Nature photographer hopes to inspire others to see ‘the real Florida’


HASTINGS, Fla. – SnapJAX Stories is back and this week we were blown away by one of our snapper’s pictures. Turns out he’s a nature photographer and he’s been capturing images for almost 50 years.

Joe Myers, better known as “Long Hair Guy” on SnapJAX, truly lives up to his nickname. He has a mane of beautiful blonde hair.

“So it’s natural, all-natural. No plans on cutting it. People ask me about it. I tell them I need what little I got. They go silent every time,” Myers said.

Myers’ pictures might also leave you speechless. The best sunsets, extraordinary cloud formations and dramatic lightning all caught on camera — mostly in Hastings. (Photo gallery above of some of Myers’ shares on SnapJAX)

Myers moved from Ohio some years ago and fell in love with what he calls “the real Florida.” He’s a self-described nature photographer and storm spotter.

“(I like) to show people the cool stuff that’s out here so they can enjoy it and say, ‘Hey, this is a Florida we don’t see.’ You go to Florida, you see Disney, you see all the flying and bling, but you come out here: This to me is the real Florida,” Myers said.

One of his talents is capturing time-lapse video, and he’s not afraid to put himself in the middle of a storm to get amazing footage.

“I actually had a good scare back in April where I had a supercell just explode right on top of me,” Myers said. “Normally when I’m out in a storm, it’s like, ‘Bring it on. Bring it on.’ But this one is like, ‘Am I gonna make it through?’”

But it’s the calm after the storm, the sun setting after a hectic day, birds in flight and spectacular butterflies taking a rest on flowers that have shaped Myers’ life and given him a point of view that only a detailed person with true patience can appreciate.

I asked him what his life motto or mission statement would be.

“I would say, ‘Trust the Creator’ because this is all here for our enjoyment. It’s put here for us not to abuse or destroy it but to enjoy it. Have fun with it because that’s what it’s put here for,” Myers said.

One thing we didn’t see when I met Myers was “the big one.” Myers said there’s a 10-foot gator that lives in a nearby lake and travels over to a smaller body of water every night right around dinner time.

On that note, we left, but not without Myers leaving a lasting impression about his love of nature.

Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.


Heredity And Early Experiences Are The Reasons People Love Nature


Our love of nature is highly individual and how we plan our cities and urban green spaces should take this into account, say scientists

© Copyright by GrrlScientist | hosted by Forbes |

Do you love nature? I sure do! But I was surprised to learn this love isn’t the necessarily true for everyone. Why? Where does our love for nature, our biophilia, come from? Is biophilia inherent or is it the result of childhood experiences — or if you prefer, is it the result of nature or nurture? Or maybe … both?

The German-American psychoanalyst, Erich Fromm, coined the word “biophila” to explain “the passionate love of life and of all that is alive”. The biophila hypothesis proposes that humans have an innate desire to seek connections with nature and with other forms of life, and further, this desire may have a genetic basis (at least in part), according to biologist EO Wilson.

Despite the fact that it is well known that being in nature has positive effects on people’s mental health and feelings of well-being, there is controversy about why this is so. Some experts think it is natural for people to be attracted to nature because humans evolved in nature. However, specific genes that influence biophilia have not been identified, and further, it is suspected that the increased dependence of the human species on technology has short-circuited the human drive to connect with nature. Other experts claim that childhood experiences are mainly the reason underlying our perceptions of nature.

A team of Swedish scientists set out to explore this controversy. They reviewed several studies previously published in this field that examine both innate factors and individual experiences during their lives, primarily as children. Based on their findings, they argue that our love of nature based on a combination of genetics and experiences — especially childhood experiences — and further, it also is highly individualized.

“We have been able to establish that many people have an unconscious positive experience of nature,” lead author of the study, Bengt Gunnarsson, a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biological & Environmental Sciences at the University of Gothenburg, said in a statement. “But the biophilia hypothesis should be modified to link the variation in individuals’ relationships with nature to an interaction between heredity and environmental influence.”

In short, people experience and react to nature in their own special ways. A Japanese study that the scientists examined measured the heart rate of study subjects whilst they walked in a forest and also in a city. That study found a reduced heart rate — indicative of positive emotions — whilst in the forest in 65% of study participants, so clearly not everyone enjoyed their walks in the woods. Another study that the team examined suggested that one’s attraction to natural landscapes instead of to cities was heightened in individuals who experienced a childhood filled with nature.

