10 Easy Environmental New Year’s Resolutions

Sunday, January 1, 2012

AIKENSTANDARD.COM, December 31, 2011

dreamstime_xs_4717319 So you’ve made your resolutions for the new year: lose weight, exercise more, and never again watch another negative political advertisement. How about making another New Year’s resolution in addition to those perennial favorites? Below is a 10-point checklist of easy-to-make, no-need-to-break environmental resolutions. If you have children or grandchildren or are a teacher, encourage a child to join you in fulfilling the resolutions. By doing so, you might well make a lasting contribution to environmental education.

1. Begin with a simple exercise. Send an email to your local newspaper or an elected official stating your opinion concerning an environmental issue or the environment in general. This is a good chance to play the child card by teaching a youngster how to express a polite and well-reasoned opinion in writing.

2. The second item on the checklist: take a walk around your neighborhood for the express purpose of looking at trees, shrubs, birds, insects, and whatever other life you encounter. Too often we take nature and all her wonders for granted. Looking closely at the natural world is the best way to appreciate it.

3. Read a natural history book. The list of excellent choices these days is outstanding, from wildlife guides to photograph-filled coffee table books to children’s stories. If you are completing the checklist with young people, have them read (or read to them) sections from your favorite books.

4. Act like a behavioral ecologist. Find an animal in your yard and observe it for five minutes. Whatever you pick– insect, squirrel, spider, bird–just watch it closely. It just might do something unexpected.

5. Visit a wetland habitat and spend at least 30 minutes looking at plants and animals that live there. Isolated wetlands that may dry up in the summer are great places because of their extremely high productivity. A stream or river can also be a fascinating place if you stay around long enough to see what’s there. While observing the wildlife, consider how important the environmental health of the water and its immediate vicinity are to the plants and animals that live there.

6. Visit a natural history museum, nature park, zoo, or public aquarium. Nearly all of us live within an hour or so of one of these. Most have an environmental theme of one sort or another and can be highly instructional regarding endangered species, water quality, and overall environmental awareness.

7. Pick an animal or plant species that lives in your region and read about it in three places, including at least one source that is not on the Internet. Encyclopedias and natural history magazines or books are good places to look. Pick something you are likely to see on a regular basis (trees or other plants are sure bets). By becoming familiar with its ecology, geographic range, and overall natural history, you will appreciate it for the rest of your life. [Read rest of resolutions]

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