Tag Archives: nature

Learning and Sharing in the Time of Corona

In these tough days of Covid-19, social distancing and isolation we can also look for the light of opportunity to share and to learn. We are hearing it is possible that physical, face to face events will not be happening for months, until the UK is clear enough for travel for home events, and until the EU is clear for EU events.

Not surprisingly then, we are seeing many events, workshops, exhibitions, film festivals, from book clubs to concerts to design shows, move into the online space.

We have a range of communication platforms to help us do that, from basic to more elaborate and feature rich platforms. It is good to see the virtual world of Second Life being used for Billions of Us – “an (emerging) creative community and collective devoted to using virtual technologies to improve the real world in this time of vast systemic change.” (Thanks to Pam Broviak for sharing this through her Public Works blog. Pam and I met in Second life back in mid 2000’s and then with Paul Wilkinson and Jodie Miners formed Be2Camp – now dormant but Paul has an archive of posts on his ExtranetEvolution blog)

Indeed there is nothing new to online exhibitions and fairs – back in 2014 we used Hyperfair for a number of events, complete with in-world talks, exhibitors and social events a few years ago with (Construction21 and Others) see Sustainability made Cool? Day one at #EXPOC21

A New Normal Built Environment

For us in the built environment, we are starting see that the world of design, construction, supply chains and communications will not be the same post Covid19. We will cannot return to the normal we knew, for that normal is in too many ways responsible for the problems we have now.

Preparing for a new post Covid19 normal must be part of a ‘never waste this crisis’ approach that practices and companies need to take. And now is the time to take that development, when employees are home based, with more time to learn, develop and help shape a future business.

We cannot waste this crisis and we must emerge stronger, ready to address a different environment, when addressing the climate and ecological breakdown will be very high, if not top of the agenda. We have see, through remarkable images of how air quality dramatically improved as activity stopped in Wuhan and Italy. We have seen, after only a short time of ‘shut down’ how nature can thrive, here in the UK (shut down of modern life allows nature to thrive), in the canals of Venice and beyond.

To this end I am running in-house, online inter-active CPD style sessions through Zoom or Teams for a number of my clients, both here in the UK and overseas. (If you are interested in this for your organisation please get in touch)

Zoom Regenerative

A weekly 45 minute Zoom meet up for those interested in learning more or are practising regenerative approaches, in sustainability, in the built environment, in business etc. Each session will feature an introduction or presentation from a regenerative colleague from around the world, followed by a lightly facilitated discussion. Starting on April 7th, I plan Zoom Regenerative to be held Tuesdays at 8pm UK (but possibly shifting an hour or two to allow participation from Australia at a sensible hour)

Link for the Zoom session will be on my twitter feed under hashtags #ZoomRegen

RESTORE COST Newsletter

An extract from my Contribution the the RESTORE Cost Action ..

It is possible that every sustainability practitioner, academic and student globally is now home working. Through communication technologies we can share and discuss the work of RESTORE and regenerative sustainability. There are many working groups discussions taking place through Zoom, but we can do more. For example

LFE (Living Future Europe) has started a weekly Resilience Lounge hosted by Carlo Battisti. (Wednesdays 5pm UK Details)

Martin will be starting a weekly Zoom Regenerative series starting on the 7th April with guest from around the world sharing their regenerative voices, actions and approaches. (Tuesdays 8pm UK Details and #ZoomRegen)

There is a global Transition Town discussion group on Monday 30th hosted by founder Rob Hopkins

There are also many on line book clubs which have caught my eye, for example The Living Mountain as a twitter based book club – search #CoReadingVirus and a Nature Writing Course hosted by Emergence Magazine starting on 5th April 12.00 PST

Connectivity with Nature, its importance to mental and physical health is a key theme that runs through the work and outcomes of RESTORE. It is a sad consequence of housing design and construction over recent decades that many many families are now isolated in homes with no views, no access to nature, and in some cases in city centres with no windows. We will undoubtedly see a rise in mental health, anxiety and domestic violence. You may have noticed an increase in the sharing of nature based images, videos, art and music across social media. This in a small way, may give a little comfort to those without access or views.

Lets use our collective and individual social media accounts to share, and lets use the hashtags #NoticeNature and #CostRestore

Suggested reading In Times of Uncertainty, let nature be your refuge Lucy Jones – author Losing Eden: Why Our Minds Need the Wild.