“An additional study on identical and non-identical twins showed that a genetic component influences an individual’s positive or negative relationship with nature,” Professor Gunnarsson pointed out. “But the study also highlighted the importance of environment in terms of attitudes towards nature.”

Furthermore, the team found that people’s perceptions of nature can be very different. Some view nature as a manicured park or green space filled with lawns, flowers and trees, whereas others are more interactive, finding that spending time in the wilderness is more rewarding (Figure 1). These variations for how to best experience nature could also be determined by heredity and early life experiences.

“[I]t’s important that we don’t standardize nature when planning greenery in our towns and cities,” co-author Marcus Hedblom, a professor in landscape architecture at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), observed. “We shouldn’t replace wild greenery with a park and assume that it will be good for everyone.”

To ensure that we all can benefit from our time in nature, the design of urban green spaces and urban planning should reflect these distinct preferences.

“There are probably quite a large number of people who do not have such positive feelings towards nature, partly due to hereditary factors,” Professor Gunnarsson concluded. “Future studies that dig deeper into the interactions between hereditary and environmental factors are essential if we are to understand what shapes individuals’ relationships with nature. But we have to remember that we are all different, and take that into account when planning for different natural areas in towns and cities. Let people find their own favorite green spaces.“


Bengt Gunnarsson and Marcus Hedblom (2023). Biophilia revisited: nature versus nurture, Trends in Ecology and Evolution 38(9):792-794 | doi:10.1016/j.tree.2023.06.002

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Geneva Lake Conservancy Small Nature Photo Contest


Geneva Lake Conservancy/Helen Rohner Children's Fishing Park, 159 Elkhorn Rd. (State Hwy. 67), Williams Bay

The Geneva Lake Conservancy’s Helen Rohner Children’s Fishing Park nature preserve, 159 Elkhorn Rd. (State Hwy. 67) in Williams Bay, adjoins 231-acre Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy, 251 Elkhorn Rd. Children can enjoy angling for brown trout in Southwick Creek or explore the preserve’s many amenities, including a boardwalk wetland area and amphibian pond, butterfly garden and native plant garden. The Geneva Lake Conservancy is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of environmentally-sensitive lands, open space and the unique character and quality of life in Walworth County.

Eric Johnson

The Fontana-based Geneva Lake Conservancy is currently hosting its annual Small Nature Photo Contest.

Photos must be unedited and taken in Williams Bay at either Helen Rohner Children’s Fishing Park, 159 Elkhorn Rd. (State Hwy. 67), or the adjacent 251-acre Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy preserve, 251 Elkhorn Rd. (State Hwy. 67). The deadline for contest photo submissions is Thursday, Aug 10 at [email protected]. Entrants can submit up to five photos.

Winners will be announced for each of the following age categories: 4-12, 13-21 and 22-plus. Cash prizes in each age category are $150 for first place, $100 for second and $50 for third.

A reception to honor all contest participants will be held Thursday, Aug. 24 at 5 p.m. at Green Grocer & Deli, 24 W. Geneva St. (State Hwy. 67), Williams Bay.

“The Small Nature Photo Contest is a fantastic way to get all age groups involved with getting outside and appreciating the small species that make up our beautiful ecosystem,” said Geneva Lake Conservancy Community Outreach and Fundraising Manager Tai Thompson. “I love seeing families at Helen Rohner Park exploring and showing each other what they have found before snapping a picture. It’s a great family activity.”

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For more information about Geneva Lake Conservancy and Helen Rohner Children’s Fishing Park, visit or call 262-275-5700.


Gabon releases tender for Africa’s first ‘debt-for-nature swap’: What is it?


Gabon became the African nation to launch a debt-for-nature swap, on Tuesday (July 25) and plans to buy up at least $450 million of its government debt in exchange for an eco-friendly blue bond, reported Reuters. 

The debt-for-nature swaps have recently gained some popularity among conservation finance, particularly after Ecuador struck the biggest deal of its kind and refinanced $1.6 billion of its commercial debt. 

What are ‘debt-for-nature swaps’?

Debt-for-nature swap is when creditors provide debt relief for developing countries who commit to taking steps towards the conservation of the environment, like decarbonizing the economy, investing in climate-resilient infrastructure, or protecting biodiverse forests or reefs, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

These so-called swaps can be useful for countries that are most vulnerable to climate change and often unable to afford investment to strengthen climate change-related resilience. Typically, a country’s debt, bought up by banks or specialist investors is replaced with cheaper ones with the help of a multilateral development bank “credit guarantee” or “risk insurance”. 

