Ready to be inspired? There are so many resources out there that can open our eyes to the beauty of nature and to how we can all play our part to create a more sustainable future.
The IGNITION project is bringing together inspiring resources for anyone with a passion for the environment and reversing the climate crisis.
We asked members of the Greater Manchester Environment Team about their top things to watch, listen to and read when it comes to wildlife and climate change. Here, Martin Krobath from Groundwork Greater Manchester gives his top picks!
Watch: TED Talk – What happens if we cut down all the trees in a city?
By 2050, 68% of the world’s population will live in cities. That’s more than six billion people. This means we need to think about what our future cities will look like and make sure that people have access to recreational spaces for their mental and physical health.
City planners, architects and community groups have long recognised the growing need to bring nature back into our cities. This TED Talk highlights the importance of trees in our cities by showing the demise of ancient cities like Uruk in Mesopotamia, which exploited its surrounding forests. This ancient city saw trees only as a resource and cut them down for building purposes, leading to contamination of the city’s water system. Evaporating water left the soil too salty for agriculture, which caused food shortages within the city. Similar stories can be found in different areas throughout history, from the Roman Empire to the Galapagos Islands, and even the UK.
On the other hand, a more sensitive approach to the way we interact with the nature around us has led many cultures to sustain themselves for thousands of years, from the city of Anuradhapura in this TED Talk, to the Minangkabau in Northern Sumatra, Indonesia.
Watch: Nature-based solutions and the West Gorton park
There’s a growing recognition that solutions to the complex problems of our time can be found in nature. So, what are nature-based solutions? Take for example the founders of GORE-TEX, Robert and Wilbert Gore, who were inspired walking through a forest and, after seeing water pearling on leaves, designed their products based on what they saw. In this way engineers, architects and environmentalists alike are finding other nature-inspired solutions to complex problems.
This is my favourite video that shows how these nature-based solutions work and how they can be beneficial for everyone. In Manchester, a leading pilot project has been established in West Gorton, creating the GrowGreen community park that enables access to green spaces while tackling the impacts of climate change using an in-built infiltration system that reduces flooding. Imagine if we always thought of the natural world first, when trying to solve complex problems. We can look to the natural world for inspiration.
Read: Natural England’s 50 things to do before you’re 11¾
As an outdoor practitioner working with children, my focus is to foster and create connection to the natural world. Living in a city often makes it hard for people, especially children, to find those everyday connections with nature. As adults, we often lack time to plan and create something exciting for young people. That’s when I head to Natural England’s 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾.
This list is a wonderful collection of ways to connect with nature. It serves as an inspiration and reminder of all the ways to create these interactions – not only for young people, but also for myself. When I get caught up in the busy everyday of life that can leave little time for creativity and connection, I remind myself of the little things on this list: When was the last time I went stargazing? Have I ever watched snails race? Then I try to incorporate these into my day or plan something for the weekend. And usually, these are the moments that I remember at the end of the week.
Read: Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain
Everyone who spends time in nature knows about those special moments that happen sometimes. They’re hard to describe – short moments of blistering connection with nature, of being awe-struck by the beauty of the natural world. Capturing and describing these moments is incredibly difficult. It’s even rarer that someone manages to find the right words for these feelings and let the reader into that world of connection and awe. One of these works is The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd – a truly hidden masterpiece of English literature.
Written during the Second World War, Nan Shepherd finds a way of describing her adventures with nature in the Scottish Highlands. She captures these moments of connectedness with the so-called more-than-human world and weaves it into a web of intimacy and connection, during the harsh Scottish winter. The Living Mountain is a rare masterpiece of nature writing that has inspired a whole generation of writers, environmentalists and readers to find deeper ways of connecting with the natural environment.
Listen to: Mothers of Invention
Mothers of Invention is one of my favourite podcasts! Narrated by the former (and first female) president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, and (hilarious) comedian Maeve Higgins.
What’s special about this podcast is that it focuses on female leadership in the climate crisis. All too often, climate change is presented as a problem that only a few, mostly male and white “experts” have the right answers to. Maeve and Mary explore the connection between feminism and climate change and show the creative, myriad ways in which women across the globe are finding sustainable solutions for the climate emergency. Each week, they talk to incredible people from different sectors, from anti-apartheid and climate justice activist Yvette Abrahams to the founders of Delhi’s highly successful anti-pollution campaign ‘Help Delhi breathe’.
Let us know your favourite environmental reads and listens on social media. Follow us at @GMGreenCity to join in the conversation!