Nov 222019

Book outlines challenges and reasons for hope in addressing climate change

In last week’s column, I provided a glimpse of our bleak climatic future as described in “The Uninhabitable Earth”, by American journalist David Wallace-Wells. The book lays out in terrifying detail how climate change will soon become the defining issue of the 21st century and impact every aspect of our lives. “The assaults will not be discrete,” he warns. “They will produce a kind of cascading violence, waterfalls and avalanches of devastation . . . in ways that build on each other and undermine our ability to respond.” Among the impacts: climate wars.

A climate crisis of unprecedented speed, scope, and severity is already unfolding – although most of humanity has barely awoken  to this new reality. To put this point into stark relief, Wallace-Wells quotes the author of “Carbon Ideologies”, William Vollmann. “Someday, perhaps not long from now, the inhabitants of a hotter, more dangerous and biologically diminished planet than the one on which I lived, may wonder what you and I were thinking, or whether we thought at all.” Humanity has never seen this scale of existential drama in which nature itself is the enemy. For Wallace-Wells, the only analogies are in mythology and theology.

The solution to the climate crisis is both totally obvious – reduce and then eliminate greenhouse gases – and almost impossible to imagine. Economics, politics, and culture are all aligned against action. Achieving the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) target of a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 – remember that emissions are still going up each year – would require a total reconfiguration of our politics and call for unprecedented global cooperation. But, for Wallace-Wells, “Thinking like a planet is so alien to the perspectives of modern life—so far from thinking like a neoliberal subject in a ruthless competitive system—that the phrase sounds at first lifted from kindergarten.”

The necessary scale of response would require reimagining infrastructure and the use of cement (a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions); reimagining the world’s electricity systems, including the grids; reimagining agriculture and our consumption of animal protein; reimagining ground, sea and air transportation; and taking on the task of retrofitting millions of buildings. Given the political actors on stage today, it’s all but impossible to think that this could happen by 2030.

Let’s remember, too, that every country in the world is incentivized to do only the minimum to keep face, and then let the rest of the world clean up the mess. This was clear in the Conservative Party’s climate plan in the October federal election. How many times did we hear, “What Canada does won’t make any difference on the world scale, so why punish ourselves?”

It’s not surprising that Wallace-Wells believes that meeting the IPCC target for 2030 is all but impossible, as is keeping warming below 2 C. However, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be taking the most aggressive action possible. Every ton of carbon dioxide we avoid putting into the atmosphere makes a difference, so there will always be a reason to act, even decades from now.

Elements of hope

Although David Wallace-Wells is less focused on solutions than on presenting the scale of the problem – “what we should do”, for example, is never fully fleshed out – he does see some elements of hope. “The thing is, I am optimistic,” he says. “I know there are horrors to come. . . . But those horrors are not yet scripted.” First and foremost, he finds hope in the fact we know the cause of climate change: human activity. This that means humans must solve the problem. He is also buoyed by the huge increase in both media attention and public concern for climate change in the past year. Seventy-three percent of Americans now believe that human-caused climate change is real, which represents an increase of an amazing 15 points since 2015. What has woken people up? Fear and alarm to a large extent. One of the best teachers has been the repeated climate disasters we’ve seen: floods, wildfires, hurricanes, and more. Add to this the non-stop series of scientific reports that have come out in the last year.

Wallace-Wells notes that all of the Democratic presidential candidates are serious about climate change with many pushing for some form of the Green New Deal.  He also points out that we already have all the tools we need to avoid the worst of what might come. These include carbon taxes, new approaches to agricultural practices, a shift away from beef and dairy in the global diet, and public investment in green energy and carbon capture.

There is also hope in energy production, which is the “low-hanging fruit” of greenhouse gas reduction strategies and probably the easiest emission problem to solve. The cost of wind turbines and solar panels has already decreased dramatically. Remember, however, that energy production represents only 30 percent of the world’s emissions. Economic arguments, too, are giving traction to the need to act quickly. The new economic wisdom seems to be that fast action on climate change is better for the economy than moving slowly. We now know that reinventing our industries based on low greenhouse gas emissions is good for growth.