Therefore, these debt-for-nature swaps free up fiscal resources for governments to improve resilience without triggering a fiscal crisis or sacrificing spending on other development priorities, said the IMF. 

The supporters of this concept, which was first ideated by the late “godfather of biodiversity,” Thomas Lovejoy, in the 1980s call it a win-win for financiers, countries and conservationists, as per media reports.

The central African nation’s beaches and coastal waters are home to nearly a third of the global population and the world’s largest population of leatherback turtles, an endangered species. 

Citing a regulatory filing, Reuters reported that Gabon on the London Stock Exchange had “launched invitations to tender for purchase by the Republic for cash its 2025 Notes and 2031 Notes”. 

The filing has since prompted the three Eurobonds that it referred to rise as much as 2.2 cents on the dollar, reported the news agency. Furthermore, the February 2031 maturity rose 2.203 cents to 83.702 cents and the November 2031 maturity jumped 2.129 cents to 83.573 cents. 

While the Gabonese government offered to buy back the bonds for 85 cents per $1 of the bond. Meanwhile, the 2025 maturity rose 1.194 cents to 95.4 cents is also lower than the offer price of 96.75 cents.

A report by Reuters citing industry sources also said that the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) would provide political risk insurance like it has for Ecuador and Belize.

Earlier this year, Ecuador sealed the world’s largest debt-for-nature swap on record amounting to $1.6 billion which has freed up as much as $18 million every year for the next two decades. The amount currently serves as a consistent revenue stream for the conservation of the Galapagos Islands, one of the world’s most precious ecosystems.

(With inputs from agencies) 


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A look at the development of Besthorpe Nature Reserve under the ownership of Nottinghamshire Wilidlife Trust


For many people, the only Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust site that they are aware of is Attenborough Nature Reserve. Attenborough is one of the best known reserves in the UK and receives hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, but the trust also cares for a number of other wetland gems, writes Erin McDaid, of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.

Back in 1999, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust took over the long-term lease of the Besthorpe Nature Reserve from Lafarge Aggregates, now part of the LafargeHolcim group.

Situated in the very heart of the Trent Vale nestled between the Trentside villages of Collingham and Besthorpe, the site, like many of our wetland nature reserves, was previously a commercial sand and gravel quarry. The worked out lagoons and old processing plant have long-since been reclaimed by nature (with a significant helping hand) and are now a haven for wildlife.

Besthorpe Nature Reserve. Photo: Graham Roberts Betnor Photography Ltd
Besthorpe Nature Reserve. Photo: Graham Roberts Betnor Photography Ltd

Thanks to the sterling efforts of local volunteers the reserve continues to develop and during the pandemic, it provided something of a lifeline for local communities desperate for a regular nature fix.

Like the lagoons on many old gravel pit complexes that Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust has acquired down the years, the main water body on the reserve, known as Mons Pool, was very deep and steep sided. As a result it was particularly rich, with little scope for marginal vegetation to establish and few shallows for wading birds, but the overall range of habitats across the reserve, its Trentside location and the fact it borders another large reserve being developed by the RSPB, Langford Lowfields, meant it had tremendous potential.

Fast forward a decade and the Wildlife Trust, and thanks to our involvement in the ambitious Trent Vale Landscape Partnership funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund were able to carry out a huge habitat restoration project – which remains the largest of its type we’ve ever undertaken.

This involved a huge amount of earth moving re-establish a once-thriving reedbed in the northern section of the reserve and the material dug out of the reedbed was used to carefully re-profile Mons Pool, creating a complex mix of shallows and shelving margins. These provided the diversity required for a myriad of species to thrive including the plants and invertebrates that provide the building blocks for success of species higher up the food chain, including wading birds.

More recent investment has included wheelchair accessible paths and wildlife watching facilities.

Besthorpe Nature Reserve is the perfect place for birdwatching.
Besthorpe Nature Reserve is the perfect place for birdwatching.

These access improvement have made possible thanks, in no small part, to the efforts of our stalwart local volunteer warden Andrew Hindmarsh and other volunteers and supporters including local councillors and businesses.

The island in Mons Pool was, for many years, home to one of the county’s largest colonies of heron, a sizeable cormorant roost and a rookery.

The nesting spots are now shared with a relative newcomer – little egrets.

