Alarm bells are sounded daily concerning our environment: we are bombarded with disturbing news topics such as climate change bringing about hotter temperatures and ‘extreme heat events;’ increased wildfires; increased drought; warming, rising oceans; more severe storms; loss of species; pollinator decline; lack of nutritious foods; increased health risks; poverty and displacement; and so much more (from United Nations, www.un.org). It can be a lot to take in, so we tend to tune out much of it. When we do think about the challenges we are charged with as caretakers for our planet, we are concerned, but we’re not sure what we can do. . . Someone else will figure it out.
Dara McAnulty would ask each of us, however, to be that someone else and to attempt to find at least some small way to aid in ‘figuring it out.’ He too is burdened with the static of the world around us, but to a degree many of us have not experienced. Dara is an Irish teenager, environmental activist, and author of Diary of a Young Naturalist, who also happens to be on the autism spectrum. He shares with us his gift of a unique perspective–reminding us that each of us has one as well.
When he was diagnosed, Dara’s parents were told that he “will never be able to complete a comprehension.” That his book, which won the 2020 Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing, exists at all is a revelation. His memoir is one of a young man, wise beyond his years, who displays deep thinking and succinct writing. He is well versed in all things nature, and spills his hopes and fears and knowledge out onto the page with such lovely, lyrical honesty that we want to stand up and cheer, and then sit back and relax into his world. Dara’s diary is what we all need—a breath of fresh air.
He finds relief from his anxieties by reveling in the details of the natural world of his Northern Ireland home, and in serving as a herald for the needs of his beloved environment. He experiences it so profoundly that he can share minutia from the ecosystems of a variety of birds, insects, animals, plants, trees, landscapes, seascapes, etc., which he misses deeply when they are absent for a season, or when they have been destroyed altogether.
Dara writes, “I spy coltsfoot, bursts of sunshine from the disturbed ground. White-tailed bumblebees drink and collect hungrily. Dandelions and their allies in the daisy (or Asteraceae) family are often the first pollinating plants to flower in spring, and are incredibly important for biodiversity. I implore everyone I meet to leave a wild patch in their garden for these plants – it doesn’t cost much and anybody can do it.”
Here then is one way we can foray into our own activism, aiding biodiversity and providing for our pollinator friends, which also include birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, small mammals, and most importantly, the bees, especially the prolific Native Bee. Many of these populations are in decline, which Pollinator.org attributes to a loss in feeding and nesting habitats, as well as pollution, the misuse of chemicals, disease, and changes in climatic patterns. “In some cases,” the site reports, ‘there isn’t enough data to gauge a response, and this is even more worrisome.”
This need for more data brings us to another featured book: The field guide to citizen science : how you can contribute to scientific research and make a difference. This primer is written by Darlene Cavalier and Catherine Hoffman, the minds behind Scistarter.org, an online citizen science hub where there are registered more than 3,000 projects, searchable by location, topic, age level, etc. This new movement means we can easily join a project and assist a scientist, finding that ‘one small way’ (or big way!) that Dara requested we do in aid of our mother Earth!
Besides the titles listed here, Smiley Library holds many more books on various topics concerning the natural world and the needs of the environment. Come explore the Library (or ask a librarian–we love to be of service!), or search our online catalog, find topics of interest to you, and discover how you can help.
If we each can do a little, together we can do a lot.
- Hope matters : why changing the way we think is critical to solving the environmental crisis
- The pollinator victory garden : win the war on pollinator decline with ecological gardening : how to attract and support bees, beetles, butterflies, bats, and other pollinators
- Where have all the bees gone? : pollinators in crisis
- 100 plants to feed the monarch : create a healthy habitat to sustain North America’s most beloved butterfly
- How to attract birds to your garden
- Trees in trouble : wildfires, infestations, and climate change
- How to love animals : in a human-shaped world
- The climate diet : 50 simple ways to trim your carbon footprint
- Can I recycle this? : a guide to better recycling and how to reduce single-use plastics **
- The new climate war : the fight to take back the planet
- How to avoid a climate disaster : the solutions we have and the breakthroughs we need
- The physics of climate change
- Unsettled : what climate science tells us, what it doesn’t, and why it matters
- How to prepare for climate change : a practical guide to surviving the chaos
- What can I do? : my path from climate despair to action
- Our house is on fire : scenes of a family and a planet in crisis
- The fragile earth : writing from the New Yorker on climate change
- As the world burns : the new generation of activists and the landmark legal fight against climate change
**For more information on recycling in the City of Redlands, visit the City’s website, https://www.cityofredlands.org/solid-waste-recycling-services