You may know a robin if you see one in the yard, but would you recognize its song if you heard it?
Kansas is home to hundreds of species of wildflowers. Can you name ten? For how many of those can you give the time of year when they bloom?
These would not have been challenging questions for our pioneer ancestors, nor perhaps for those who still live in the country. But for the vast majority of people who live in urban areas and spend little time outside, knowledge of the natural world is very limited.
At the Great Plains Nature Center, our mission is to connect people with the animals and plants who are also our neighbors. We do so to increase the public’s biological literacy, which has been on the decline for decades, leading to what has been termed “nature deficit disorder”. This can lead to some real problems, because humans are stewards of the Earth and we need a proper understanding of how nature works if we are to take good care of this place. Our health and well-being depends on the integrity of the natural systems that provide us food and water.
Try this. Visit a park or some other natural setting and totally unplug from your devices. Don’t even look at your watch. Breathe. Just sit, listen and observe. Not only will you learn something about our natural neighbors, but you will also be healthier. Numerous studies have established that spending time in nature reduces stress and improves mental clarity. It’s good for the planet and good for you, too!
Jim Mason is director of the Great Plains Nature Center.