A decade ago, the reserve became the first location in the county confirmed for breeding little egrets a species that, not so many years ago, would only been seen in southern Europe.

Once a rare visitor to our shores, these elegant birds are now a regular sight on our coasts and increasingly common inland. They have expanded their range, likely due to increasing temperatures caused by climate change and first bred in the UK in 1996 – moving northwards ever since

Alongside the entrance track to the reserve there are some attractive wet meadows which are often home to sheep from our conservation grazing ‘flying flock’.

In summer the reserve is alive with visitors including terns, swifts and swallows as well as colourful dragonflies.

In winter the reserve is a good place to spot a range of over wintering ducks such as wigeon, tufted duck, gadwall, pochard, mallard and teal.

Fields to the north of the reserve are often a good place to spot Whooper swans. The mix of habitats and its proximity to the Langford Lowfields make it an ideal destination for a day’s wildlife watching.

Little Egret in flight. Photo: Mike Vickers
Little Egret in flight. Photo: Mike Vickers

Depending how much time you’ve got to spare you could also take in Spalford Warren, a fascinating inland sand dune system, just a little further up the A1133 Newark to Gainsborough Road.


Tucson teen takes top honors in statewide nature photo contest


A 15-year-old Tucson girl has won the statewide “Adventures in Nature” Photo Contest with her shot of a snowy scene in the Catalina Mountains.

Arianna DuPont took home the $5,000 top prize for capturing the tranquil beauty of a “Rare March snow in Sabino Creek,” which was selected over more than 300 other photos from almost 200 teenage photographers.

“I’ve always been so drawn to capturing the beauty of our surroundings, and I’m so fortunate to live in such a beautiful city (and an) amazing state, where we have all these beautiful things to capture,” DuPont said in a written statement, after celebrating the award with her family and her photography teacher, Amy Haskell, at the Gregory School.

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Malia Means, 16, of Phoenix, took second place — and $2,000 — for a photo of the Superstition Mountains called “Towering Rocks Peeking Through Low Clouds.”

Corbin Rouette, 18, of Tucson, captured third place — and $1,000 — for a striking black-and-white image of “Saguaros Watching the Clouds.”

Corbin Rouette, 18, of Tucson won third prize in the statewide “Adventures in Nature” Photo Contest with this picture called “Saguaros Watching the Clouds.”

The 10th annual contest was put on by Arizona Highways magazine, The Nature Conservancy and Cox Communications.

“Our mission at Arizona Highways is to get people off the couch,” said Robert Stieve, the magazine’s editor. “We’ve been a proud co-sponsor of this photo contest for many years because it goes to the heart of what we’re trying to do.”

The judges for this year’s contest were Arizona Highways photo editor Jeff Kida, Phoenix-based professional photographers Suzanne Mathia and Mark Skalny, former Arizona Daily Star photo editor Rick Wiley and acclaimed photographer John Schaefer, who previously served as president of the University of Arizona.

Seven participants earned honorable mentions and $250 each. They are: Gibson Gallares for “Golden Hour with Bird Taking Flight,” Grace Shepard for “Fog Floating Through the Valley Alongside the Peak of Mt. Lemmon,” Faiza Tasnim for “Horseshoe Bend During a Semi-Cloudy Day,” last year’s first-place winner Kaden VanDuyne for “Sycamore Falls Evening,” Tobey Yamashita for “Portrait of a Red Fox,” and Aidan Yu for two entries, “Natural Elements of the Salt River” and “The Great Roadrunner.”

“Photography provides a purpose for these kids — it makes them think about what they’re seeing and experiencing,” Stieve said. “And even if their photos don’t finish in the Top 10, they’re already winners for having had the experience of being outside.”

Winning photographs from this year’s contest are expected to be featured in Arizona Highways and in promotional materials for future contests.

The water is running high in Sabino Creek in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. Snowmelt from the upper reaches of the Santa Catalinas has the creek flowing over the bridges along Sabino Canyon Road. Video Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star

Kelly Presnell

Contact reporter Henry Brean at [email protected] or 573-4283. On Twitter: @RefriedBrean


Ansel Adams exhibit mulls nature amid a changing climate | Art


Ansel Adams created some of the definitive photographs of the Western American landscape long before climate change threatened to obliterate it forever. Born in San Francisco in 1902, Adams is best remembered for his lush black-and-white pictures of the Yosemite Valley and the Southwest, as well as for his role as an educator who influenced generations of photographers after him.