Monarch Butterfly (see Why is there a Monarch Butterfly on the cover of FutuREstorative …)

Noticing Nature: Secret Sauce for Sustainability

How welcome is the current explosion in the media (books, guides, blogs, articles, tv and radio programmes) on the benefits of connecting with nature.

The first of the 2020 brilliant Out Of Doors series of programme on BBC Radio Scotland was dedicated to connectivity with nature, mostly through trees, in Scotland and beyond, a connectivity that spanned music and art as well as mental and physical health benefits

Connecting with nature should be easy. It surrounds us, and we are ourselves part of nature. From early TQM and worship facilitation days, I used getting out of the classroom, hotel or business conference room for a walk as means of introducing more energy and creativity into the sessions. Indeed my approach to connecting, although not called that in the 1990’s (I referred to this as finding your site spot to think) was to

  • Find a nice spot
  • Sit
  • Notice things
  • Thats it

Today we may add do not share the experience through social media, its yours – something inconceivable back in those 1990’s business or university construction improvement modules.

Yet, as we spend 90%+ of our time indoors, getting out into green space to find that nice spot is not easy for all. We are greening our buildings and spaces with biophilic design, more green landscaping, and great initiatives:

The 10 minute initiative is a USA mayoral programme to ensure everyone in their cities has high-quality park or green space within 10-minute walk of their home or office. Whilst this sounds a great, just try walking in a city for 10, even 5 minutes, through our typical built environments, it is quite a stretch.

We have wonderful green community spaces emerging within our inner cities. I visited the Phoenix Community Garden in London recently as research for a possible community garden in our local Lancashire town. We need more of this.

London contractor Modus, encouraging project staff and operatives to eat lunch in green space through maps showing where they can find green space close to the project.

But connecting with nature is not just about health …

In FutuREstorative I referred to biophilia as the Secret Sauce for Sustainability. The more biophilic connectivity with nature we have within our built environment, the better the access to real nature connectivity, then the better our sustainability behaviour, and importantly the better our creativity and imagination for regenerative climate crisis solutions.

This is reinforced by the current research published from the European Centre for Environment & Human Health looking more closely at the habits of 24,000 in the UK, highlighting:

  • Increase in nature visits led to increase in general environmental behaviour.
  • Increase in nature appreciation was associated with increase in behaviour.
  • Neighbourhood nature had direct and indirect effects via visits and appreciation.
  • Evidence emerged of nature visits compensating for low neighbourhood nature.
  • Effects of neighbourhood nature differed across specific environmental behaviours.

A Winters Note

Standing one day in winter, by the side of a pond near a row of tall elms watching boys sliding, I heard a few short twittering notes of a Nuthatch overhead. It occurred to me how I should describe the note in such a way that it should be infallibly recognised. It is precisely like the sound made by a pebble thrown so as to bounce along ice. This is the winter note.

British Birds in their Haunts 21st edition 1947

There is much in this passage from 70 years ago that illustrates how our relationship with nature is changing. The Nuthatch is a regular visitor to our nut feeders, yet try as I might I cannot distinguish its twittering notes. (Described elsewhere as a rapid trilling ‘chiriririri‘)

We can probably hear, in our inner ear, the sound of a pebble bouncing along ice. On a New Years Eve, on a walk over Cauldale Moor in Cumbria I had the opportunity to bounce pebbles along frozen mini tarns. The sound was more thud-like rather then the chiriririri trill I had been hoping for.

The imaginary of winter, of children sliding on ice is one now deep in memories for many – if it is a memory at all. And as for a row of tall Elms …

And, today in 2020, it is hard to pinpoint just what we would describe as a natural ‘note’ of winter.

Microbiome inspired green infrastructure: rewilding the city, one human body at a time.

person holding photo of roots

Green roofs, living walls, urban green landscape could prove to provide more benefits than first thought. In addition to the obvious nature, biodiversity benefits and the biophilic wellbeing and air benefits, connection to nature can also rewild the microbiome ecosystems within our bodies leading to better health. (Microbiomes are the billions of microbes that live on and within our bodies and regulate our health)

With the first law of ecology, (and that oft quoted John Muir sound bite) that everything is connected, it is not so surprising that the microbiome in our bodies is connected to the wider natural eco-system. A topic I touched on with Specifi building engineers in Leeds recently!

