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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Rx: Nature

Photo: Jim Wileman/The Guardian.
Seven of the UK’s National Health Service care groups received [$6.9 million, combined] in government funding for projects harnessing nature to improve mental health.

I’d be the last person to tell any person who badly needed therapy to take a walk in the woods. But as today’s article indicates, nature does have healing properties. If you’re feeling down, you could try it. Like chicken soup, “It wouldn’t hurt”!

Reporter Damian Carrington at the Guardian has been talking to patients.

” ‘It sounds dramatic, but this place saved my life,’ says Wendy Turner, looking out over the Steart salt marshes in Somerset. ‘I am really loving the colours of all the marsh grasses at the moment, and the flocks of dunlin and plover. The light is just so beautiful.’

“Turner was once a high-flying international project manager. ‘But the Covid pandemic resulted in me losing everything – my business and my home – and I had years of abuse in a marriage.’ In July 2020, she attempted suicide and woke up in [the emergency room].

“But then she discovered the Steart nature reserve. …

“Turner is one of the fast-growing number of people using nature to improve their health and wellbeing and she is now helping to boost the rise of ‘green social prescribing,’ where health and community services refer people to nature projects. She has helped co-create a mental health and nature course with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), which manages the Steart reserve, and the Mental Health Foundation.

“There is already good evidence of nature’s efficacy, such as a 2019 study showing that a two-hour ‘dose’ of nature a week significantly improved health and wellbeing. The missing link has been connecting health services and nature activities.

“ ‘These activities have being going for years, it’s just that they often have not had that connection into the health systems to enable them to receive the people who need the benefits the most, and to deliver precisely what they need,’ says Dave Solly, at the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP), which was launched in 2019 with funding from the Department of Health.

“But things are changing. Seven NHS care groups from the Humber to Surrey received a combined £5m in government funding in December for projects harnessing nature to improve mental health, including tree planting and growing food. There are also now more than 1,000 social prescribing link workers working in GP surgeries and health clinics, helping doctors link patients to nature activities, as well as arts, heritage and exercise groups. A million people could be referred to social prescribing in the next few years.

Among the projects championed by NASP are Wild Being in Reading, an open-water swimming group in Portsmouth, Dorset Nature Buddies, the Green Happy cafe in Northampton, and a Moving in Nature project in Chingford, Essex.

“Back in Steart marshes, NHS rehabilitation physiotherapist Ralph Hammond is setting off on the weekly 30-minute health walk he leads. He started the walk as a volunteer in 2017, having found there was no suitable walking group for recovering patients.

“The flat landscape and good paths on the reserve, which hosts otters and samphire beds, are important, he says: ‘We are trying to break down barriers – the people I am after are not walking at all.’ The group have been following the fortunes of a pair of white swans and their cygnets. …

“Suzanne Duffus tackles the walk enthusiastically with a sturdy wheeled walking frame. She started coming to Steart after her husband died and is now a volunteer, giving support and encouragement to newcomers. …

“Increasing access to such activities requires staff dedicated to connecting nature groups to the health service. The WWT’s Will Freeman is doing this at Steart and says: ‘For a lot of people, it is very exciting, but it can also be difficult as the cultures of organisations may not match.

“A lot of nature reserves have not been that well connected with their communities.’ … The social side is key too, he says: ‘We sometimes miss the simple human side – just having a chat and asking how you are. Nature is an asset that adds to all that.’ …

“Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of NASP and of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, says: ‘[During the pandemic] we have all become increasingly reliant on our local outdoor space as other activity was restricted. From allotments and parks to walks in the country, being outdoors has been a lifeline for many of us.

“ ‘However, all too often those who would benefit more from time “closer to nature” simply cannot access it. … Social inequalities mean that those in the most deprived areas spend less time outdoors. As a practising GP myself, it is so heartening to see so many projects flourish right across the country, making the most of this approach to health provision.’

“Solly, who is on secondment to NASP from Natural England, hopes that green social prescribing will become routinely offered to those who would benefit: ‘Instead of a prescription for further medicine, your prescription is to go to an activity, with a suggestion of a few options that work for you.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photo: Alia Smith.
Playing the Wingspan board game.

Are you a board-game enthusiast? I am not usually, but as Hurricane Henri sweeps over Rhode Island and activities are shut down like it’s the pandemic all over again, I’m thinking we may need more board games in the house. And the one in today’s story looks like a winner.

