Archive | October, 2013

Ecotourism on the Serendipity Trail

16 Oct

It’s one of my odd fears:  ringing the doorbell, bottle of wine in hand, only to find I’ve shown up on the wrong day.

Last Wednesday was one of those days.  Only I wasn’t going to a party, rather the Science Cafe at the American Museum of Natural History.  It’s the  Museum’s brilliant ploy to convert the curious and wannabe’s into card-carrying nerds.

It was a perfect fall day, comfortably cool as my walk through Central Park accelerated to the distant strumming of guitars.  Turns out it was John Lennon’s birthday and Strawberry Fields was playing host to a rocking jam session of musicians and a swaying crowd of back-up singers.

strawberry fields

I’m still singing ‘Nothings gonna change my world…’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN9n1bAahg4

This was one of those perfect NYC moments of peace,  joy, and connection.  Even the undercover cop/parks department garbage picker I overheard talking to his command had nothing to report.

Entering the Museum for this after-hours event was a whole other matter.  Like solving the Rubik’s Cube, it took rounding the grounds a few times before finding an open door and receptive guard.   Following an arrow landed me in a closed exhibit filled with 3 foot hominids.  It was a bit freaky.  Lost, I was easy prey and hoped the Neanderthal’s in their dinosaur bone hut didn’t come alive like in the movie  ‘Night at the Museum’.

Pointed in the right direction by the now laughing guard, I was still lost – kind of.  Entering a half-filled lecture room with name tag wearing young people  was not the buzzy wine/beer-swilling space I normally associate with the Science Cafe.    But safe from Neanderthals, I slunk into a comfy seat to play scientist and observe.mack-lipkin-man-and-nature-series-panel-discussion-2013_large

They say, you always end up where you are supposed to be.  I had ‘crashed’ a Conservation Conference lecture on research and action led by four brilliant panelists.

We regular folk don’t always think conservation amidst environmental debates.  Anti-frackers seek to shatter beliefs that drilling is the best way to secure future energy sources (an on-going NY ‘action’) – but not necessarily about using less.  Meanwhile many of us are just overwhelmed by the effects of climate change and global natural disasters from raging forest fires to never-ending draughts to tornadoes twirling in unexpected places to devastating hurricanes like Sandy having the audacity to slam into NYC.  Victims are left shaken and outraged over the result of climate unrest.  At least till it’s all over.

They say: when climate conditions gets tough, the tough travel as ecotourists.   Here’s my packing tip to include along with hiking boots and organic snacks (I greatly modified – but hopefully not too much) from Stanford’s Rodolfo Dirzo when asked about ecotourism:

  • It’s a great thing:  indigenous people make a living while maintaining their environmental culture – it’s an ecological win-win!
  • And yet… young people employed as van drivers, wait staff, guides, etc. in the hospitality ecosystem are trading in their knowledge about the environmental ecosystem for customer service skills.

They no longer need to know  how to care for/understand/support the flora and fauna tourists pay to see.  Which may not be bad – until the realization hits: who will know when a species is threatened – and when an ecosystem or species is at risk, how to nurture it back to health?

And who can blame these new drivers and front desk clerks?  Don’t we all follow the money trail?

Costa Rica, according to Wikipedia had 2.2 million visitors in 2011!  Imagine the money and ruts that trail leaves.  Imagine the impact even if visitors live the mantra:

“Take Nothing but Pictures, Leave Nothing but Footprints and Waste Nothing but Time”

 Ecotourism saves threatened environments and local knowledge, so what’s the answer?

Personally I think it comes back to education and making it as sexy to know about the ecosystem as to know how to drive a van.  Imagine if every adventure traveler swooned over that same van driver sharing her knowledge about the local flora and fauna along with the local watering holes.  And she shared how a traveler’s lifestyle impacts the local natural wonders with the same verve as recommending the best dinner spot.

It seems it’s all about following the money trail crafted by hiking-boot-gortex-wearing ecotourists.  If these same tourists want flora-fauna ecosystem knowledge, the locals will learn.    Bottom line is: with preservation of land and learning we can get what we all want:  to travel forever uncovering the secrets of the serendipity trail.

Optimistic and naive, maybe.  But what do you think are other options?

To read more about human impact on climate change:  http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/Population-growth-increases-climate-fear-4781833.php 

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Flash to Fallow: Mother Nature’s 5 Financial Lessons

4 Oct

This post originally appeared on blogher’s ‘Diary of a Single Professional Woman’

Nature is rich – in resources – just like I want to be.

