by Joan Greene
Recently the Tennessee Naturalist Program sponsored a workshop on Empowering Environmental Advocacy. The class leaders Noah Charney, Executive Director of Radnor to River and Stewart Clifton, former member of the Metro Nashville Council and Planning Commission presented ideas on how normal citizens can make a difference in the politics of environmental advocacy. The bottom line seems to be that as naturalists and lovers of nature we need to:
- Keep our ears to the ground to hear what is going on around us.
- Engage in activities that help us to love the nature around us and introduce others to the wonders of nature in your neighborhood, city/town, state and nation.
- Work with others to find solutions that are win/wins for those who are pushing growth and those who understand that nature needs to be kept in balance and to be protected.
It seems that helping nature is as complex as gaining trust and a relationship with influential policy makers, to as simple as knowing the ratio of white sugar to water for hummingbirds. Be it easy or difficult we are the guardians of our earth. According to earth.org the biggest issues facing our planet in 2021 and beyond are: Poor Governance when it comes to the emission of greenhouse gases, etc., Food Waste, Biodiversity Loss, Plastic Pollution, Deforestation, Air Pollution, Agriculture - specifically global meat consumption and the greenhouse gases released due to this production, Global Warming from Fossil Fuels, Melting Ice Caps, and Food and Water Insecurity.
Overwhelming, but let’s think locally and do little things that can save the life of a tiny bird, prevent erosion into our waterways, or make small changes in our daily lives that, if others follow, will count in the long run.
10 Things to consider in giving nature a helping hand:
- Be observant and aware of changes around where you live, engage in ways to save the environment and develop alliances with others to persuade policy makers to consider the earth first.
- Look out for nature on private land. Whether you own 100’s of acres or a small backyard there are things that you can do that help the wildlife. 2A - Cut down on and eliminate the use of herbicide and pesticides. These chemicals are harmful to everything from butterflies to domestic pets. 2B - Plant pollinator plants. Even potted nectar plants on your balcony or front steps help butterflies and bees. 2C - Prevent soil erosion by planting grasses and plants that stabilize the banks of waterways.
- Cut down on single use plastics, avoid plastic soda straws, think about your purchases and the impact on our planet. Recycle and re-use.
- Don’t put red coloring/dye in your hummingbird water. “North America has lost more than 1 in 4 birds in the last 50 year,” Audubon from a study published in 2019 in the journal Science. Smithsonian’s National Zoo notes that, “Since 1970, bird populations in the U.S. and Canada have declined by 29%, or almost 3 billion birds, signaling a widespread ecological crisis.”
The National Zoo’s formula for hummingbird feeders is:
Ingredients: Refined white sugar and Water
Directions for making safe hummingbird food:
Mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water (for example, 1 cup of sugar with 4 cups of water) until the sugar is dissolved. You do not need to heat the water.
Do NOT add red dye
Fill your hummingbird feeders with the sugar water and place outside. Extra sugar water can be stored in a refrigerator for up to two weeks — make sure no mold has developed before using.
Change feeders every other day and thoroughly clean them each time to prevent harmful mold growth.
For a more local and Tennessee focused resource for caring for hummingbirds check out this link: More on hummingbird food, feeders and etc.
5. Remove threats to our environment. (Many of our volunteers have helped remove invasive plants species from our Tennessee State Parks and Wildlife Reserves. - Be mindful of livestock grazing and the clearing of land. - Do not bring or release non-native wildlife into an area.)
6. Keep a Field Journal to record what you see in your own backyard or as you visit state and local parks. As a Citizen Scientist your finds and data becomes vital information for conservationists and policy makers.
7. Eat organically, when possible, and buy locally from local farmers and growers. By purchasing locally you are cutting down on your carbon footprint and supporting small farming practices that are often more earth-friendly.
8. Leave nature alone. Every year well-meaning homeowners take baby deer/fawns away from their mother’s, and move fledgling birds from the area of their nest never to be reunited with their parents. According to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “Leave them be — The vast majority of baby birds brought to rescues are fledglings. If the babies are dispersed into the surrounding vegetation, they can avoid predators. The parents keep track of the babies using certain types of calls. We must trust the parent birds to raise the next generation. If they (babies) can hop and flutter on their own, leave them alone. This principle applies to other baby animals including deer, rabbits, and raccoons.” Follow this link for recommendations from the American Humane Society if you find a fawn or bird in your yard.
9. Inspire others to love nature.
- Start a book club. Try one of the following books as a conversation starter: Bringing Nature Home or Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach - both by Douglas W. Tallamy. Other options written by Tennessee Naturalists are The Forest Unseen, by former TNP Chapter Coordinator David George Haskell and Natural Histories: Stories from the Tennessee Valley by Stephen Lyn Bales, former TNP Chapter Coordinator at Ijams.
- Ask neighbors to take a nature walk with you to green spaces, nature reserves or state parks that are near you.
- Speak at Civic Clubs about the value of caring about our planet.
10. Educate yourself - the more you know - the more you can do.
According to environmental groups, “Every minute, forests the size of 20 football fields are cut down. By the year 2030, the planet might have only 10% of its forests; if deforestation isn’t stopped, they could all be gone in less than 100 years.”
The clock is ticking. In small ways and big ways average citizens can make a difference, can speak up for the trees, the birds, the water and land, and the diverse wildlife that make up the threads that are connected and woven together to create our earth.
You Can Help Nature: 10 Ways to Make a Difference