Dan Kois writes at Slate about Wingspan’s recent phenomenal success.

“In the winter of 2005, Elizabeth Hargrave, a health policy analyst, took a ski trip with a group of friends from her church. The problem was, she said, she grew up in Florida, ‘and I don’t actually enjoy skiing, or any winter sports.’ One of the friends had brought a selection of board games. … Hargrave, who played bridge but hadn’t really played board games since she was a kid, was ‘totally hooked,’ she said. …

“After she returned home to the D.C. suburbs, she continued playing games. She loved the math of them, the way they became puzzles. … In her newfound fandom, Hargrave was like thousands of adults who’ve rediscovered the joy of board games, especially as a new kind of game took over the market.

“In ‘Eurostyle’ games, players complete complex, evolving challenges more involved than simply traveling around a game board answering trivia questions or paying rent. And in Eurostyle games, players are never eliminated. …

“[But Hargrave] and her friends found themselves annoyed that all the games seemed to revolve around medieval villages, or trains, or trading economies in vaguely Mediterranean locales. ‘At one point we placed a moratorium on games about castles,’ she said. This led her to a question: Why weren’t there games about subjects she actually found compelling? Maybe she would design one, she thought. And that led to another question: What did she like enough to want to make a whole game out of it?

“That one was easy. Birds.

“My family discovered Wingspan,” the Slate reporter continues, “with its beautiful, hand-painted cards and gentle, strategic gameplay, last year, and soon we were playing it every weekend. Wingspan has transformed the way I think about games, about competition, and even about art. ,,,

“When it was released in 2019, it was an instant hit, and that was before everyone found themselves stuck inside during the pandemic. In 2020, as the pandemic drove Americans both into their homes to stare at their families and out into the woods to stare at birds, Wingspan blew up, outselling every other game its publisher makes combined. That company, Stonemaier Games, has now sold 1.3 million copies of the game and its expansions, plus another 125,000 digital editions on Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and iOS. …

“Wngspan is what’s known among serious gamers as an ‘engine-building game,’ which means that as the game goes on, the combination of birds you play becomes more and more efficient at generating points each turn, like an engine running faster and faster. Your cuckoo lays eggs, and the eggs not only give you points but make it possible to play more birds, which also give you more points but have their own powers that generate points in other ways. I prefer thinking about the mechanism of Wingspan not as an engine I am building, but as an ecosystem I am fostering.

If I’ve strategized well, the birds in my ecosystem will be knitted together into a web of complex, mutually beneficial relationships. …

“It’s those interconnections that Hargrave began mapping out in a ginormous spreadsheet once she decided she really did want to design a board game. For four years, she researched birds, brainstormed play ideas, and — most crucially — tested the game, over and over, every week for years, with a group of friends. …

“During the years she was playtesting Wingspan, she worked as a health policy consultant, often running focus groups, and her experience with analyzing data and interpreting consumer response was also crucial to Wingspan’s development. The numbers work in Wingspan. What seems at the beginning like a set of coincidences or accidents reveal themselves by game’s end as a cleverly designed system that ensures everyone finds a way to score points.

“When Hargrave felt she had a solid game, she cold-emailed every publisher that seemed like it might be amenable to a game about birds by a first-time designer. Most ignored her or turned her down, but in 2016 she did land a few meetings at Gen Con, an Indianapolis board game convention. One executive, Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games, listened to her pitch for Bring in the Birds, as it was called, responded with a list of suggested changes, and told her that if she revised the game and came back to him, he’d consider it. That meant another half-year of unpaid work before Stegmaier accepted her revision and agreed to manufacture the game. Hargrave, as a first-time designer, received no advance, so until the game sold, she wouldn’t see a dime.

“But boy, did the game sell. …

“I think that the game’s sly cooperative nature — the way Hargrave’s design gently pushes you not to beat your neighbor but to succeed with her, together — goes hand in hand with its conservationist spirit. Of course passionate birders become Wingspan players, and Hargrave has heard from many nonbirder Wingspan fans who are now investing in bird feeders and signing up for eBird accounts (us, for example). But there’s also something inspiring about engaging with the outdoors in this constructive way, at a time when most human impact upon the environment seems so dire. Nature is not a zero-sum game, and neither is the human effort to preserve it: The more people you invite to the table to work together, the more everyone achieves. “

More at Slate, here.

