April 22nd 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. In normal circumstances, the event would pass many of us by, assuming just another marketing gimmick or label to hang on a fleeting social media post. This year across the world however, we are being slowed in our tracks, kept inside and encouraged to go about our daily lives in a different manner. I am taking the opportunity to think locally about Forvie of course, but importantly also the links that bind us to the rest of the planet.
Back in 1970 in the United States of America, a staggering 20 million citizens took part in protests demanding change to the way the environment was often mistreated and disregarded by industry and politicians. As a result of the original Earth Day and campaigns by ordinary people in nearly 200 countries worldwide since, laws have been passed and government agencies established to protect nature, reduce pollution and encourage us all to understand the effects our actions can have. Even with amazing technology and invention, the fundamentals remain that we still need clean water, clean air and food if humans are to survive and thrive. Protecting wild sites helps with things like reducing nitrates in drinking water, releasing oxygen to the atmosphere from plants or providing habitat for crop pollinators.
Recreation in outdoor areas has never been valued so much by those able to get out from home and even in usual times, is a vital tool in our nationwide battle against the health and wellbeing crises. This has long been our balancing act at Forvie, to encourage visitors by providing paths and facilities, while informing people about the reserve’s special features and all the time ensuring the nature that depends on the site can continue to live and raise young.
If you are unable to visit the reserve, rest assured there are also less immediate benefits you could be deriving from Scotland’s national nature reserves and other protected sites.
The economic benefit to Scotland from the country’s natural assets has been calculated, from fishing and timber production, which create profit and jobs, to our plants removing particles from the air, saving over £50 million in health costs for heart and lung disease.
Nearly half of all medicines currently in use are derived from natural sources, including aspirin from willow bark and the anti-cancer drug Taxol, from yew trees. How many more are yet to be discovered, from the ever diminishing rain forests or right under our feet at Forvie? Pharmacologists at Robert Gordon University are currently investigating Scottish plants for just such reasons.
While restricted to home, I am enjoying the photography, art and even music that is being inspired by nature just now. There is still time to enter ‘In Tune with Nature’ and submit a song or composition for Forvie. For a bit of fun, here is what Vincent van Gogh may have made of Forvie if he had swapped the south of France for north east Scotland!
The original Earth Day called for our benefits from the natural world to be protected by governments and industry, but today the small ways you can help may add up to just as much. One of the campaigns for Earth Day is to help gather information through Earth Challenge 2020 and all you need is a mobile device. It’s very simple, you just take a photo of any plastic litter you see or the sky, to assess air quality, wherever you are.
Other ideas, which we do at the Forvie office are to #MakeSpaceforNature, by planting wildflowers, or even simpler, allowing daisies and dandelions to grow before we cut the grass. Bees and butterflies can get more nectar from a dandelion than the flowers in most wildflower seed mixes!
We also follow the rules of Refuse (don’t buy it!) Reuse (plastic items reclaimed from the beach), Reduce (share items with other reserves) and Repair (Daryl is a whizz with a screwdriver) before we even Recycle.
Take part in surveys, pick up litter on your daily exercise if safe to do so, always have a shopping bag in the car and look at the things you buy. Ask yourself if they are needed, sustainable, local or plastic-free.
Last week’s blog showed us the joys of creating a wildlife garden, so could you put up a bird, bat or bee box, a squirrel feeder or install a bird bath or even a small pond? I have a bird feeder outside the window of my top floor flat, which is enough to bring in blue tits, robins and a noisy great spotted woodpecker!
It may be my job to look after Forvie, but it is the duty of all us to care for our home, planet Earth. Happy Earth Day everyone, enjoy the natural sights and sounds wherever you are!