Finding beauty all around us on Nature Photography Day

Today, 15 June, is Nature Photography Day. Originally started by the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) to “promote the enjoyment of nature photography, and to explain how images have been used to advance the cause of conservation and protect plants, wildlife, and landscapes locally and worldwide”, I am sure it is a day that most photographers, amateur or professional, will have some affinity for.

Nature Photography Day was first celebrated in 2006, and it has been enthusiastically adopted around the world. As stated on their website, “NANPA encourages people everywhere to enjoy the weekend by using a camera to explore the natural world. A backyard, park, or other place close by can be just right. Walking, hiking, and riding a bike to take photos are activities that don’t lead to a carbon footprint. And fresh air can do wonders for the spirit!” And how true that is – nothing like spending some time in the fresh morning air, camera in hand, to capture the majesty of the natural world around us.

(© All Rights Reserved)
(© All Rights Reserved)
Whether it's a majestic vista or a tiny bit of natural magic in the corner of the garden, there's beautiful subject matter all around us for Nature Photography Day. (© All Rights Reserved)
Whether it’s a majestic vista or a tiny bit of natural magic in the corner of the garden, there’s beautiful subject matter all around us for Nature Photography Day.
(© All Rights Reserved)

And you don’t have to go far to discover something wonderful – an attentive eye is all that is required to find beauty all around us – plants covered in early morning dew, insects busily at work around the garden, animals small and large, birds of all shapes and sizes.

While Nature Photography Day is first and foremost a day for personal enjoyment, meant to bring each of us closer to nature, NANPA is also hosting a Nature Photography Day Facebook Page, where anyone is invited to upload their images – the only ‘rule’ being that all photos “must be taken on June 15, 2013, within walking (or biking) distance of wherever you are.”

By the time that this blog entry is published, I will be spending some time in New Zealand’s majestic Tongariro National Park, and I sincerely hope I will be able to capture some moments of natural beauty. Irrespective of the results of my photographic endeavours on the day, however, I am first and foremost hoping to have fun doing it – after all, that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Caring for wetlands takes care of water

Today, 2 February 2013, is World Wetlands Day, the first of the big water celebrations of the year forming part of the 2013 United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation.

The 2013 theme is ‘Wetlands and water management’. The slogan is ‘Wetlands take care of water’, which succinctly positions wetlands as a key component in environmental water management programmes, and explains why taking care of wetlands form an essential component in the delivery of sustainable water management. As stated by Anada Tiega, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, “It is well recognized that access to a clean and adequate water supply is critical for human survival. Less well understood is that wetlands, as defined by Ramsar, are fundamental regulators of water regimes. Without adequate management of wetlands from the mountains to the sea there is no water of the right quality and quantity where and when it is needed.”

A wetland, dominated by wire rush and sphagnum moss, between Lake Manapouri and Lake Te Anau in the Southern Otago region in New Zealand. The unique wetlands in the Te Anau area were used for the 'Dead Marshes' scene in Sir Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie.(© All Rights Reserved)
A wetland, dominated by wire rush and sphagnum moss, between Lake Manapouri and Lake Te Anau in the Southern Otago region in New Zealand. The unique wetlands in the Te Anau area were used for the ‘Dead Marshes’ scene in Sir Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie.
(© All Rights Reserved)

The role of wetlands in water management is well explained in the ‘Wetlands Take Care of Water’ information leaflet, available online in PDF format. Given the importance of wetlands in regulating water regimes, one of the worrying facts stated in the booklet is that “Impacts from changes in land use, water diversions, and infrastructure development continue to drive the degradation and loss of wetlands.” It is because of this that there is an urgent need to communicate the importance of wetlands as an essential element of water infrastructure – they are water providers, serving as water filters and purifiers. To continue supplying filtered and purified water, however, they need a continued input of water to maintain the system, and if water is dammed up or diverted for other uses, these critical components in the earth’s water system dry up and disappear. To address this within the wider water crisis facing the world’s growing population, “There is a need to place water at the heart of the green economy and to recognise that working with wetlands as water management infrastructure can be a cost-effective and sustainable way of meeting a diversity of policy, business and private objectives.”

Do you know where your nearest wetland is? And when last did you pay it a visit? Take today to appreciate these wonders of nature. Learn about them, and share your knowledge with those you know. The more people know about and understand the critical role wetlands play, the better the chances that these natural water purifiers may be maintained for future generations.

World Oceans Day

It’s World Oceans Day, our annual opportunity to honor the great oceans linking us all, to celebrate what the ocean provides humanity, and also to appreciate its intrinsic value.

World Ocean Day is a day for celebration, but also a day to start spreading the word on the importance of protecting the ocean for future generations
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The theme for World Oceans Day 2012 is Youth: the Next Wave for Change, which firstly acknowledges the role the youth plays in the future of the ocean, and secondly reiterates the importance of everyone playing their part in securing the future of the world’s oceans for our youth.

One of the initiatives undertaken as part of this day is “Wear Blue, Tell Two“, an information sharing initiative where everyone is urged to dress in blue and to share with those around us two facts about the protection of the world’s oceans.

So, to do my bit (yes, I’m wearing blue jeans and a blue sweater, I promise!) herewith my two messages about our oceans:

1) The havoc caused by climate change
The ocean absorbs the majority of the heat added to the earth through climate change, resulting in a warmer ocean, which negatively impacts on the coral ecosystem and affects the life cycles of many fish species. This warmer water also decreases upwelling, which means that less nutrients reach the surface water, harming many marine ecosystems. Furthermore, the Poles are melting at an alarming rate, affecting polar marine environments and causing the ocean levels to rise, resulting in the loss of critical coastal habitats. It is also estimated that 10% of the global human population lives below 10m above sea level, which means about 700 million people are directly threatened by a significantly rising sea level. Not a pretty picture… And we haven’t even touched on the impact of the chemical changes in the oceans as a result of increased atmospheric greenhouse gases, or the changes in the ocean currents and the effects this is having on the earth’s climate.
(Source: Five Effects of Climate Change on the Ocean, http://www.conservation.org)

2) What we can do to help
Despite the doom and gloom of my first message, all is not irretrievably lost. Each of us can contribute our little bit to help the environment. By merely living more socially responsibly (recycling, reusing, limiting our carbon footprint) we can help slow global warming, which directly impacts on the wellbeing of our oceans. And there are numerous local and international initiatives we can get involved in. For example:

  • Conservation International runs an initiative called “Save a Mile” where you can make a donation to support initiatives focused on ocean conservation
  • The World Oceans Day website hosts the “Blue Planeteer” awareness drive, where you can volunteer to perform simple online tasks, such as tweeting about World Oceans Day or emailing a blog.

These are just two small online examples – if you live near the sea your local aquarium or nature centre may well have their own initiatives going, so ask around and get involved.

So spread the word on World Ocean Day – wear blue and tell two!