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Photo: Hugh Warwick.
Hugh Warwick has collected over a million signatures calling for legislation to require planners and construction companies to create “hedgehog highways”

When we lived in Minneapolis, we had friends with a pet hedgehog called Hazel. I didn’t know if there were any rules about keeping hedgehogs as pets in those days. All I knew was that hedgehogs were adorable. And the way they curled up in a ball when anxious reminded me of myself. Or an ostrich.

Time to give up our ostrich behavior and do something about hedgehogs’ loss of habitat. Shafi Musaddique has a report at the Christian Science Monitor.

“Jo Wilkinson realized she was losing her students’ attention, so she turned to an old friend: the hedgehog. As a sustainability and engagement officer at Britain’s University of Sheffield, she wanted to rally students around sustainable foods and energy conservation. But it could be hard to hold students’ interest. That was until she proposed building a ‘hedgehog safari’ trail on campus. …

“ ‘I recognized straightaway that hedgehogs captured everyone’s imagination,’ says Ms. Wilkinson. ‘There’s something about them that does that to people.’

“Her effort to expand hedgehog habitats at Sheffield earned British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) funding in 2019. … Within 18 months, she had a fully funded national project that has certified 110 ‘hedgehog-friendly’ campuses across the country. …

“Britain’s hedgehogs need all the help they can get. The country’s ‘red lists’ categorize species based on how threatened they are. Hedgehogs joined the lists in 2020, officially classified as vulnerable to extinction. But advocates and organizations like Ms. Wilkinson and BHPS, which maintains her Hedgehog Friendly Campus accreditation program, are working to save the iconic British garden dweller.

“Researchers estimate there were about 1.5 million hedgehogs across England, Scotland, and Wales collectively in the mid-1990s.

The population size is difficult to keep track of, but studies show that British hedgehog numbers in rural areas have declined by 50% since 2000, though in cities and towns the decline is closer to 30%.

“ ‘It’s almost as if hedgehogs are moving out and doing the opposite of humans,’ says Ms. Wilkinson. ‘They’re moving into towns and cities because perhaps those places are providing them a bit of a refuge.’ Hedgehogs tend to follow people, she says, and have found that they can scavenge on cat and dog food in gardens. …

“That’s become more valuable as rural areas have lost wildflowers, bramble patches, and leaf and log piles in the countryside. Pesticides from intensive, modern farming practices and ‘habitat fragmentation’ – the ‘chopping up’ of Britain’s landscape into smaller pieces – have added to the rural challenges facing hedgehogs, says Hugh Warwick, author of four books dedicated to the spiky critters.

“The self-dubbed hedgehog connoisseur leads the fight in finding solutions to the destruction of hedgehog habitats due to ‘manicured gardens.’ From his garden shed in Oxford, Mr. Warwick has drummed up over a million signatures for a petition calling for British planning law requiring all new developments to include ‘hedgehog highways’: holes to allow hedgehogs to move freely between gardens.

“Mr. Warwick – once described by a British politician as the ‘Lorax of hedgehogs’ in reference to Dr. Seuss’ literary character who ‘speaks for the trees’ and fights suburban development – has managed to convince the government to change planning law guidance through his petition and online campaigning. …

“[The] hamlet of Kirtlington has already devised a hedgehog highway featuring eccentric holes, miniature stairs, and knocked-down walls that knit gardens together. Villagers took a map of the hamlet and spent time working out the minimum number of holes to connect a maximum number of gardens. A map of the hedgehog highway helps tourists trace the paths of the tiny inhabitants. … Recognizing the threat toward one of the U.K.’s favorite creatures is an opportunity for people to reconnect with their surroundings.

“For Ryan Wallace, sustainability officer at the University of London, which is part of the Hedgehog Friendly Campus initiative, that means ensuring hedgehogs thrive in the most unlikely of places: central London. Though surrounded by Regency-era houses and within walking distance of busy tourist attractions, the public squares of Bloomsbury offer overgrown bushes and ample foliage. That makes them – and the neighboring university – fertile ground for hedgehogs, though none were seen last year.