What to do?

First, David Wallace-Wells argues convincingly that the solution is political; it is not through individual action. He provides the example of flying. Just one flight across North America releases the same amount of carbon per passenger as eight months of driving. However, if you decide not to fly, millions of others will. He agrees that we should still try to set an example in our own lives, be it reducing meat consumption, driving a hybrid or electric vehicle, or simply consuming less. An individual’s decisions do influence other people. He believes that the two most important individual actions anyone can take are voting with climate change top-of-mind and sharing your fears for the future with friends and family.

Although every country must do its part, Wallace-Wells believes that the future of the planet will be determined by China, which is now responsible for 30 percent of the world’s  emissions – double those of the U.S. More than anyone, Chinese President Xi Jinping holds the cards. Let’s remember, however, that China wants to preside over an intact world, not one that is completely broken by climate change. China, therefore, is incentivized to act.

As for political measures we can take, Wallace-Wells touches on a few:

1. As a society, we will need to think of everything we do in terms of its carbon impact. A good starting point is to end fossil fuel subsidies immediately. It is estimated that in 2017 they totaled a staggering five trillion dollars worldwide.

2. We must mobilize and work collectively in an effort to force our governing bodies to coordinate an immediate and dramatic reduction in emissions. Wallace-Wells finds inspiration in the Extinction Rebellion Movement and the student strikes started by Greta Thunberg.

3. Carbon removal technology, which removes carbon from the atmosphere, will have to be a big part of the solution. At present, however, we are far from having the technology at a scalable level.

How our future climate will play out is full of uncertainty. This is not because of scientific ignorance but, overwhelmingly, from the open question of how we respond. Will we sit back and simply watch in horror as cities like Venice flood and countries like Australia burn, or will we somehow find the means and the will to act. And maybe most importantly, will we learn in time what acting even looks like?

“The Uninhabitable Earth” issues a stark warning. “One way we might manage to navigate (rising temperatures) without crumbling collectively in despair is, perversely, to normalize climate suffering at the same pace we accelerate it.” After all, urban air pollution already kills millions each year. “We live with . . . those death tolls, and hardly notice them,” he writes.

Joe Rogan (left) with David Wallace-Wells

At the very least, it is incumbent upon us to understand the scale of the climate emergency. Reading “The Uninhabitable Earth” is a good starting point – but be prepared. I also recommend listening to the many interviews with David Wallace-Wells on YouTube, some of which helped to inform this article. I especially enjoyed the talk he had with Joe Rogan, in which he is more optimistic than in the book. He says that “we’ll see much more aggressive action in the decade ahead than we’ve had in the decades in the past”. We must all do our part to assure this happens.




Dec 142017

Seeds, bee houses and more: Tips for what to put under the Christmas tree

If you have someone on your Christmas list who would rather spend time in the garden than head to the mall, who prefers nature books to the latest novel, and who wants to support conservation and environmental education, you might be looking for some gift ideas this holiday season. The good news is that there are some wonderful options. Better still, most have a local flavour.

Seed Packages

In its ongoing effort to promote the creation of pollinator gardens throughout Peterborough and the Kawarthas, the Peterborough Pollinators has undertaken a special seed project called “Rewilding Our Gardens”. They have prepared gift bags containing seven seed envelopes of pollinator-friendly plants: Bee Balm, Borage, Bachelor Buttons, Calendula, Cosmos, Mexican Sunflower, and Zucchini Squash. The package also includes a beautifully illustrated story guide, along with planting instructions. Each plant has a story to tell, whether it is ecological, spiritual, medicinal or culinary. Bee Balm, for example, can be used to make a wonderful potpourri, thanks to its Earl Grey tea aroma. It is also a magnet for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Zucchini blossoms attract squash bees, the males of which crawl inside the flowers in the afternoon and fall fast asleep!