In FutuREstorative I talk of rewilding nature, buildings and people. Rewilding is not just about reintroducing big predators such as the wolf, or reintroducing missing parts of any natural ecosystem chain, but about ‘creating conditions that allow the emergence of natural responsiveness and development’. This is regenerative, not restricting what we allow nature to do, but seeing the the way we design, construct and maintain the built environment as a part of nature, not apart from nature

Yet, the next frontier in rewilding and indeed, in the evolving sustainability nexus of buildings and wellbeing could well be within the human body itself. Researchers are exploring ways to ‘rewild’ the microbiome of urban dwellers whose microbiome state maybe below par (due to urban environments and lack of nature) back a more natural and healthier state.

Challenges 09 00040 g002
A vision for the future: microbiome-inspired green infrastructure (MIGI) and multi-sensorial, multiculturally inclusive, and foraging-friendly green spaces (created by the paper author).

A paper published in the journal Challenges, explores the human body as a holobiont—that is a ‘host along with billions of microbial organisms working symbiotically to form a functioning ecological unit’— that has the potential to enhance both human and planetary health. And the way we design cities can be a vital contribution. In the paper, Jake Robinson of University of Sheffield UK and Jacob Mills and Martin Breed of the University of Adelaide in Australia propose that urban planners focus on creating microbiome-inspired green infrastructure to “innovative living urban features that could potentially enhance public health via health-inducing microbial interactions.”

The paper notes that ‘connecting with nature, both physically and psychologically, has been shown to enhance our health and wellbeing, and adds to other recent calls for the inclusion of the environment-microbiome-health axis in nature–human health research’

A call for microbiome inspired green infrastructure – “innovative living urban features that could potentially enhance public health via health-inducing microbial interactions.” – would certainly widen the project design team to include biologists and microbiome professionals.

Robinson, J.M.; Mills, J.G.; Breed, M.F. “Walking Ecosystems in Microbiome-Inspired Green Infrastructure: An Ecological Perspective on Enhancing Personal and Planetary Health.” Challenges. 2018, 9, 40.

Source (and borrowed inspiration for the title) for this blog post appeared in Anthropocene Magazine in November 2018

Header Image: Jenny Hill, Swinsty Reservoir, United Kingdom, Unsplash

. 

Free Photo Book: NASA Celebrates Earth’s Incredible Natural Beauty

We chose these images because they inspire. They tell a story of a 4.5-billion-year-old planet where there is always something new to see. They tell a story of land, wind, water, ice, and air as they can only be viewed from above. They show us that no matter what the human mind can imagine, no matter what the artist can conceive, there are few things more fantastic and inspiring than the world as it already is. The truth of our planet is just as compelling as any fiction.

Earth,  a free photo book from NASA features stunning imagery captured over the years by various NASA satellites. There is a hardcover version for sale, but you can also download a free pdf, or e-version 

But, better than the free book is the online version that also offers interactive elements and image of the day for the four categories: atmosphere, water, land, and ice and snow.

Moose River, Ontario

Sixty years ago, with the launch of Explorer 1, NASA made its first observations of Earth from space. Fifty years ago, astronauts left Earth orbit for the first time and looked back at our “blue marble.” All of these years later, as we send spacecraft and point our telescopes past the outer edges of the solar system, as we study our planetary neighbors and our Sun in exquisite detail, there remains much to see and explore at home.

Every one of the images in this book is publicly available through the Internet, truly making science accessible to every citizen

Source: Digital Trends

Recent Reading …

This is the first in a regular series covering pieces I have been reading online that I think are worthy of further sharing. Followers on twitter, linkedin and to a lesser degree on Instgram will be aware that I regularly share items relating to sustainability, the built environment and our relationship with the outdoors and nature. However posts there can be flitting and often difficult to track down and return to. They will hopefully have a longer life here.

Articles, papers and images that catch my eye, or as a result of a search I move into my ever growing Instapaper (and occasionally Evernote) Library. This enables me to read offline, and importantly to keep and or return to for reference: here are a few recents:

Sustainability

Patagonia is in business to save our home planet  For the past 45 years, Patagonia has been a business at the cutting edge of environmental activism, sustainable supply chains, and advocacy for public lands and the outdoors. Its mission has long been “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”But for Yvon Chouinard, that’s not enough. So this week, the 80-year-old company founder and Marcario informed employees that the company’s mission statement has changed to something more direct, urgent, and crystal clear: “Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.”

Chasing the Sun by Linda Geddes review – why we don’t get enough natural light. Guardian review of Linda Geddes book exploring the importance of sunlight and circadian rhythms for our wellbeing. Chasing the sun is an interesting insight to add to the current interest in biophilia thinking.

