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It is not uncommon for people to think of the natural environment as separate from the built environment. To be fair, it is hard to think of oneself as being part of the natural world when located in urban areas which are surrounded by buildings and concrete as far as the eye can see.
That being said, the truth is that there is no way to escape nature, as we are a part of it! Whether it seems like it or not, our human environments are constantly influenced and affected by nature and natural processes. One of the best ways to illustrate this concept is by discussing natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods.
The climate change sized elephant in the room
These events are impossible to prevent. There is not much we can do in order to stop natural disasters from happening. The truth is that they do occur and will continue to occur due to climate change which exacerbates natural disasters both in terms of frequency and severity.
As you may know, either from firsthand...
Humans are influenced by nature in many different ways. One of those ways is through design. In many cases, we take inspiration from our natural surroundings when it comes to architecture, interior design, and many of our human-made inventions.
While taking inspiration from nature may be something as simple as utilizing natural colour schemes, nature-based design can also be much more complex. Take biomimicry for example.
Making design better!
Biomimicry is the reproduction of natural forms and their functions, to make human-designed objects and machines more efficient. According to the Biomimicry Institute, biomimicry is “an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.”
Some quick examples of biomimicry include:
Do you remember your time as a student where affordable housing meant multiple roommates, and sketchy landlords? Do you perhaps also know a senior who has extra space but lacks good social connections and may be isolated?
An unlikely match: seniors and students
Although these two demographic groups might seem like polar opposites, they actually have housing needs which are quite complimentary.
Let’s look at students first. Students require affordable housing, as they are at a point in their lives where they are trying to finance their education while balancing schoolwork, part-time jobs, and other expenses that occur at this age.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a shortage of affordable housing in many cities around the world. More specifically, affordable housing located on or near university campuses can be quite hard to come by. First of all, a large number of students attending a single university may cause a significant increase in demand for nearby student housing. This...
Should non-human beings and other elements of the natural world have rights? Could granting legal personhood be an important step when it comes to revolutionizing the way we protect nature around the world?
This is a very interesting concept, that although may seem a bit far fetched, is becoming a reality and may have the ability to make a significant difference when it comes to environmental protection!
And actually, when you think about the different environmental ethics that exist, it actually makes a lot of sense for elements of nature to be granted personhood.
Environmental ethics and the rights of nature
Your environmental ethic determines the way you view yourself (or humans in general) in relation to the natural world. Environmental ethics guide our moral relationship with the environment, as it helps us determine what behaviours, actions, and thoughts are ethically right when it comes to human interactions with the natural world.
Environmental ethics can be split into two...
When it comes to incorporating sustainability into the built environment, it is important to acknowledge one key fact: we are living in a highly interconnected and globalized world. This is reflected in the way our cities are designed, as well as the movement of people within and between cities around the world.
This widespread travel within and between cities is able to occur due to the advent of modern transportation methods such as trains, busses, subways, automobiles, and planes. Unfortunately, one particular method of transportation has significantly influenced the design of our cities…and not in a good way!
Yep, you guessed it: the automobile. Automobiles are notorious for their contribution to urban sprawl, the uncontrolled expansion of urban areas.
Thanks to urban sprawl, it has become so much harder to get places on foot or take public transportation as your main method of getting around. For example, many North American cities have been designed specifically for...
For thousands of years, humans have expressed themselves, their emotions, and their experiences through art, whether it be through cave paintings, intricate sculptures, or hastily drawn sketches in the back of a notebook.
More than just a fun pastime, the creation of art can also be thought of as the creation of culture, as these two cannot exist without one another. Art not only contributes to and shapes culture, but reflects culture as well.
Seeing that culture is often thought of as the defining characteristic that separates humans from other living species, it is only natural that humans are drawn to art, whether that be creating or viewing it.
Since art is such a significant part of the human experience, it can, and often is, used as a tool for conveying important messages. I love to see when art is cleverly used as a tool for environmental activism!
Images vs. words
Sometimes numbers and statistics just aren’t enough to make us truly understand the detrimental impacts...
Image sourced from: Ecovillage at Ithaca
It’s no secret that leading an eco-friendly life can sometimes be challenging. But do you know what makes things ten times easier? Community!
After all, it’s hard not to feel discouraged or like the odd one out when your efforts to lessen your environmental impact are not reciprocated by your neighbours or community members. Being surrounded by like minded people creates a beneficial atmosphere where environmentally friendly lifestyle changes, behaviours, projects, and initiatives are encouraged and supported.
This is why there is a plethora of online Facebook groups, neighbourhood meet ups, community clubs and more which strive to facilitate a sense of community for those who are interested in living green.
These small communities are great, but is it possible to create such environmentally friendly communities on a larger scale?
Yes, it is!
Have you ever heard of Ecovillages?
Ecovillages are entire communities which have...
Do you love to spend time outdoors like I do? Are you new to outdoor recreation but appreciate the great opportunities that you are finding in your city or state or province? During the COVID-19 pandemic, people have become reliant on outdoor recreation as a way to interact with our loved ones in a safe manner, get a change of scenery, and stay physically active more than ever before. And this is great! People are discovering or rediscovering their love of the outdoors and getting physically active in nature, which is great for our bodies and for connecting us to nature. And, where there is an outdoor recreational trail, there is also likely a local trail association!
While people are engaging in all kinds of outdoor activities, you may have noticed that some designated walking trails have become substantially busier during the pandemic. It’s no surprise, considering that trails can be used for a number of great recreational activities such as walking or hiking, biking and...
In order to address the issue of climate change, one thing the world needs is for the children of today to be the strong environmental advocates of the future. In fact, why not encourage our children to be environmentalists right now?
After all, climate activists such as Greta Thunberg have proven that young people do care about the environment and are able to contribute to the search for climate change solutions!
Now, how exactly do we raise young environmentalists?
Of course, it is important to educate children about the environmental issues we are currently facing, but doom and gloom isn’t actually the way to go when it comes to encouraging a love and passion for nature!
The key is to foster an emotional connection between children and the environment. Research has shown that compassionate concern for the natural world comes from early contact with nature, empathy for other living creatures, and a sense of fascination and wonder associated with natural elements or...
Are you looking to pick up a couple new books this summer? Before you head to the bookstore and buy something new, keep an eye out for Little Free Libraries in your neighbourhood! Little Free Libraries are collections of books which are housed in public bookcases. You may find these bookcases in public spaces such as parks or outside commercial buildings, or even in your neighbours’ yards.
There’s a chance you may have come across these unique structures in the past. Perhaps you have been unsure about how they work or if the contents of the bookcase are actually free to take. After all, if you are not too familiar with the concept it can feel quite strange to grab a book without signing it out or paying. Rest assured, these public bookcases are filled with books that are completely free to take – no strings attached!
While some public bookcases may be unmarked and unaffiliated with any organization, bookcases which are branded as Little Free Libraries are...
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