By Rhiannon Jehu
This time of year is for sitting back, dreaming and planning, so I’m going to write a few thoughts here. In one of my blogs last spring, I discussed how connecting with nature can help a person feel physically and mentally fitter, while Covid has highlighted the importance of connecting with people we care about. Some friends recently started up a Cocaine Anonymous group in Lerwick. CA is a 12-step programme open to anyone who wants to stop using addictive chemicals, legal or illegal, or who wants to stop gambling. I love the motto; ‘Hope, Faith, Courage’ and so will use these as headings here.
Hope- a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen
Da Voar-Redd-Up joined forces with the Marine Conservation Society’s national beach clean project some time ago. The MCS use the information they gather (with our help) to identify areas for action and improvement and to communicate this to governments and other organisations. They have found that:
- the average litter recorded per 100 metres (across the UK) has dropped to 385 items in 2019
- the number of single-use plastic bags has dropped from an average of 13 in 2013 to 3 in 2021
COP 26 was a massive event for 2021 and though it didn’t achieve what everybody wanted, there was some good news for the sea- the UN has agreed to hold annual ‘ocean dialogues’.
The Marine Conservation Society offered some positives too:
- Between 60-70% of UK fish stocks are now sustainably harvested.
- We have a large number of Marine Protected Areas on paper and where these are fully protected, biodiversity increases by an average of 21%.
- Some species of marine mammal are making a comeback with 47% of 124 well assessed marine mammal populations showing a significant increase in recent decades (and 13% decreasing) (Duarte et al, 2020).
Faith- trust or confidence in someone or something even when there is limited proof
Faith is frequently connected with religion, but I ran into the term ‘faith in humanity’ recently. It is defined as:
‘A readiness to see positive aspects in individuals, strangers and subgroups, as well as in those we know. At the same time accepting that the other person may hold different beliefs and opinions. FIH requires a willingness to act on these positive perceptions when interpreting individuals past and present behaviour and when looking to their future actions.’
I want to grow more faith in humanity. I feel I need it as I face the future since, though there are some positive statistics there are also many negative ones. I think that citizen science is one way of making connections and working together across sometimes testy political borders. There are many migratory species that are depending on us. They were ‘citizens of the world’ long before we were.
Added to this, nature is on the move as environmental conditions change. Growing up in Shetland (a scary long time ago) I didn’t know what a wasp was, and I’d never seen a land snail larger than 4mm. Will tomorrow’s children see walruses as ‘common as snails?’
Connecting with others and talking about our experiences and the environment involves learning a new language for me at least. For example, ‘Rewilding’ is a term that is often misunderstood but can be seen as a ’empowering nature’- reinstating natural processes and then trusting nature to look after itself. But having ‘faith in nature’ will take courage.
Courage- the ability to do something that frightens one
I feel that it can take courage to connect with ourselves, to be honest with ourselves, to see and admit our mistakes and to learn from them rather than being ashamed. We are a social species and so connecting with others is important for our health. For me video conferencing app’s like Zoom are a boon. I can stay in Shetland and learn from people from around the world. But I need to stay grounded too – to connect with my neighbours, the people around me and especially with the people who I don’t agree with – to meet them and listen and learn.
Shetlanders are connected to the sea. We are surrounded by a vast, life-giving (kelp) forest that has fed us for generations (a beautiful image I gleaned from a talk by Richard Shucksmith). For my own well-being, connecting with nature helps me to feel calm, exhilarated, joyful. To watch ‘life’; the starlings, the sparrows, the changing seasons, the constantly changing sea and sky. At the MCS AGM a speaker pointed to the single most important thing that we can do as individuals for ourselves and for our planet – it’s a process for creating ‘blue bonds’, paraphrasing;
connect -> value -> love -> care -> share -> protect.
We are all at different points in our journeys but by connecting and sharing our experiences, by being open minded and listening to those around us whether online or face-to-face with children or with the elderly. Connecting with others, connecting with nature, sharing the joy and beauty. I believe that by doing that I can find the hope, faith and courage I need for the coming year.
I’m attaching a range of links here to ideas and activities that you can be a part of. Or, maybe you know someone else who would like to try one:
A journal filled with seasonal ideas for connecting with nature:
A local link to da Voar-Redd-Up planned for April:
Da Voar Redd Up | Shetland Amenity Trust
‘Cycling UK’. A bicycle library where you can borrow a bike, or ebike or get cycling sessions to brush up on skills:
Cycling UK Shetland | Facebook
Connect with nature and create a ‘wheel of time and nature’
Phenology Wheels: Earth Observation Where You Live – Earthzine