Now, the de Young — the site of Adams’s first exhibition in 1932 — hosts “Ansel Adams in Our Time,” a major retrospective organized in partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, examining the artist’s legacy in relationship with the work of 23 contemporary environmental photographers breaking new ground in the genre.

While the exhibition is full of iconic Adams shots, like “Clearing Winter Storm,” c. 1937, or “Moon and Half Dome,” 1960, both made in Yosemite National Park and many deep cuts, the artist’s work is only a jumping off point.

Richard Misrach’s “Golden Gate Bridge” series, shot from the back porch of his home in the Berkeley Hills, responds directly to Adams’s “The Golden Gate Before the Bridge,” 1932, a breathtaking view of the mouth of the Bay between the Presidio and Marin Headlands – sans bridge. Mark Klett implements collage to converse with Adams and other seminal landscape photographers. The titular view of “View from the handrail at Glacier Point overlook, connecting views from Ansel Adams to Carleton Watkins,” 2003, photographed in color by Klett, is overlaid with collage elements snipped from Adams and Watkins’s earlier black-and-white pictures.

By returning to the source, both artists play to photography’s chronological promise, revealing how much – and how little – has changed.

Others are more concerned with interrogating the act of looking itself, challenging the ubiquity of the White male gaze. Catherine Opie’s landscapes, like “Untitled #1 (Yellowstone Valley),” 2015, respond to and contradict Adams in almost every way: colorful and completely out of focus. Binh Danh’s daguerreotypes of Yosemite, a printing process using a highly copper surface, mirror the viewer in the image.

Both Opie and Dahn’s pictures raise the question of how who looks changes what they see, placing the viewer inside the landscapes they photograph. In fact, the traditional absence of humans from many landscape photographers’ work, including Adams’s, presents a bit of cognitive dissonance: The human footprint is increasingly present in nature, from population growth to climate change, while the particular absence of people in Western landscapes carries colonialist connotations. What you don’t see is just as important as what you do.

Some photographers of Adams’s era attempted more ethnographic projects, like Adam Clark Vroman’s 19th-century playing card sets, illustrated with photographs of Native Americans and sold as souvenirs. Contrast that with Will Wilson’s contemporary portraits of Native Americans like “Nakotah LaRance,” 2012, a young man carrying a portable video game system and a comic book, or Wilson’s own self-portrait “How the West is One,” 2014. Wilson’s diptych represents the artist on both sides: on one, Wilson is dressed in Indigenous cultural garb; on the other, he’s dressed like a cowboy, each staring gravely into his reflection’s eyes. Here, we get a clear view of what’s missing from the supposedly objective presentation of the hauntingly empty landscape.

While Adams’s vision of the West became ubiquitous, it was itself far from objective. Credited with several advancements on the technical side of photography, he studiously crafted many of his images post-production, often combining multiple negatives and using all the darkroom trickery available to him to create impossibly breathtaking views. These technological experimentations were cutting edge at the time, and his work continues to be at home in the company of similarly daring experimenters.

Chris McCaw and Meghann Riepenhoff both play fast and loose with the negative, accentuating the illustrative — even painterly — quality photography can possess. McCaw, who builds his own giant cameras, outfitted with periscope lenses, makes long-exposure photographs in which the trajectory of the sun burns its way across paper negatives over time. Riepenhoff’s pieces are contact prints made by exposing photo-sensitive paper to various natural phenomena, like ice, in addition to light. It’s a level of integration with nature Adams never achieved, embedding nature into their work in an inversion of human’s impact on their


In one of his rare, urban landscapes, “Housing Development, San Bruno Mountains, San Francisco,” 1966, Adams turns his own lens on the direct impact of development, a zigzag of prefab homes tearing through the hillside. Compared to Adams’s earlier nature shots, this feels like a slap in the face, forcing the viewer to confront the degradation of the landscape. There’s a way in which all of Adams’s photos could be considered depictions of humanity’s impact on the land, and the continued impact on the land is fully displayed by his contemporary counterparts.

Mitch Epstein approaches environmentalism through absurdism. In “Altamont Pass Wind Farm, California,” 2007, the arid wind farm serves as a backdrop for a group of golfers playing on the green course that abuts it. “Signal Hill, Long Beach, California,” 2007, offers a scene of an oil pump wedged between homes in a suburban neighborhood, showcasing the intersection of industrial greed, urban sprawl and willful ignorance. Laura McPhee’s diptych “Early Spring (Peeling Bark in Rain),” 2008, is a view into a dense forest of burned trees, the soot-black bark of each trunk peeling away to uncover new growth beneath. It’s a heartbreaking record of wildfire damage, with a hint of a promising future.

