Starting from where you stand

I’m writing this first entry in Brooklyn, New York. Around the city, New York’s eight million (human) residents are moving about their lives on this crisp autumn day. The Dow is hovering just above 10,000; Tim McGraw released an album; the Yankees lead the Angels 2-1 in the ALCS; today’s headline reads “Afghan Leader Said to Accept Runoff Contest.”

At the same time, nature’s rhythms continue, as they have for eons. The shorter days signal changes for both flora and fauna. Fall colors sweep across the land; the reds and golds are just beginning to appear here. Millions of birds pass through the estuaries at the confluence of the Hudson River and the Atlantic Ocean, as they continue their southward journey along the Atlantic flyway…next stop Cape May or Baltimore or DC.

If you’ve come to this post, perhaps you’re interested in the environment around you. This blog will explore ways in which places and people are connected by natural phenomena.

Even as urgency grows around Climate Change (“big E” Environmental issues), the lives of many people are increasingly divorced from the natural world around them (“little e” environments). Our days have become increasingly media-saturated, and attention is at a premium. More than half of the planet’s six billion people now live in urban areas. Folks living in urban and suburban communities of metropolitan areas may be at greatest risk of being disconnected from nature. Can the natural world be a part of popular culture? Can we foster the large-scale behavioral changes needed to address global warming and environmental degradation without also somehow improving awareness of our local environments?

Places are connected by migrating birds and butterflies that reside, at least for a time, beside humans living on the land, connected by oceans, rivers and streams, connected by the winds and rain that cross the landscape, even connected by the disinterested geological shifts grinding away beneath our feet.

How is the nature that you experience connected to the nature here in Brooklyn and other places? Is there a natural “six degrees of separation” between here and there? What does this mean for addressing common concerns about fragmented habitats, pollution, and climate change — or other contemporary issues of our civilization?

I’ve been intrigued by the growing set of movements, such as Slow Food and No Child Left Inside, that offer ways to reorient ourselves to the natural world around us. Folks are thinking more critically about facets of modern life, as well as about the distribution of environmental benefits and burdens. Discussion about things “green” is everywhere. One benefit of the new media landscape is greater access to researchers and advocacy organizations concerned with nature and environment; another is the wonderful world of blogs capturing perspectives on local nature. For me, the Nature Blog Network has been a great place to start. I’ve also enjoyed trying out new tools, like Twitterfall and Lazyfeed, to explore these places virtually.

And so, inspired by these bloggers, I’m starting this blog as part of my inquiry. I look forward to the journey of developing this site — and learning from you about the places and nature near you. Among the things I hope to do is to support interactions among a community of readers who want to look beyond their respective backyards to explore the relationships shared with other places — connected in some way by nature.

I welcome your thoughts. Please let me know what you’re interested in. Suggest resources to read, people to contact, photographers willing to share images (especially of nature near urban areas), and advice about building a blog. I hope this is of value to you.

Folks starting a new endeavor often turn to Lao Tse’s quote from the Tao Te Ching (Daodejing): “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” I recently read suggestions that a better translation of this 6th-century classical Chinese text might be: “A journey of a thousand miles starts under one’s feet,” or “Even the longest journey must start from where you stand.”  In some ways, perhaps this is even more apt for this project.