“ ‘They can travel up to 2 miles through the streets of London,’ says Mr. Wallace. … ‘Hedgehogs have loads of benefits people don’t realize. They keep the slug population down, and they’re natural pest killers,’ he says. ‘They’re also a good indicator of how well the natural environment is doing.’ …

“ ‘If there’s a space in your garden where you can let the weeds grow, do that and stop cutting the grass,’ says Ms. Wilkinson. ‘Let nature be nature.’ …

“[At] Nottingham Trent University, a ‘bronze-winning’ Hedgehog Friendly Campus … the school’s sustainable development projects officer has plans to add special hedgehog accommodations like ramps to provide safe exit from ponds. ‘They can swim really well, but they get tired,’ she says. ‘If they can’t climb out, they’ll get into trouble.’ …

“For many advocates, hedgehog conservation isn’t just about the survival of a species. It’s a chance to connect with bigger environmental issues such as climate change. ‘You can start with hedgehogs, because that doesn’t scare people off. Everybody has an anecdote about a hedgehog.’ “

Do you?

More at the Monitor, here.

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Photo: Larry D. Moore/ Wikimedia Commons.
Prof. Gretchen Daily of Stanford writes about “natural capital” and argues that nature preserves are not enough: conservation awareness needs to be part of all development decisions.

Needless to say, we shouldn’t have to put a monetary value on nature to save it, but then again, we shouldn’t have to offer a million-dollar lottery to the unvaccinated to do the right thing.

For those who need capitalistic arguments about the obvious good of our natural world, there’s a professor who can provide the data.

Gretchen Daily, says Tik Root at the Washington Post, “is a pioneer in the field known as ‘natural capital.’ Using science and software, she shows stakeholders why it benefits everyone to prioritize conservation.

“Colombia’s Gulf of Morrosquillo is home to thousands of mangroves. Their roots arc downward into salty seawater while their limbs climb upward — a mesmerizing entanglement of branches and leaves.

“But the mangroves must compete with hotels, resorts and other financial ventures in the tourist-dependent area, which spans 325 miles of Caribbean coastline. One study found that between 1960 and 2011, the mangrove population in Colombia dropped by more than half, largely due to human activities such as development or trash dumping.

“The burgeoning tourist destination of Rincón del Mar, for instance, is one of many towns along the gulf that was built on land cleared of the trees. And because there is no central garbage collection system, people’s wrappers, bottles, bags and other refuse often end up in the mangroves that still stand.

“In early 2020, the government signed a five-year, $300 million pact to promote tourism in the gulf area, where approximately 350,000 Colombians live. It called for, among other initiatives, building hotels, a hospital and aqueducts to alleviate a dearth of drinking water that threatens the growth of the tourism sector. But the plan could also put even more pressure on the mangroves, as well as the sea grasses, coral reefs and fisheries offshore.

“For Gretchen Daily, threats like these are also moments of opportunity.

‘Nature is often just seen as kind of in the way of prosperity,’ she said. ‘What we’re saying is that nature is crucial to prosperity.’

“Daily is a professor of biology at Stanford University and a pioneer in a field known as ‘natural capital.’ The term refers to the soil, air, water and other assets that nature has to offer. As a conservation model, it is rooted in the idea that nature has a measurable value to humans and that protection efforts must go far beyond walled-off reserves and be broadly integrated into development practice and planning. …

“By the time Daily and her team had identified the potential for impact in the Gulf of Morrosquillo, the coronavirus pandemic had confined the 56-year old to her home in Stanford, Calif. Zoom — which is decidedly not her natural habitat — became the norm.

“But within a matter of months, the Natural Capital Project put together a report for the Colombian government detailing that more than a third, or 118 miles, of the coastline had high exposure to flooding and coastal erosion. Protecting and restoring mangroves, the authors said, could help with that issue — especially along two specific stretches of the coast, including Rincón, where local activists say they’ve removed many tons of trash.

“Mangroves, the report highlighted, also nurture robust fisheries for local communities and sequester carbon at a rate two to four times greater than tropical rainforests. Left in their current state, the Morrosquillo mangroves will store 62 million tons of carbon by 2030 — the equivalent of taking 12 million cars off the road for a year — which could help the country toward its commitments under the Paris climate accord.

“ ‘Until now we didn’t have the specific information in a simple way to show the importance of maintaining the mangroves,’ said Santiago Aparicio, director of environment and sustainable development for the Colombian department of national planning. He added, ‘you don’t protect what you don’t value.’

“The next step, he said, is to take the information to mayors and local officials to incorporate that value into their development plans. [One] ‘ideal situation’ would be using mangroves instead of cement walls as barriers against rising sea levels fueled by climate change.

“For Daily, the work in Colombia has met all three of the criteria she uses when deciding whether to pursue a project: There must be a policy window that allows change; partners on the ground must be committed to that change; and the change must be scalable. …

“Daily’s own scientific curiosity dates back to middle school — or rather, she says, to her walks on the way to school.