Last year, the Pollinators produced a beautiful calendar, which also served as a pollinator garden and backyard nature information resource. This year’s seed project is more of a direct action phase, by making it easy and inexpensive for people who have never planted a pollinator garden before. The seeds can also be used to enhance an existing garden. We can all make a difference in reversing the decline in many pollinator populations by growing plants that provide the pollen and nectar on which these species depend. In fact, cities are becoming places of refuge for pollinators, with urban gardens supporting healthy pollinator populations.

Planting a pollinator garden is a wonderful way to get children interested in nature and conservation. These gardens also enrich family life as parents and children alike discover the fascinating and beautiful insects that come to visit. Pollinator gardens also contribute to a sense of community in neighbourhoods, as people can come from all sorts of backgrounds but still find common ground over what’s happening in their garden.

Peterborough Pollinators is looking forward to hearing the stories that come from people’s experiences with planting these seeds and making their own gardens, be it in a schoolyard, in pots on the deck or balcony or as part of an existing perennial or vegetable garden. The seed packages are available in Peterborough at the GreenUP Store, Kawartha Local Marketplace, Avant-Garden Shop and Bluestreak Records. You can also purchase them in Lakefield at Happenstance Books and Yarn. At only about $12 per bag, this is a great stocking stuffer. It is also affordable for students and for kids wondering what to buy their mom or dad.

Bee houses

Another way to support our declining pollinator populations is to provide nesting sites for native solitary bees, all of which are important pollinators. There are about 300 species in Ontario alone. These bees have been here for thousands of years – well before the first settlers brought over the European honey bee. They are called “solitary” bees, because they live on their own and don’t form colonies with a queen and workers like honey bees and bumble bees. Most nest in small tunnels in the ground, but some choose the hollow stems of dead plants or holes in wood. Many species are very small and not easily recognizable as bees. Each female builds her own nest, collects her own nectar and pollen and lays her own eggs. She will then usually use mud or leaves to build walls and divide the tunnel into a series of sealed cells. Each cell contains an egg, along with a deposit of pollen for food. And, no, solitary bees are not aggressive. Even if you were to grab one and squeeze, you would barely feel the sting.

Because solitary bees don’t travel more than 500 metres between their nesting site and food sources, an important part of supporting our local pollinator population is to ensure that they have a place to nest. Stem- and hole-nesting bees will readily use an artificial bee house – or “bee B&B” if you want to be cute about it. A variety of bee houses can be found at Avant-Garden Shop on Sherbrooke Street, just west of George, and at Kawartha Local Marketplace at 165 King Street in downtown Peterborough. The bee houses at Kawartha Local are built by Three Sisters, a social enterprise founded by three Peterborough women who are passionate about native gardens and plants. They are made of reclaimed wood and finished with a natural, non-toxic stain to ensure a safe and long-lasting nesting site. Three Sisters has created a selection of houses to choose from, each of which accommodates different species or combinations of species of solitary bees.


If you would prefer to make a donation in someone’s name this holiday season, consider Peterborough GreenUp. They are raising money for the construction of a new Children’s Education Facility in 2018. Your donation will also ensure that GreenUP’s renowned environmental programs will continue for years to come. With any donation of $30 or more, you will receive a puppet to give to the little nature lover on your list!

You might also consider donating money to groups such as Kawartha Land Trust, which is in the business of protecting habitat. Pressure on habitat in the Kawarthas is expected to increase exponentially with the completion of Highway 407 to Highway 115 by 2020.

Camp Kawartha, too, is an excellent organization to keep in mind. Both the Camp and Environment Centre, which is located on Pioneer Road, depend largely on contributions from individuals and businesses to provide their award-winning outdoor education and environmental programming. As a teacher, I took my students to Camp Kawartha for over 20 years and, even now, they often tell me that it was one of the most memorable experiences of their school years.


