The benefits of being outdoors for mental health and wellbeing have been discussed on this podcast many times. Each time you, my listeners, have expressed a great interest in this subject. So, today, we are back at it with Philip Stallard, who is a Director and Adventure Therapist at New Wave Adventure Therapy which offers outdoors based therapeutic intervention grounded in the disciplines of psychotherapy, counselling and social work.
Today we’ve got something a little bit different. Instead of a guest, I have brought you a recording of a live talk by Pádraic Fogarty from Irish Wildlife Trust titled: Whittled Away, Ireland’s Vanishing Nature. Pádraic is also the author of the book with the same title and I had the pleasure to chat with him last year on episode 20 of the podcast.
Last Wednesday, Pádraic was invited to give the talk to the Kildare branch of BirdWatch Ireland and I thought it was a pity that they weren’t planning to stream or even record it. So I contacted organizers Brendan Murphy and Tom McCormack from BirdWatch Ireland and, with their permission recorded it.
So, here you have it. Irish Wildlife Trust, Campaign Officer, Pádraic Fogarty and his talk for the Kildare branch of BirdWatch Ireland: “Whittled Away, Ireland’s Vanishing Nature”.
Oh, and don’t forget to buy the book!
Wildlife Rehabilitation Ireland is an organization dedicated to helping injured wild animals return to the wild in full health. But that’s not all. WRI’s mission is to develop a coordinated approach to wildlife rehabilitation in Ireland. They are also involved in efforts to fight wildlife crime. Since the topic of wildlife is an important part of Tommy’s Outdoors, I was eager to sit down with Aideen Magee, one of WRI’s directors, and talk with her about their work. In the podcast you will find lots of useful information about wildlife. We also dig a little deeper into specific wildlife rehabilitation issues. Please go to the WRI website and donate to their cause.
This article was posted earlier this year as a guest entry on the DigiGranBiz travel blog. Unfortunately the aforementioned blog no longer exists, so I decided to publish a slightly refreshed version of the original text here on Tommy’s Outdoors website.
Taking on outdoor activities is like a cure for the damaging, sedentary lifestyle that most of us are living. Our bodies are fundamentally built for movement. Prolonged hours in the same, often unnatural position, are damaging to our musculoskeletal system. Similarly our minds are built for a challenge, but not for the persistent stress that we receive in microdoses daily.
The solution is not simply a matter of going to the gym and exercising. For proper functioning our bodies and minds also need fresh air, the sounds of nature, and the light that comes from the central star known as the sun. While in nature we can disconnect from our own entangled thoughts. We can start paying attention to our surroundings and how they influence us. We will quickly notice that our minds stabilize and become relaxed. The tension in our muscles goes away. Our mood lifts.
Getting into nature also lets us leave behind most of the pollution generated by civilization. Fossil fuel fumes, chemicals, overwhelming noise, excess of the blue light generated by ubiquitous screens, and electrosmog. The harmful effects of most of these are well known and documented. The effects of others are still unknown.
Staying in a natural environment for a few days offers further benefits. The circadian rhythm, unnaturally distorted by ever-present artificial lighting, resets and begins to work in its natural way. Our eating habits begin to return to their normal pattern of around 15 hours of fasting and 9 hours of feeding.
Finally, our spiritual side gets an enormous boost. Connection with the natural environment that surrounds us, a mountain, the sea, or a forest, is very real and almost palpable. It forces us to ask the timeless questions about our own existence and place on this earth.
I hope that this short text encouraged you to spend more time in nature and to do so more consciously. The benefits are countless and the drawbacks are none. And if you feel like you are getting the bug, come back and visit this website more often and immerse yourself in the world of the outdoors. Also, subscribe to the podcast on the platform of your choice (Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, SoundCloud, TuneIn, Podbean and more). See you in the outdoors!
While recording episodes of the podcast I get to meet and speak with people involved in the outdoors. Most of them are interested in the use and preservation of the natural environment. Among those people two distinct groups stand out the most: sportsmen, most often represented by hunters and anglers, and ecologists as in conservationists and environmentalists. In theory, they should represent one consistent front for protection of the natural environment. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Oftentimes representatives of these groups are involved in a counterproductive confrontation with each other. So, let’s dive into this issue and try to understand some of the reasons why this is happening.
For starters, let’s look at the common ground they share. Genuine ecologists are usually research scientists or employees of governmental or non-governmental bodies involved in the protection and management of natural resources. Of course we all know there are self proclaimed, shouty types, but I’m not going to talk about them here. Whenever I have an opportunity to talk to environmentalists I always ask the question, “Do you see sportsmen as allies in the efforts to protect the environment or as adversaries?” Based on the responses so far, I gather that sportsmen are mostly recognized as important stakeholders. Ecologists also recognize that they are an invaluable source of information about the state of the environment. It is because hunters and anglers spent lots of time in the outdoors and have an opportunity to observe nature and the changes it undergoes over time. They are often referred to as the boots on the ground.
Sportsmen also recognize the important role of ecologists as a source of information about wildlife and the environment. They also recognize that ecologists work to protect the resources they interact with. Wild game and fish. And here is where the tension starts. Ecologists often feel that sportsmen repeatedly engage in practices aimed mainly at their own interest, to the detriment of conservation. For example, when engaging in catch and release, they place more importance on taking a trophy photo with the fish over promptly releasing it back to the water. On the flip side, on many occasions sportsmen consider some of the regulations as limiting their activities unnecessarily.
It is not my intention to judge which side is right. Each case is different and everybody makes mistakes. Unfortunately, as the result of these tensions, the opportunity to create a combined, strong and environmentally minded front is lost. Sportsmen are often reluctant to engage in conservation initiatives worried that their interest won’t be recognized and they will find themselves on the wrong side of the equation. On the other hand, ecologists are reluctant to reach out to sportsmen for support, being afraid of a backlash.
It is my strong belief that true hunters and anglers are also environmentalists and conservationists. It is in their own interest, after all, that the waters are full of fish and the woods are full of wild game. In fact, there are many people who belong to both groups. It is not unheard of for a game and wildlife officer to also be an avid hunter or angler. These days, the natural environment is under more pressure from human activity than ever before. Only combined efforts to protect it can be successful. Sportsmen, ecologists, environmentalists and anybody else to whom nature is dear, should pull together. They should bury the discord about the way they intend to use it, and work together to protect it. Otherwise there will be nothing left to use anyway.
In this episode, I visited sunny Waterford to meet Bernadette Phillips, sociologist, motivational speaker, radio broadcaster and the founder of New Insights For Change, to talk about Waterford Greenway. As it turned out, the greenway was only a background to a great conversation about the profound importance of the outdoors and connecting with nature.