Thank you to everyone who voted on photos over the last month or so. This post includes the project that resulted from your votes. I hope you enjoy it and will pass it along to others who might get some pleasure from it as well.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how important nature is to me as a refuge from the noise and stress of the world. Fresh air, flowers, animals (especially invertebrates!), and open space can all help me relax and temporarily forget about politics, disease, work tasks, and other stressors. For me, of course, there’s something particularly special about visiting prairies, where I can wander around and sink into the interconnected lives of all the various species living there. But even just walking into the yard and appreciating the wildflowers and the various insects visiting them is terrific. During the last year, my access to places where I can get those experiences has helped me tremendously.
At the same time, I recognize that nature is not nearly as accessible to most people as it is to me. Some of that is related to physical geography. A huge proportion of the public doesn’t live where nature – or even trees or garden space – is easy to find or get to. Unfortunately, that level of access is also tied to income levels, race, and other factors that reflect injustices in our society.
The other aspect of access to nature, though, has to do with familiarity and comfort level. Regardless of whether or not people live close to gardens, parks, prairies, or other natural settings, a lot of people simply don’t see those places as attractive, interesting, or valuable. That’s a huge problem in a couple ways.
First, of course, people are missing out on the benefits and joys that I, and most of you, receive from spending time in nature. They don’t gain the same stress relief, sense of wonder, or exhilaration of exploration we get from stalking a butterfly on a flower, listening to early morning bird song, or wandering freely through immense open spaces.
The second problem is that the future of conservation relies on the support of the public. Without votes, funding, or simply supportive voices, those of us working to preserve natural areas are fighting a losing battle. That battle, of course, is about more than just protecting pretty places. It also involves sustaining life on this planet, including our own, by protecting the systems that provide fresh air, clean water, food production, and nearly everything else we all rely on. While those benefits are not evenly spread among the people on this planet (see above about racial, income, and other inequities) we all rely on healthy natural systems for survival.
In the coming months, you’ll hear more from me on this theme. I’ve got a couple projects in the works that will share some ideas about how we can all help increase people’s access to, and interest in nature. I care about the topic selfishly – I don’t want my career to be meaningless – but also because I really do think it’s a matter of both human rights and human survival.
HOWEVER, let’s get back to the topic of nature as a respite and refuge. If that’s true for you, I hope the five and half minute video below will give you both peace and pleasure. Please share it with others who might enjoy it. It is intended both as an immediate balm and as a reminder of the resilience and beauty that’s always out there; in prairies, especially, but also more broadly.
Last thing – for those of you reading this during the holidays, I just happened to notice yesterday that my book about my square meter photography project is deeply discounted right now through the University of Iowa Press. If you had been considering buying it but didn’t want to spend $39.99, it is now on sale for only $15! As a reminder, I wrote the book for work, so I don’t get any financial gain from sales. I am, however, very proud of the book and want it to be seen! If you’re interested, click here to link to the order form.
Ok, enough of all that. I hope you enjoy this video, which includes the photos you told me were your favorites from among my 2020 images. Special thanks to my 16-year-old son Daniel for composing and recording the music.
Here’s hoping for a safe, peaceful, and happy new year.