In just the past few years, a number of excellent books on pollinators and pollinator gardening have been published. Some of my favourites include “Pollinator Friendly Gardening: Gardening for Bees, Butterflies and Other Pollinators” by Rhonda Fleming Hayes, “The Bee Friendly Garden: Design an Abundant, Flower-filled Yard that Nurtures Bees and Supports Biodiversity” by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn, “100 Plants to Feed the Bees: Provide a Healthy Habitat to Help Pollinators Thrive” by the Xerces Society, “Pollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants” by Heather Holm and “The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees” by Joseph Wilson and Olivia Messinger Carril.

You will also find lots of pollinator games and activities for children in “The Big Book of Nature Activities: A Year-round Guide to Outdoor Learning”, which I co-authored with Jacob Rodenburg. The book also contains instructions for building bee houses and creating your own pollinator garden. If you are new to the Kawarthas or new to nature observation, you might also be interested in my 2012 book entitled “Nature’s Year: Changing Seasons in Central and Eastern Ontario”. The book is an almanac of key events occurring in nature each month – often in your own backyard – and covers birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish, invertebrates, plants, fungi, weather and the night sky. My goal in writing the book was to help people to become more attentive to and appreciative of the many wonders of the natural world that surround us in this exceptional region of Ontario. Both of these books are available at the GreenUp Store and Avant-Garden Shop. You will also find “The Big Book of Nature Activities” at Chapters, Kawartha Local Marketplace, Hunter Street Books and Happenstance in Lakefield.

Jul 132017

In case you might be looking for some new reading material this summer, I would like to suggest some of my favourite books from the past few years. If there is one theme they have in common, it’s that science, nature history, intellectual satisfaction and wonder are all part of an indivisible whole.

Some great nature books for your summer reading pleasure! (photo by Drew Monkman)


1. Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body – By Neil Shubin (Vintage Books, 2008)

Neil Shubin, the American paleontologist who discovered Tiktaalik, the “fish with hands”, explains in this book how our bodies became the amazing but sometimes less-than-perfect machines they are today. By examining everything from fossils to embryos and DNA, he shows us that our bodies are the legacy of ancient fish, reptiles and primates. You will learn, for example, that our hands are modified fish fins and that major parts of our genome look and function like those of worms and fish. Shubin writes “If you know how to look, our body becomes a time capsule that, when opened, tells of critical moments in the history of our planet and of a distant past in ancient oceans, streams and forests.”

2. Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation – By Bill Nye (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015)

With his trademark enthusiasm, the host of “Bill Nye the Science Guy” shows us that evolution is the most powerful and important idea ever developed in the history of science. Nye explains why race doesn’t really exist; how new species are born; and takes us on a stroll through 4.5 billion years of time. The book was sparked by a highly controversial debate with Christian creationist Ken Ham, which you can watch on YouTube. Nye writes, “My concern is not so much for the deniers of evolution as it is for their kids. We cannot address the problems facing humankind today without science – both the body of scientific knowledge and, more important, the process. Science is the way in which we know nature and our place within it.”

3. Why Evolution is True – By Jerry Coyne (Penguin Books, 2009)

As the title says, Coyne’s book takes the reader through the multiple lines of proof of why evolution is true. Drawing from many different fields of science, Coyne explains what evolution is and how it’s written in rocks, geography, embryos and genes. I especially enjoyed the chapter on how sex drives evolution. It explains why winning males have the loudest voices, the brightest colors, the sexiest displays – all decided upon by the females. Coyne also describes how evolution can favour genes that lead to cooperation, altruism and even morality. In the conclusion, he writes: “Many scientists have found profound spiritual satisfaction in contemplating the wonders of the Universe and our ability to make sense of them.” Even Albert Einstein saw the study of nature as a spiritual experience.