The beauty of the natural world has grown bittersweet. Every picture in the exhibition is gorgeous, sublime enough to teach the Hudson River School a lesson, but they’re hard to look at without recalling recent and increasing environmental travesties in the Bay Area and beyond.

By avoiding the sort of didactics often present in climate activism, Adams and company remind us what we have to lose by showing us why we love it, doing so without sacrificing any of the complex dynamics present in humanity’s relationship to the land. These pictures aren’t for posterity: they’re a reminder that time is running out.


How a new ‘nature economy’ is transforming the fight for B.C.’s ancient forests


Another way a ‘nature economy’ is finding a foothold is through talent acquisition. Scott Sinclair, whose company, SES Consulting, retrofits buildings to move them off fossil fuels, says having a nature-first mindset baked into the business model attracts innovative young minds who grew up with the environment front and centre – as well as clients.

“It’s just, I think, an incredible business opportunity,” he says.

Click to play video: 'Why protecting the planet and making a profit are no longer at odds'

Why protecting the planet and making a profit are no longer at odds

For some environmentalists as well, this work is about combining environmental action, long associated with protesters blocking roads and affixing themselves onto trees, with the idea of promoting business.

Though still niche, it’s starting to happen.

‘Valuing’ Nature

To understand the economic value of their natural assets, some communities are putting a price on them.

The District of West Vancouver is one of the first in Canada to do so.

There are some rare strands of urban, old growth trees left standing in the city’s Lighthouse Park. In a walk through the park, District officials Matthew MacKinnon and Heather Keith explained the uniqueness of the old growth forest. They told Global News how these ancient trees, some over 500 years old, maintain an extremely biodiverse ecosystem in the park, while offering people a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

“There are trees here that have lived longer than any person that’s alive right now,” says Heather Keith, the senior manager of climate action and environment for the District.

The municipality has determined the idea has value in dollar figures. It’s one of the first places in Canada to take this approach, estimating its natural assets – forests, waterways, parks – to be in the ballpark of $3.2 billion, with forests providing up to $1.8 billion in ‘services.’

They’ve estimated that to be the cost of ‘replacing’ those assets, which provide immeasurable ecological and health benefits to the community, Keith says.

An infographic showing West Vancouver’s dollar valuations of its natural assets.

Many Indigenous communities are also charting a clear path forward toward that new nature economy.

One model that’s proven successful is called Coast Funds. It’s an investment strategy created by coastal First Nations to pool money to help local communities shift from extraction – logging old growth trees, for example – and toward protection. This means keeping those vital resources intact and leveraging them to make them profitable – ecotourism, carbon credits or guardianship programs.

“We understood that 500-year-old trees don’t just grow up overnight,” says Dallas Smith, the president of Nanwakolas Council, a group of six First Nations that’s part of the Coast Funds initiative.

The broader financial and business communities have realized that the costs of environmental inaction are far greater – and are starting to move toward a sustainable direction, too.

Adam Scott is an analyst whose group, Shift Action for Pension Wealth and Planet Health, monitors how credible Canadian pension funds are when it comes to climate action. In January, Shift released a report arguing there’s a long way to go. But at least there is a recognition that things need to change.

“The smart players in the financial industry have understood that […] the financial performance of their institutions is based on having a climate strategy,” he said.

Unfortunately, the moves are largely voluntary and without teeth, says Tom Rand, a managing partner with ArcTern Ventures. In other words, he insists, there’s a long way to go before a nature economy becomes the norm.

“If you’re asking if the broad swath of economic actors are understanding that we can make money preserving nature, absolutely not.”

But big trees are offering an inspiration for change. People name them. They trek through the forest to see them, and in the case of photographer TJ Watt, to document them before they’re gone.

A man stands at the base of a huge tree.

TJ Watt/Ancient Forest Alliance

“These are some of the most enchanting and beautiful ecosystems on all of Planet Earth,” says Watt, who represents the Ancient Forest Alliance.

“They’re really some of our oldest friends.”

Tracking giants

When author and book editor Amanda Lewis set out to write a book about big trees, she thought she’d focus on the dwindling, majestic resources nestled in the coastal forests of B.C.

