Metropolitan Touring Celebrates World Environment Day 2017
Understanding UNESCO’s World Heritage Properties
Destinations that hold international recognition because of their natural beauty are highly regarded as “bucket list places to visit.” Some of these destinations might be famous due to their wildlife, cultural values, landscapes, architectural design, etc., but all of them retain something unique, something that simply isn’t found anywhere else on Earth. This reality creates an even higher demand for just/authentic destinations and, interestingly enough, it’s these fragile places that experience a lot of pressure from world travelers. When such destinations hold such intrinsic values for humankind, a different approach to what they are and what they represent for our existence is needed. This is why the United Nations and its Environmental Programme has created a unique category of appreciation called “World Heritage Sites.” The criteria for selecting these is quite varied, but it represents features that are absolutely unique and irreplaceable to our Planet. Ecuador, fortunately, has four World Heritage sites that show world explorers just how unique this country is.
World Environment Day 2017
As World Heritage properties were being added to the list, the U.N.’s Environmental Programme set forth to establish a deeper appreciation for what surrounds us while recognizing the really special things that are out there. A special level of understanding was needed with respect to the environmental forces at play and their effect on societies, and in response, the United Nations created World Environment Day, the organization’s most important day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action towards the protection of our environment. Since it began in 1974, World Environment Day has grown to become a global platform for public outreach and is widely celebrated in over 100 countries. Above all, it is the ‘people’s day’ for doing something to take care of the Earth or become an agent of change. That ‘something’ can be focused locally, nationally or globally. It can be independent or involve a crowd – everyone is free to choose how they engage with the concept.
Considering the complexity of the environment, itself the sum of an incredible number of factors and variables, World Environment Day organizers decided that every year a new theme would be chosen to celebrate our relationship with the Earth. The theme for 2017 is connecting people to nature. As expressed in this year’s slogan, “I’m With Nature,” this year organizers invite us to express how we choose to interact with what’s around us. It also invites every one of us to get to know more about what’s around us, to remain curious and inquisitive about the effects of natural forces, and to deeply admire not the just the big or small picture, but any and every picture as a whole. Our modern lives have pushed us into a period of instant gratification and, unfortunately, that’s the exact opposite of how the natural world works. Nature doesn’t need our species, but as a species, our survival depends on nature. In an increasingly technological world, a deep connection with nature gains increasing relevance. “I´m with nature” opens up an opportunity to understand our natural world and be a sustainable part of it.
World Environment Day 2017 in Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands
With its stunning tropical topography, Ecuador has four worlds in one: Pacific Coast, Andes Mountains, Amazonia, and the Galapagos Islands. A total of four World Heritage sites have been named in Ecuador: the Galapagos Islands and the Sangay Volcano (natural sites) and cities like Quito and Cuenca (cultural sites). Outdoor programmes in Ecuador enable people to connect with nature, and this is why the 2017 World Environment Day is perfect for the nation – it’s a country that delivers outdoor experiences that are worthy of allowing you to confidently say “I’m With Nature.” Destinations that have been declared as protected areas in Ecuador also have the added benefit of delivering experiences that connect you with the natural attributes of a destination. Mashpi Reserve, the Cotopaxi National Park, the Amazon region, the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve, Machalilla National Park, the Galapagos Islands, and many other locations are all places that we Ecuadorians explore to renew our connection with nature.
If you’re looking for specific ways to bond with nature while in Ecuador, nothing beats an early walk at Mashpi Lodge. Here, moisture gradually interacts with the temperature and blends together to rise right before your very eyes, creating a misty environment that is perfect for a wide variety of unusual flora and fauna that makes the area an international biodiversity hotspot. For those who prefer to view aquatic life, a plunge in the tropical waters of the Galapagos is a must! Right here on the equator you can see penguins, sea lions, sharks, and puffer fish coexisting with each other – all within a few meters from where you are!
Some may fancy a stroll beside the world’s highest active tropical volcano. Cotopaxi National Park, with its tundra-like habitat, serves as home to numerous birds of prey. These are just a few of the experiences we can have here in Ecuador on this upcoming World Environment Day. A visit to this small but varied country offers marvelous opportunities to witness the great diversity that makes our planet unique, and until now, the only planet known to be inhabited by human beings. It is our chance to celebrate natural life and to openly declare: “I’m With Nature.” And I´m with the Earth.
How Can I Keep Celebrating Over and Over Again?
Engaging with the natural world is a celebration all to itself and it’s really quite simple: simply pause, step back from your busy life for just a moment, and get in tune with your environment, be it a forest, a beach, a mountain, a river, or even your own back yard. Since the majority of us live in urban areas, the Environmental Programme at the U.N. recommends we put a few simple suggestions into practice so as to have a more immediate and better connection with nature. Bringing a little bit of nature into your daily routine can go a long way in taking the edge off from city life. Here’s how to do it:
Create your own natural haven
You don’t need a green thumb or a backyard garden to bring your environment to life and create a peaceful haven at home. Rubber trees, peace lilies and snake plants are easy to grow indoors and bring the colour green to the scene. Herbs such as mint are simple to care for and add a pinch of freshness to meals. Window boxes, hanging baskets and bird feeders can add an explosion of colour and scent during the summertime, and will even bring butterflies and birds fluttering around your place. If you can’t get out into the wild, then summon it. Or buy local produce from farmers’ markets as a simple way to bring some of the outdoors in.
Ditch the gym membership
Gyms can be expensive and stressful. Long queues for machines, loud music and news on screens may not be the best way to disconnect from the daily grind. Why not move your exercise outdoors? Run or join the growing movement of adult tree climbers over at a local park. Find a cycling team that will take you away from the city for the day. Join a Tai Chi club that practices outside in the peacefulness of early morning. Doing so will save you money while reconnecting you with green spaces that you may have forgotten about.
— Santa Cruz II (@SantaCruzIIGPS) May 29, 2017
Blue for the blues
There are few things more soothing than the roar of the ocean or the babble of a brook, and it’s surprisingly easy to get some water into your city life. Half of the world’s population lives within 60 km (37 mi) of the sea, with three-quarters of all large cities present on the coast. Most of the time it can be as simple as getting on a relatively short bus or train ride to get your toes in the water. Even inland, cities often have rivers, canals and streams that offer contemplative spots to sit and rinse away the stress. So find a bit of blue to wash away the blues.
Learn your urban nature
Many of us can’t tell our oaks from our pines or our ravens from our crows, which sometimes means that everything seems to blend into one another. But there is an astonishing variety of trees, plants, birds and other animals in our cities, many of which have adapted themselves to human society in fascinating ways. Learn how to recognize your local flora and fauna and take a few moments each day to look around and see what you can see. You will quickly find yourself marveling at the natural world that’s all around you. Share it with a child – or with your inner child – and make it double the fun!
Get on the nightshift
There is something special about being in a city during the early hours before dawn. The silence and stillness acts as a peaceful contrast to the normal chaos of urban life. And it’s during this period that the animals take full advantage of the tranquility. Foxes, coyotes, raccoons, bats and rabbits are just some of the creatures you won’t see in full daylight. So get yourself up early (or, alternatively, stay up late) and go on a nighttime urban safari to appreciate just how wild your city truly is.
Volunteer with a conservation organization
Pretty much every city in the world has at least one conservation organization working on something related to nature, be it cleaning up polluted areas or caring for abandoned and/or wounded animals. Joining in to help restore green spaces or rescuing a bird with a broken wing won’t just help plants, animals and your community – it will make you feel better.
Text & Photography by Francisco Dousdebés – Galapagos Expert, North Seymour, June 5th, 2017 – 0°39’S / 90°28’W