General nature

4. The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World – By Andrea Wulf  (Vintage, 2016)

Chosen as one of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, this illuminating biography is the story of Alexander Von Humboldt (1769 – 1859). Humboldt was a visionary German naturalist whose discoveries forever changed the way we understand the natural world. In doing so, he formed the basis of modern environmentalism. Humboldt was the first naturalist to see the natural world as a unified whole that is animated by interactive forces. He brought together exact scientific data with an emotional response to what he was seeing. “Nature must be experienced through feeling,” he wrote to Goethe. By combining nature and art, facts and imagination, he linked the previous mechanistic view of nature to a new emphasis on subjectivity. Humboldt even developed the idea of human-induced climate change, based on the deforestation and erosion he saw in South America. He was the first to recognize that humankind had the power to destroy the environment – with catastrophic consequences.

5. The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – By Peter Wohlleben (Greystone, 2015)

After reading Wohlleben’s book, a walk through a forest will never be the same. Drawing on the latest scientific discoveries, the German forester explains that the trees in a forest care for each other: parents communicate with their offspring, support them as they grow, share nutrients and warn of dangers. In doing so, their most important allies are soil fungi, which allow trees to share both resources and information. You’ll learn how trees use scent to summon parasitic wasps to rid themselves of pests, how leaves send out electrical signals and that a dead trunk is as indispensable for the cycle of life in the forest as a live tree. Intriguing activities are also scattered throughout the book, such as putting your ear to a tree trunk to hear how well it conducts sound. Wohlleben concludes with some encouraging thoughts on trees’ ability to withstand climate change, thanks in part to the great genetic diversity in a single species. If there is one message to take from this book it’s that trees are not the static beings we mistake them for.

6. New and Selected Poems – By Mary Oliver (Beacon, 1992)

I love to turn to the poetry of Mary Oliver as a source of inspiration and contemplation about nature. This collection has become one of the best-selling volumes of poetry in North America. Take it along on your next walk. Her poems are both companions and daily meditations. As the Poetry Foundation website explains, “Oliver’s verse focuses on the quiet occurrences of nature: industrious hummingbirds, egrets, motionless ponds…” I especially recommend poems such as “Wild Geese”, “Creeks” and “The Summer Day”. Oliver’s poetry is firmly anchored in place – a place that often evokes the Kawarthas – and is eminently accessible to the general poetry reader. In “When Death Comes”, she writes, “When it’s over, I want to say: all my life / I was a bride married to amazement. / I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”

7. Naturally Curious: A Photographic Field Guide and Month-by-Month Journey through the Fields, Woods and Marshes of New England – By Mary Holland (Trafalgar Square, 2010)

Don’t let the focus on New England fool you. “Naturally Curious” is almost entirely applicable to the Kawarthas and a complement to my own book, “Nature’s Year in Eastern and Central Ontario”. At 474 pages and full of beautiful colour photographs, this is one book I always keep on my desk. It takes the reader through a typical year in nature, species group by species group, and will please the skilled naturalist as much as the nature neophyte. You will also find important background information on key concepts like photosynthesis, mating rituals, frog and toad calls, incomplete vs. complete metamorphosis and seed dispersion. Highly recommended!

8. Pollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants – By Heather Holm (Pollinator Press, 2014)

If you are interested in bees and pollinator gardens, this book is a must. Holm explains in detail the specific relationships between native pollinators and native plants. Organized by plant communities, the book profiles over 65 perennial native plants, many of which are native to central and southern Ontario. It also lists the pollinators, beneficial insects and flower visitors that each plant attracts. With over 1600 photos of plants and insects, this is my go-to book for identifying the native bees, moths, beetles, flies and butterflies that turn up in my garden.

Environmental education

9. How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature – By Scott D. Sampson (Mariner, 2015)

Sampson is Dr. Scott on the PBS kids how “Dinosaur Train”. In “How to Raise a Wild Child”, he explains how kids connection to nature changes as they mature. The emphasis is on the importance of nature mentors and how to become one yourself. You need not be a nature expert – just a source of enthusiasm and support. Story-telling, too, is a skill he recommends cultivating. Children will value what you value, so start noticing and appreciating nature yourself. Sampson explains the importance of unstructured outdoor play, risk-taking and asking questions. He argues that kids need to know the story of how the Universe began and how evolution explains everything we see around us in living nature – including ourselves.