I often say ‘Everything I need to know about the economy and life I learned from Mother Nature’.   As fall sends nature’s flash into fallow (or dormancy), it’s the perfect time to learn from her (save, spend, grow) sustainability plan.   After all, she’s been around a long time – so what does she know that we don’t?  And more importantly what can we learn so we spring open along with the crocuses come April?   Here’s my simplistic, and metaphoric thoughts on ‘environmental economics’ to kick around along with the leaves.

seedling

Fall may feel like an end rather than a start – look out the window and nature looks like it is dying.  Ha!  Mother Nature is transitioning from her extroverted spring/summer flash to a well-deserved introverted fall/winter recovery time.  Her withdrawal of energy allows time to reflect, rejuvenate, and save for spring’s big bloom roll-out.

Shorter days likely darken our mood.  Especially as color leaves our external environment.   Green, in particular colors our thoughts – and the U.S. dollar or greenback, that universal currency.  Simply:

Lush, rich, life = Green

Green = Money

Green = Nature

Nature = Resources

Resources = Money

Money = Nature

Nature = Resources = Life

Yet, when it comes to linking the economy with the environment, it seems we are colorblind, too often living in the red.  I think we need to ask: which resources are needed for life?

For a brief period of time, I thought it was a ‘red handbag’.  As you’ve read,  it was a temporary want.  Sure, I love ‘stuff’ that makes my apartment home.  But honestly, I don’t need it – I just want it.   The only resources any of us really need for life are oxygen, water, and food.  Resources only nature can provide contrary to food package’ ingredient listings.

I say our challenge is working with Mother Nature for our needs while satisfying our human nature with our wants.

It’s asking:  What Would Mother Nature Do (WWMND) for economic success?   She’d say begin with her 5 steps:

1.  Balance:    Mother Nature has obviously spent plenty of time on a playground seesaw.  She understands the need to maintain balance even while going up and down.   She uses what she has – while saving a little for the future.    Mother Nature foregoes debt, once her bottom line turns from green to red, she catapults into endangerment/extinction.

Lesson:   We may become morally, emotionally, financially bankrupt overusing resources, causing our internal peace (balance) to become extinct.  Live under your means to keep your personal seesaw going.   Debt drives your energy, emotions, finances and goodwill into the red.  And remember: There is no plastic – no credit cards – found in nature.

Maintaining balance, like on a see-saw can seem like child's play.
Maintaining balance, like on a see-saw can seem like child’s play.

2.  Save:   Mother Nature saves everything including those piles of leaves in your yard.   This is not hoarding.  She reduces those dead leaves/blooms by recycling (decomposers de-clutter causing decaying leaves to smell like a frat house bathroom on a Sunday morning) and reusing (notice those leaves are gone by spring – broken up and back into the soil like using old clothes to make a quilt).  All this saving leads to new blooms – and a reminder that the future is no predictor of the past.

Lesson:  use what you have to grow your future – like with an IRA.    And don’t bother raking those leaves in your yard!

3.  Spew seeds:  Seeds are nature’s C.D.’s (certificates of deposit), little packets of possibility to ensure future growth.   They even sound similar!   Seeds, like C.D.’s only open at the right time, in the right place, and the right conditions – and they are supported by all those unused seeds and leaves that ‘die’.  There are even special seeds that open during a forest fire to ensure that tree species survival.  Kinda like emergency C.D.’s/funds.  

Lesson:  save for emergencies as well as the future – though the stock market provides better returns than C.D.’s.

Nobody would touch this funky burr-covered seed till it was already  open (like all CD's should be!)
Nobody would touch this funky burr-covered seed till it was already open (like all CD’s should be!)

4.  Diversification: The healthiest forest and gardens are filled with diverse trees that play host to lots of different bugs, and are called home by lots of birds.   Having only one species like Dutch Elm (on decorative paths) found one ‘sick’ tree caused them all to die.

Lesson:  Diversification of your holdings maintains balance and growth so even if your ‘Dutch Elm’-like stock tanks/dies, other stock species survive.

5.  Be sustainable:  Mother Nature thrives because everything she has is used and supports everything else, even though it may seem to be in conflict.

Lesson:  Invest in things that feed your future.  Material things that overwhelm you and end up in landfills throw you off-balance and leave nothing to decompose – unlike the leaves left in your yard that will decompose to nurture spewed seeds.  Experiential investments always leave you with seeds or kernels of thought and growth.

Part of the Coney Island boardwalk by the NY Aquarium
Part of the Coney Island boardwalk by the NY Aquarium

 Mother Nature’s 5 lessons keep you blooming in all seasons:

  • This holiday season, stay green and out of the red by matching  spending with your values (http://communicationessentials.wordpress.com/values-activity/) and keep you growing.
  • Make every day is your special Valentine’s Day by making black the new red.  Love yourself by loving your finances and living under your means to live fully in the future.

And really, just one more thing to think about:  We may say money is the root of all evil, and we should add, resources are the cause for conflicts personally and globally...

Meanwhile, what steps will you take to support your spring blooms?