Ten lessons for embedding sustainability across the business Sue Garrard, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership Senior associate and Unilever’s former EVP Sustainable Business, was responsible for leading and embedding the company’s ambitious USLP (the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan) into the business and ensuring progress against its 70-plus time bound targets. Here she provides 10 lessons for embedding sustainability across the business.

To get to a circular economy we have to change not just the cup, but the culture. Lloyd Alter explores the circular economy in the ‘coffee delivery system’ from the CE 3 principles (to Design out waste and pollution, to Keep products and materials in use, and to Regenerate Natural Systems)


Image food for thought: Disturbing images like this emphasis the need for urgency in our sustainability actions. The Pastoruri glacier, part of the Cordillera Blanca.

Built Environment

Net Gain: A developer’s commitment to enhancing biodiversity. Natural England blog from Louise Clarke, Head of Sustainable Places at Berkeley Group, outlining the organisation’s approach to biodiversity net gain

Manchester commits to making all new buildings ‘net-zero’ by 2028. Edie Article: The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has pledged to ensure that all new buildings erected in the city region will be ‘net-zero’ carbon by 2028

Concrete responsible for 8 per cent of all CO2 emissions. Research by the think tank Chatham House underlines the need for drastic changes in the production and use of concrete, the world’s most used man-made material, because of the way in which cement is made.

Outdoors / Nature

Plantwatch: is sphagnum the most underrated plant on Earth? Sphagnum is probably the most underrated plant on Earth. This humble little moss makes up the bulk of our peat bogs and holds up to 20 times its weight in water. That makes boglands huge sponges that store water, slowing its flow and helping prevent flooding downstream.

What I’ve Been Reading Online Recently. Chris Townsend’s blog that inspired this approach to reshaping what I have been reading.

Image food for thought: Human Modification v Ecological Integrity. Shared at #Rewilding2019

The Search for England’s Forgotten Footpaths.  Article by Sam Knight in The New Yorker on our English footpaths “The Countryside and Rights of Way Act created a new “right to roam” on common land, opening up three million acres of mountains and moor, heath and down, to cyclists, climbers, and dog walkers. It also set an ambitious goal: to record every public path crisscrossing England and Wales by January 1, 2026”

Sustainability, Restorative to Regenerative

Our RESTORE Cost Action publication that records the outputs of the sustainability working group is now available to download from the RESTORE website.  This publication, with contributions from over 20 EU countries is an exploration in progressing a paradigm shift in built environment thinking, from sustainability to restorative sustainability and on to regenerative sustainability.

It presents a reference document for future work of the RESTORE Action, for other Cost Actions and for built environment academia and industry organisations.

Within this publication we have sought to describe and reinforce a new era of sustainability, one that address the impacts, pressures and challenges of our anthropogenic age. Against the background of, and within the context of rapidly changing climate we no longer have the luxury not to seek a new sustainability.

It presents a new sustainability paradigm that moves away from just reducing impact to one that is committed to doing more good, through focused restorative and regenerative strategies and actions.

We have sought to establish a language of regenerative sustainability, one that includes love, place and participation in addition to regenerative approaches to energy, water and resources.

The rise in wellbeing as an element of sustainability is highly significant with many of the main stream standards now evolving to embrace wellbeing, aligning for example with the Well Build standard, or as in the case of the Living Building Challenge recognising the importance of buildings on the health and happiness of its inhabitants.

We can go much further however, though buildings that provide salotogenic co-benefits, improving the mental and physical health of those who work, play and live within our buildings, and in doing so making a significant contribution to wider health care economies.

Through the work on definitions, a worldview of sustainability, living buildings, heritage and eco­nomy, we have identified and explored a number of ‘triggers’ necessary to move us to a future built environment that is ecologically sound, culturally rich, socially just and economically viable:

››› Language – a language for sustainability that inspires, not confuses,

››› Education – inspiring the next generation,

››› Nature – reconnecting buildings with nature that in turn can reconnect people with nature,

››› Place – living buildings that contribute to and enhance stories and culture of the past and share lessons for the future,

››› Economy – moving from limited growth to Regenerative Economies.

The working group definitions, insights, visions and triggers to move us towards a regenerative economy now sets the foundations;

››› for future RESTORE working groups to build upon and to develop,

››› for industry to adopt and implement through adopting regenerative frameworks and standards identified (such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Living Building Challenge) and

››› for education & academia to embrace and include within built environment curriculums.

The built environment is currently a major contribution to climate change, the task before us is to make the shift towards a future build environment that makes responsible contribution to climate solutions.

Welcome to a new era for sustainability