Climate Change

10.  Climate Changed: A Personal Journey through the Science – By Philippe Squarzoni (Harry N. Adams, 2014)

This  pen-and-ink graphic novel  is basically the author’s personal  journey in understanding the science and multiple impacts of climate change. As he educates himself by talking to experts, he educates us, too. The book also weighs the potential of some solutions and the false promises of others. The result is a balanced view of the magnitude of the crisis. If you’re new to graphic novels, pick this one!

Nov 202014

“Take one child. Place outdoors in nearby green spaces. Leave for several hours at a time. Repeat daily. Sprinkle in a dash of adventure. Fold in a generous portion of exploration and discovery. Top with wonder and awe. Let rise…”

Not long ago, my friend Jacob and I took a group of children out for a hike to a nearby wetland. Along the way, we came across some Northern Leopard Frogs. “Let’s catch ‘em,” some of the boys yelled out, ready to pounce. “No,” we suggested, “let’s watch instead.” So we did. We hunkered down and stayed as still as we could. We observed how one frog hopped slowly against a backdrop of sedges and wildflowers, its spotted, wet skin glistening in the sun. We watched, too, how its pink tongue snapped out and grabbed an unsuspecting grasshopper. “Did you see that?” the kids exclaimed. “That was awesome!” And it most certainly was.
In an increasingly urbanized world, children (and many adults) experience far less contact with the natural world. Our children are far more likely to watch the flickering screen of a video game or hear the sounds of traffic than see tadpoles in a woodland pond or hear the rhythmic chorus of frogs in spring. They are also more likely to recognize hundreds of corporate logos or cartoon characters than be able to identify more than a handful of local plant and animal species.

Students watching Monarch emerge from chrysalis -Sept. 2007 Drew-Monkman

Students watching Monarch emerge from chrysalis -Sept. 2007 Drew-Monkman

As I have mentioned in several previous columns, I am working on a nature activity guide with Jacob Rodenburg, Executive Director of Camp Kawartha. The book calls on all of us to reclaim the natural world as an integral part of the human sphere. It also asks that we encourage our children to value nature-based experiences – the kinds of experiences in which we hear birds, feel the mud between our toes and stare in wonder at the night sky.
Just as family, friends, neighbours and colleagues form a very real community in our lives, there is also a very tangible sense of belonging and connection that arises from being immersed in nature. More than ever, children need opportunities to learn and feel that they are part of this larger community, too. And, like any relationship, this requires commitment, time and effort.
We want parents, grandparents and educators alike to think about how to raise caring, responsible and engaged citizens who recognize that their community includes both the living and the abiotic (e.g., air, water, soil) systems that support and nurture us all. While it is true that we enjoy a world of amazing technological tools from smartphones to apps of all kinds, we’d like people to think about selecting technologies that enhance outdoor learning – rather than getting in the way of it. We all need to help kids – and, increasingly, ourselves – to see the value of connecting to nature, not just to addictive screens.
In 1980, Thomas Tanner, an environmental education researcher, interviewed close to 200 professionals from around the world, who were involved in the conservation movement. He wanted to know what childhood experiences these people had had in common, which inspired them to want to protect the environment. Not surprisingly, almost all the respondents described rich encounters with nature while they were growing up. They lived on farms, they tramped through marshes, they visited cottages, they hiked, they canoed and they discovered. In short, they engaged with their natural surroundings. However, today, many of us are asking where tomorrow’s environmentalists will come from? Who will advocate for shrinking habitat and the containment of urban sprawl? Who will speak for threatened and endangered species and for our own green spaces, when the very formative experiences that make for caring environmental stewards are removed from childhood?
As a society, we pay a huge price for our disconnection from nature. The rate of childhood obesity in North America has almost tripled over the past twenty years, partly because children are spending less far less time outside and are therefore not participating in regular exercise. Research has found that children who explore and play in natural environments tend to be less competitive and more co-operative than those who play in areas dominated by asphalt and play structures. Playing in nature also enhances creative thought, stimulates imaginative play and improves a child’s ability to concentrate during school.
But nowhere is the cost of our disconnection from nature greater than when it comes to climate change. Now, more than ever, we need to be paying attention to the myriad changes – many of which are subtle – that are occurring all around us. Yes, climate change is partly about wrenching disasters, but it’s also about numerous “canary in the coal mine” events: the early arrival of migratory birds, the early blossoming of wildflowers, the increased frequency of unseasonal weather events, etc. Noticing these small changes and understanding that they represent a kind of climatic early warning system requires a critical mass of “citizen naturalists” that have first-hand, detailed knowledge of local nature and care deeply.

