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NATURE NOTES - Number 4 September 14, 2020
Our current topic: Why Study nature?
We are going to get a little philosophical in this note. In this world of high tech, computerized society, many people might think that being able to identify trees or birds is just a nice hobby with little real value in the “real world”. Perhaps you could say the same about watching NASCAR or playing golf. If it is fun, you enjoy it, and it’s not harmful, that may be enough. Much has been written the value of peaceful time spent in the out-of-doors on one’s mental and physical health. But let’s go in another direction today.
We read and hear about all of the problems we are having with climate change, endangered species, deforestation, decrease in wildlife populations, polluted streams, etc. Ok, if we are having these problems we need to be doing something about them if we want to continue to share our planet. Do we want politicians, lawyers and journalists doing this?
Consider this: just as a physician needs to learn and understand the complexities and intricacies of the human body before he or she can provide appropriate care, the true naturalist must learn and understand the complexities and intricacies of the nature around him or her before he or she can responsibly balance the use and conservation of the environment. Among those young scouts we are mentoring are the future naturalist and “fixers” of the environment. They need to learn as much as they can in formal and informal settings to prepare them for this task. We need to expose, engage encourage, and excite these scouts. 1968 is not thought to be a big year for the environmental movement (the first Earth Day was in 1970), but in that year, a forest engineer by the name of Baba Dioum from Senegal (not a hot bed of environmental thought) made this statement, that tells so much about why we should study and learn about nature: “For in the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” Who is going to teach, or at least open that door to the scouts we are preparing for the future? Is that reason enough to spend some time learning a little about nature?
For those who might want to get more serious about nature training, consider becoming a Virginia Master Naturalist. This a is a course taught locally at night for several weeks by various subject matter experts on birds, trees, water, geology, insects, reptiles, etc. You don’t have to know much about nature to take the course as it will begin with the basics. I took the training several years ago and it was well worth the time and nominal cost. All of the Blue Ridge Mountains Council area is cover by chapters of the organization and training is offered at many locations. Check it out by going to: