- This article, contributed by Valerie Blaine, nature programs manager of the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, is part of a 15-part series of tips on how to make a positive environmental impact in Kane County.
Tip #11: Connect With Kane County Forest Preserves
As we count down to Earth Day, I’m frazzled. So are my naturalist colleagues.
For us, this season is as crazy as the Christmas holidays are for a retailer. The pace is frenetic, the expectations high, and the to-do list impossible.
So, it’s time to step outdoors, take a deep breath, and contemplate the reason for the season. I’m reminded of the old joke: If people go to the woods to get away from it all, where does a forest ranger go? Seriously, we go to the woods, too.
Why? Because nature is good for us. All of us. There’s a growing body of research that provides hard data to support this concept. Nature is a tonic that can cure what ails us. Or, it can keep us healthy.
Citing the work of numerous research scientists, Florence Williams wrote an eye-catching article on the health benefits of nature in the January 2016 issue of National Geographic. The article, “This is Your Brain on Nature,” has grabbed the attention of many in my field, as it quantifies what we have known intuitively: Nature nurtures.
The fact that nature nurtures isn’t breaking news, but the research is. We’ve had a hunch about this for a long time. Ancient philosophers knew it, indigenous peoples knew it, African shamans knew it, and America’s literary giants like Thoreau, Dickinson, Emerson, and Muir knew it.
The difference between their times and now is significant. There is less nature to be had, and we are increasingly disconnected from the nature that remains.
The electronics revolution has brought many benefits, but it has also brought more ways to live “digitally” indoors. We have severed ourselves from nature, and it hurts.
Across the board, studies are showing that nature lowers stress, enhances cognitive skills, and improves attention. There is a domino effect on many aspects of health and well-being.
Studies have linked nature to reduction in disease and mortality. This has important implications in a society plagued by obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, addiction, and insomnia. Oh, and health insurance.
It turns out you don’t need to be in a remote, million-acre wilderness to enjoy the health benefits of nature. Japanese researchers found that short walks in the woods had great benefits. Your local Kane County Forest Preserve provides the opportunity for that. Research suggests that even living near natural areas has positive results. The green rectangles on a map of Kane County will assure you that there are woods and fields near you.
In parts of the United States, physicians are prescribing outdoor time for patients. Walking outdoors on soil (as opposed to walking indoors on hard surfaces) is a step towards healing from obesity, depression, and a host of ills. South Korea has set aside official “healing forests” where people go to get well.
As environmental psychologists Stephen and Rachel Kaplan wrote, “Imagine a therapy that had no known side effects, was readily available, and could improve your cognitive functioning at zero cost.” The name of the therapy is “interacting with nature.” (Who knew?)
As I write this, my phone is ringing. My Inbox is full. I hear the ding of incoming text messages. I have multiple deadlines and more tasks than there are post-it notes to write them on. It’s the usual race to Earth Day.
So, I’m going to go take a walk in the woods, maybe skip some stones on the creek.
I’ll see you at one of our Earth Day events. You don’t need a prescription note from the doctor — just come on out!
- When: 10 a.m. Saturday, April 21
- Where: Freeman Kame Forest Preserve/Camp Tomo Chi-Chi Knolls, 40W095 Freeman Road, Gilberts
Help plant native shrubs with the Forest Preserve District of Kane County. Holes are pre-dug. Volunteers simply place the shrub, tamp down dirt, water, then mulch. It’s easy!
This is perfect for groups or individuals. All ages are welcome. Be sure to arrive by 10 a.m. sharp. We’ll plant until 1 p.m. or until all shrubs are in the ground, whichever comes first!
Groups of 10 or more, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator at 630-208-8662 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP. Individuals or groups of less than 10 do not need to register in advance.
Earth Day Open House
Earth Day is every day at Creek Bend Nature Center, but this day is extra special! Throughout the day there will be activities for everyone.
Please register by calling 630-444-3190 or email email@example.com.
- 8 a.m. Bird Walk — Learn how to spot birds on this guided walk. If you have binoculars, please bring them. We have a limited number for loan.
- 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Earth Day Garden Workshop — Create a garden-in-a-pot while learning the stories of herbs, flowers, and vegetables. Participants will be provided with a container, plants and all materials needed to create a potted garden. Suitable for families. The fee is $10 per pot.
- 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Native Landscaping 101 — Curious about what a native plant is, and how to garden with natives? This class is for you! Trish Beckjord, a registered landscape architect with The Conservation Foundation, will introduce you to gardening with native plants. She will show how you can start on a small scale by adding just a few native species to your garden, or go all out by using native plants in your overall landscaping. You’ll come away with some great ideas for enhancing your garden and helping the environment! The class is for ages 18 and above. Fee: $10.
- 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Earth Day Nature Hike and Trail Clean-up — Explore the spring woods along Ferson Creek during this guided hike. We’ll look for the first wildflowers, animal habitats, tracks and other fun stuff! All ages are welcome on this free walk.
You can reach Valerie Blaine, nature programs manager for the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the ‘Countdown to Earth Day’ Series!
- Tip #15: Get Inspired!
- Tip #14: 11 Ways You Can Stop Polluting Our Water
- Tip #13: Five Eco-Friendly Home-Maintenance Tips for Four Seasons
- Tip #12: Explore the Fabulous Fox Water Trail