Student working in her nature journal - Drew Monkman

Student working in her nature journal – Drew Monkman

Overview of book
Tentatively entitled “Nature Activities through the Seasons – a guide for families, educators and youth leaders,” our book will be a collection of things to do outside over the course of an entire year. Part of the inspiration came from my 2002 book “Nature’s Year in the Kawarthas” and a desire to provide activities to accompany the many events in nature described within. Although the activities are geared mostly to children and adolescents, many will also be of interest to adults – including seniors – and to families looking for ways to enjoy nature together.
The book will be divided into four sections, which include an introduction, basic nature skills, core concepts (e.g., evolution, phenology, climate change, why we have seasons) and activities specific to each season. They include fun activities (e.g., games, arts and crafts, nature collections, scavenger hunts) as well as more serious activities such as species identification, nature photography, journaling and ways to enhance sensory awareness. The book will also strive to help children and adults alike develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for evolution in everyday plants and animals. Each season also includes activities based on “Big Ideas” that are key to acquiring nature literacy. For example, in the Fall chapter we look at the Big Idea of metamorphosis and how it can be seen and understood by raising Monarch butterflies.
Readers will also find hints on how to raise a naturalist, how to be an effective mentor to children and how to get kids outside – even in an age of busy schedules and heightened concerns for safety. The extensive skills section will provide an introduction to year-long activities such as birding, insect-watching, botanizing, reading animal tracks, geocaching for naturalists, sketching, photography, Citizen Science projects and connecting with nature in a digital age. Informative side-bars cover topics such as common misconceptions about nature, species to learn to identify each season, nature-viewing from a car, what to sketch or photograph and ideas for what to focus on during a neighbourhood walk. There is also an “At-a-glance” chart of what to look and listen for each season.
The book is being published by New Society Publishers and should be available in the spring of 2016.

Student sketching in Edmison Heights Habitat Area - Drew Monkman

Student sketching in Edmison Heights Habitat Area – Drew Monkman

Break from column
In order to devote myself more fully to this project, I have decided to take a break from this column until early next fall. I have arranged, however, for a number of very knowledgeable local naturalists and educators to fill in for me during my absence. They are:
Martin and Kathy Parker – Martin is the president of the Peterborough Field Naturalists and, together with his wife Kathy, was a long-time nature columnist for the North Bay Nugget
Rick Stankiewicz – past president of the Peterborough Astronomical Association and award-winning photographer
Tim Dyson – naturalist with special expertise in moths and birds of prey
Paul Elliott – professor in the School of Education at Trent University with a special interest in environmental education as well as bat ecology and conservation
Jim Schaefer – professor of biology at Trent University whose lab focuses on the population ecology and conservation of northern mammals, especially Woodland Caribou. Jim has been a regular contributor to the Examiner for many years.
Lisa Nisbet – assistant professor of psychology at Trent University whose research focuses on connectedness with nature and the links with health, well-being (happiness), and environmentally sustainable behaviour.