But, solo expedition after solo expedition hiking through various groves in search of the biggest of the big led her to another, more optimistic conclusion – “I wanted to focus on what we have left” and not so much on “what we’ve lost.”

The pandemic was a catalyst for Lewis – and, it seems, for many other Canadians too.


In Africa’s Okavango, oil drilling disrupts locals, nature


MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) — Gobonamang Kgetho has a deep affection for Africa’s largest inland delta, the Okavango. It is his home.

Elephants are seen in the Chobe National Park in Botswana, on March 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Charmaine Noronha, File)

The water and wildlife-rich lands is fed by rivers in the Angolan highlands that flow into northern Botswana before draining into Namibia’s Kalahari Desert sands. Several Indigenous and local communities and a vast array of species including African elephants, black rhinos and cheetahs live among the vibrant marshlands. Much of the surrounding region is also teeming with wildlife.

Fisher Kgetho hails from Botswana’s Wayei community and relies on his pole and dug-out canoe to skirt around the marshes looking for fish. But things have changed in recent years — in the delta and across the country.

“The fish sizes have shrunk, and stocks are declining,” Kgetho, whose life and livelihood depends on the health of the ecosystem, told The Associated Press. “The rivers draining into the delta have less volumes of water.”

Drilling for oil exploration, as well as human-caused climate change leading to more erratic rainfall patterns and water abstraction and diversion for development and commercial agriculture, has altered the landscape that Kgetho, and so many other people and wildlife species, rely on.

The delta’s defenders are now hoping to block at least one of those threats — oil exploration.

A planned hearing by Namibia’s environment ministry will consider revoking the drilling license of Canadian oil and gas firm Reconnaissance Energy. Local communities and environmental groups claimed that land was bulldozed and cut through, damaging lands and polluting water sources, without the permission of local communities.

Kgetho worries that rivers in his region are drying up because of “overuse by the extractive industries, including oil exploration activities upstream.”

In a written statement, ReconAfrica, the firm’s African arm, said it safeguards water resources through “regular monitoring and reporting on hydrological data to the appropriate local, regional and national water authorities” and is “applying rigorous safety and environmental protection standards.”

The statement went on to say that it has held over 700 community consultations in Namibia and will continue to engage with communities in the country and in Botswana.

The company has been drilling in the area since 2021 but is yet to find a productive well. The hearing was originally scheduled for Monday but has been postponed until further notice. The drilling license is currently set to last until 2025, with ReconAfrica previously having been granted a three-year extension.

Locals have persisted with legal avenues but have had little luck. In a separate case, Namibia’s high court postponed a decision on whether local communities should pay up for filing a case opposing the company’s actions.

The court previously threw out the urgent appeal made by local people to stop the Canadian firm’s drilling activities. It’s now deciding whether the government’s legal feels should be covered by the plaintiffs or waived. A new date for the decision is set for May.

The Namibian energy minister, Tom Alweendo, has maintained the country’s right to explore for oil, saying that European countries and the U.S. do it too. Alweendo supports the African Union’s goal of using both renewable and non-renewable energy to meet growing demand.

There are similar fears of deterioration across Botswana and the wider region. Much of the country’s diverse ecosystem has been under threat from various development plans. Nearby Chobe National Park, for example, has seen a decline in river quality partly due to its burgeoning tourism industry, a study found.

In the Cuvette-Centrale basin in Congo, a dense and ecologically thriving forest that’s home to the largest population of lowland gorillas, sections of the peatlands — the continent’s largest — went up for oil and gas auction last year.

The Congolese government said the auctioning process “is in line” with development plans and government programs and it will stick to stringent international standards.

Environmentalists are not convinced.

Wes Sechrest, chief scientist of environmental organization Rewild, said that protecting areas “that have robust and healthy wildlife populations” like the Okavango Delta, “are a big part of the solution to the interconnected climate and biodiversity crises we’re facing.”

The peatlands also serve as a carbon sink, storing large amounts of the gas that would otherwise heat up the atmosphere.

Sechrest added that “local communities are going to bear the heaviest costs of oil exploration” and “deserve to be properly consulted about any extractive industry projects, including the many likely environmental damages, and decide if those projects are acceptable to them.”

Steve Boyes, who led the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project that mapped the delta, said researchers now have even more data to support the need to maintain the wetlands.

Aided by Kgetho and other locals, whose “traditional wisdom and knowledge” led them through the bogs, Boyes and a team of 57 other scientists were able to detail around 1,600 square kilometers (1,000 square miles) of peatlands.

