called mycology.

More about mushroom day in Sweden!

Not to eat, but a joy for the eye. image courtesy Sara Borgström

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The new generation is prospering

It is not silent in nature, but the sounds are different. The birds are not singing to attract each other, they are sounding to scare us away from their nests. There the youngsters are constantly whistling for more food. It is a busy time. Some birds  already  prepare for migrating southwards. For those who stay, it is all about eating and maybe also storage some for the harsher conditions. The days are long, the chlorophyll is pumping sun energy into the biosphere to feed all the newcomers. The flowers are stretching out their colorful petals to attract pollinators to their cups of sweet nectar. The pollen transportation system is the starting of new seeds and next summers display of flowers. Some seeds fill our baskets on the walk, blueberries, raspberries and wild strawberries. Let your youngsters enjoy together with all kids out there!

Wild strawberries in Norrtälje, Sweden. image courtesy: Kim Koblet

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Become a gardener of the wild

Saturday, April 24th, 2010 | Explore Everyday Nature | No Comments

Nature has reawoken and uses each second of light to grow after a long, cold and dark winter. If you have a garden why not try a new perspective? Instead of fighting unwanted nature in your plantings, send out invitations.

  • Design and put up bird boxes in the trees.  From your breakfast table you can follow the everyday life of the European blue tits.  Some inspiration!
  • Create a smörgåsbord for butterflies by sowing seeds of summer meadow herbs. How to get started!
  • Wetlands are a deficit. If you are ambitious and a bit stubborn, why not create a pond where frogs and other amphibians can find a refuge?
  • Don’t have a garden? Set up bird boxes or plant herbs in the green area you visit the most. Some people has even formed groups for “guerilla gardening” that aim to increase the diversity in urban green commons.  Example from London.
A paradise for butterflies and other insekts. image courtesy: Kim Koblet

A paradise for butterflies and other insects. image courtesy: Kim Koblet

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Winter preparations

Monday, November 16th, 2009 | Explore Everyday Nature | No Comments

Winter is here. Still, in many places without below freezing temperatures, ice and snow. One might think that there is almost nothing going on in brown-grayish colored nature. But even if slowed down, nature is not resting. While some organisms prepare for winter others are preparing for spring.

  • Help the birds that struggle for survival when it gets colder. Create a bird feeding place near where you live or on the way to school/work. This becomes a great spot for you to see many different species and also get a chance to observe their behaviour. Try to identify the birds and create a list of all species you have seen during the winter. Check out bird feeding practicalities.
  • What is the “green stuff” covering stones, tree trunks and even walls? November is “happy hour” for moss. When nothing else is growing they enjoy the wet conditions and grow fast. Taking a closer look, you will find a great diversity of form. Some look like palm trees and others like lettuce. Which one is your favorite?  Check out pictures of moss.

    moss, image courtesy: Sara Borgström

    moss, image courtesy: Sara Borgström

  • Become a phenologist. Many plants have already prepared for spring.  Before they slow down and their green parts wither, they make sure that everything is set when the temperature rise and the days become longer. Phenologists observe signs of seasonal changes like bird migrations and the start of flowering. Start right now by looking closer at the tree branches and under the leaves.
Hazel, image courtesy: Sara Borgström

Hazel, image courtesy: Sara Borgström

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It is time for harvest

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009 | Explore Everyday Nature | No Comments

Food is not just found in the supermarket and in the garden, it is everywhere. Autumn is the time for both humans and animals to collect and store food for the winter.

Knowledge about how to use nature in daily life is rapidly disappearing. Ethnobiology includes not only the current use of plants and animals, but also their use across various epochs and cultures, for everything from food and medicines to clothing, tools and housing.

Ask elderly people around you what they used to collect from nature.

Many fruits and berries are rich in vitamin C, which has many important functions in relation to our health. Several can be prepared and stored as jam, jelly or dried.

What berries grow where you live, are they edible and are you allowed to pick them?

Fruits, nuts and berries are not there primarily for us to eat. They contain seeds to be spread. Many of them are colorful and sweet, and in this way entice animals to eat them.

What animals spread the seeds from the fruit, nuts and berries in your region?

Apples, image courtesy: Sara Borgström

Apples, image courtesy: Sara Borgström

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Explore your everyday water-world

Thursday, August 20th, 2009 | Explore Everyday Nature | No Comments

Water is an older connection between people than the Internet! Co-operation concerning irrigation was one reason for the founding of the first cities. Water strongly links our bodies to the Earth’s ecosystems. Before the water in your glass ended up next to you it might have: traveled from the oceans up into the clouds, fallen down as light rain over a forest, absorbed into the trees, evaporated up into the sky again, and fallen down into a river, ending up in the water source of your neighbourhood.

Less than 1 per cent of the earths’ water is readily accessible for human use.
Where does your drinking water come from?

A human being needs 20-50 litres (5-13 gallons) of water daily.
What is the average daily water use per person in your region?

2.5 billion people worldwide lack proper sanitation facilities
Where does your waste water go?

Views of water contribute to the aesthetic values of a landscape
Which is your closest water course?

The fresh-water species populations have been reduced by 50 per cent since 1970.
What fish-species live close to you?

In 2030 nearly half of the world’s population will be living in areas suffering from severe water stress.
What is the water situation in your region?

Source: World Water Week

image courtesy: Sara Borgström

image courtesy: Sara Borgström

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