Episode 8 – 22 June

It’s time for some fun and games! Fun and games that Dr Paula Owens hopes might actually save the planet! 

Dr Owen believes that that people don’t easily engage with ‘doom and gloom’ messages, which leave them feeling powerless. Her theory is that if you couch the message in fun activities or games you have a better chance of getting your message across, and of changing behaviour.

Her 12-month study will encourage people to change their behaviour and reduce their environmental impacts. But she’ll use concepts of “gamification” in the environmental sector to try and promote greater pro-environment behaviour.

At the project’s launch at the Science Museum, people were invited to take part in a variety of games – from Play Your Eco-Cards Right to Eco-Snakes and Ladders.

One of the things she want to look at is how ‘sticky’ this sort of interaction is in terms of educating people. Dr Owen will contact people who have taken part in these games a few months later to see how much they have remembered. She wants quantifiable evidence that her theory works, gathered from a wide range of the general public. Then she wants to present this data to the academic world as a real method to change behaviour.

I think it’s a great idea! – you wouldn’t have to ask me twice to participate in Eco-fun, and I reckon it will work particularly well with the younger age-groups.

And a little bit of feel good conservation news….I think we all know this, bees certainly have a special relationship with trees and they are making a comeback in parts of Europe, according to a study in Ecology Letters. Over the last couple of decades some countries have adopted environmentally-friendly policies to bring insect species back and according to a couple of reports I read over the last few months everything indicates that these policies are starting to work. Isn’t that great?

What they did in the study is the following: A team looked at more than 29 million records of bees, butterflies and hoverflies, dating back to 1930’s in the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands. From the 1950-60’s to the 1970-80’s, species richness did drop for these three groups of insects.

But when the researchers compared the 1970-80’s to the 1990-2000’s, they found some optimistic signs. Yes, species were still being lost, but at a much slower rate. And for some insects, the trend was completely reversed: The number of bee species in the UK and the Netherlands increased and the number of hoverfly species in Belgium increased.

Unfortunately the research team thinks that species will continue to bear the marks of past declines for a long time but are optimistic that conservation efforts may be paying off. And the fact that conservation efforts are working, is exactly what I want to hear! Read more….

Who is taking action this week?

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I bring the focus to Clanwilliam, where volunteers have worked to plant scores of Cedar trees after a devastating fire destroyed large tracts of vegetation earlier this year.

This happened in January and large parts of the Cederberg’s indigenous vegetation was destroyed and the community came came together and are now planting seedlings in almost inaccessible areas on the mountain to protect them. The Cedar tree is special as it only occurs in this area, some 300km north of Cape Town and the fires have destroyed close to 30% of the Cederberg wilderness area.

But luckily the planting event helps to raise awareness of the critical importance of the Cedar tree, categorized as endangered on the Red Data List. To date, the project has planted more than 800 young cedar trees in the Cederberg area. I hope that if a fire sweeps through the Cederberg in the next few years, they will be able to tell us that some of these new seedlings survived! Read more….

And I read this little bit of prose by Richard Preston that gently illustrates the interconnectedness of life in a forest, which is of course an analogy for the interconnectedness of all life and I wanted to share it with you…

“There seems to be another world in the trees. A forest was not what it seemed to be, but a web of life extending upward and out of sight. He would lose himself in the patterns of their branches. He wondered how old they were, and what lived in their tops. With Poe coaching him, he began to see how things in a forest are connected, sometimes invisibly, and how there is logic to events as they unfold. Every year, as spring begins, birds arrive in a forest only after the insects hatch, because, before then, there is nothing for the birds to eat. The connections run through both space and time. Steve became sensitive to the movement of time in a forest. Time has a different quality in a forest, a different kind of flow. Time moves in circles, and events are linked. Events in a forest occur with absolute precision in the flow of tree time, like the motions of an endless dance.”
What other conservation efforts are you aware of that is making a difference? What are your thoughts on Eco-fun?

And remember take care of the earth, and she will take care of you!