“These large-scale systems that have the ability to sequester tons of carbon are our long-term resilience plan,” said Boyes.

For Kgetho, whose journey with the scientists was made into a documentary released earlier this year, there are more immediate reasons to defend the Okavango.

“We must protect the delta,” Kgetho said. “It is our livelihood.”


Changes to dog policy for nature reserves


The UK is without doubt a nation of both dog lovers and nature lovers, but these two passions are not always completely in sync, writes Erin McDaid of the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.

Dogs are more popular than ever before, with an estimated 34% of UK households now sharing their home with man’s best friend.

Just as appreciation of nature and local wild spaces grew during lockdown restrictions, it seems that dog ownership grew too ­— increasing the chances of issues when walking dogs on nature reserves.

Dogs must now be kept on short leads at Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves. Photo: 2020Vision.
Dogs must now be kept on short leads at Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves. Photo: 2020Vision.

Just like most of us, to keep healthy and happy, dogs need fresh air and exercise, but depending where people choose to exercise their dogs, this can bring them into conflict with wildlife. Even the friendliest, most gentle dog still looks like the predator they evolved from ­— and that’s just how wildlife such as birds and small mammals see them.

An encounter with a dog, even a very brief one, can be hugely stressful for birds, mammals, reptiles, and other animals. Sometimes it can even prove fatal either through an rare attack or because disturbance leads to nests or young being abandoned.

Our dogs can also have less direct impacts on the natural world around them. It might seem harmless to leave dog poo in the undergrowth, but the extra nutrients this adds to the soil, especially on sites popular with dog walkers, can disrupt nature’s balance, leading to the loss of wildflowers as delicate plants are replaced with nutrient-hungry species such as nettles. Cleaning up after your dog and keeping them on a short lead whilst on nature reserves and in other vital wildlife habitats will go a long way towards keeping wildlife safe.

Birds, reptiles and other wildlife view even the friendliest of dogs as predators. Photo: Mike Vickers.
Birds, reptiles and other wildlife view even the friendliest of dogs as predators. Photo: Mike Vickers.

While many nature reserves across the UK don’t allow dogs at all, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust has a long standing policy of welcoming well-behaved dogs ­— and well-behaved owners.

Until recently, we asked people to keep their dog under close control but sadly this advice can be misinterpreted and is difficult to enforce. With the advent of extendable leads and the significant increase in dog numbers, we’ve changed our policy and now ask people to keep dogs on a short lead when visiting our sites unless there is explicit signage saying otherwise.

A few weeks ago, we issued a news release outlining our change of policy – timed to coincide with the start of the bird nesting season and lambing season – a period when dogs, wildlife and livestock often clash. But the issue of dogs disturbing wildlife and livestock is year-round.

The ground-nesting nightjar is particularly at risk. Photo: John Smith.
The ground-nesting nightjar is particularly at risk. Photo: John Smith.

The sad fact is that dogs off leads is one of the biggest causes of wildlife disturbance and this issue is particularly problematic for the many species that breed on or close to the ground.

Ground-nesting birds, such as corn bunting and skylark, are particularly at risk. Research shows that 66% of ground-nesting birds are in decline in the UK, compared to 31% of other species. When you consider that some ground nesting species, including the mysterious nightjars that breed on heathlands in Sherwood Forest, have come all the way from Africa for the short breeding season, it is incumbent on us all to ensure they have every chance of success.

Dogs can also be a threat to livestock, especially sheep, with regular problems reported on our reserves where we use conservation grazing to manage habitats.

Many of us at Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust are dog lovers too and the last thing we want to do is spoil anyone’s fun or that of their dog’s, but our sites are primarily havens for wildlife and we need all visitors’ help to ensure that wildlife can thrive and that everyone can enjoy them. Many people are unaware that birds can be nesting on the ground just a short distance from footpaths and familiar birds such as dunnock and blackbird can also nest very close to the ground in bushes and brambles. An inquisitive dog wandering just short distance off the path could impact on birds’ chances of breeding success.

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. (2682719)
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. (2682719)

So, next time you visit a nature reserve remember to keep dogs on a short lead and don’t forget to clear up after them ­— taking the dog waste home with you if there’s no bin or the bin is full. By following these two simple guidelines it’s possibly to enjoy taking your pooch for a mooch around your local nature spot without harming or disturbing wildlife.

Further details of our Dogs on Nature Reserves policy can be found at