“In 1977, Daily and her family lived in Kalbach, West Germany, where her father was stationed in the military. Then a 12-year-old, Daily and her sister would walk about a kilometer to class. It wasn’t far. But the route passed a coal plant.

“ ‘You could taste the acid on the tongue,’ she said of the pollution. The smell of coal permeated the air. ‘That turned me on to science.’ …

“ ‘Reserves are too small, too few and too isolated to sustain enough nature,’ she explained. ‘We have to be able to integrate nature into our normal lives.’ …

“ ‘Gretchen has really been the forerunner in clarifying the natural capital movement,’ said Carl Folke, director of the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He said one major catalyst came in late 1997, when Daily edited the book Nature’s Services: Societal Dependence on Natural Ecosystems — recently referred to as ‘one of the most influential books published on the environment in the past 30 years.’ Read more at the Washington Post, here.

By the way, Francesca Forrest has a delightful fictional take on the mangroves-versus-hotels issue in her novella Lagoonfire, which features an imagined world that is both uncomfortably and amusingly familiar.

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Photo: Erin Clark/Globe Staff.
Visitors pose with Birk, one of five trolls created by artist Thomas Dambo in the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine.

Who doesn’t love trolls? Especially big, ol’, harmless trolls amenable to selfies?

Steve Annear, a reporter who gets all the fun assignments at the Boston Globe, recently wrote an article about the Danish trolls that have shown up in Maine.

“These trolls, including one that stands nearly three stories tall, aren’t dastardly by any means. They come in peace, settling in Midcoast Maine to share an urgent message with those who discover them tucked away in the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay: Please appreciate and take care of the planet, before it’s too late.

“ ‘These are nature’s protectors,’ said Gretchen Ostherr, president and chief executive of the gardens, the largest botanical garden in New England.

“Later this month, visitors to the 323-acre property may discover a series of five giant, whimsical troll sculptures, each immersed in nature and made from reclaimed and recycled wood and other natural materials.

“The exhibit, called ‘Guardians of the Seeds,’ is the work of Copenhagen-based artist Thomas Dambo, and was put together by a team of people, including community volunteers, during the past seven weeks. …

‘I really want it to stir two things,’ Ostherr said. ‘That people have a wonderful, connected, restorative experience, and that they are inspired to take care of their planet’ and become stewards of the woods.

“The Maine display officially opens May 29. While it’s similar to dozens of other eye-popping troll sculptures Dambo has built across the world and part of a shared narrative, the storyline of the Boothbay trolls is unique.

“In the United States, Dambo’s trolls have drawn crowds in Illinois, Florida, and Kentucky, with much fanfare. But the arrival of the mythical creatures to the woods of Maine marks a first for New England.

“Officials from the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens first reached out to Dambo in 2019 as they discussed ways to have more visitors ‘share the magic of the gardens,’ Ostherr said.

“ ‘We loved the story of the trolls, and Thomas’s focus on the trolls being about biodiversity and taking care of the planet and the forest,’ she said. ‘It perfectly aligns with our mission, which is about connecting people with plants and nature.’ …

“Dambo, 41, said he built the faces and feet in his workshop (a.k.a. ‘troll factory’) in Denmark before they were transported to Maine. But the bulk of the sculptures were constructed on site using several tons of recycled materials, their positions and designs inspired by the precise spot in the woods they call home. …

“It’s the first international project Dambo has done since the coronavirus all but shut down the art world last year. He said he hopes the sculptures will bring people out of their homes to appreciate the great outdoors while also educating them about society’s wasteful habits.

“ ‘My art is about trying to convey the message of the importance of taking care of our natural world, and being better at recycling,’ he said. ‘I try to use the trolls as a medium for being the voice of nature, and how nature perceives us.’ ”

More at the Globe, here. By the way, while we’re on the subject of amazing gardens in New England, be sure to visit Bedrock Gardens in Lee, NH, where my brilliant friend, Jill Nooney, one of the founders, displays her wildly imaginative sculptures made of found objects, mostly metal.

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Rewilding in the UK

Photos: Murdo MacLeod
Scotland is inviting nature to return to abandoned industrial spaces.

The idea of “rewilding” industrial spaces, or turning them back to nature, makes me happy. One often reads about it happening in the UK, but we could do it, too, if we wanted to.

This photo essay in the Guardian is about how, in Scotland, rewilding often happens through benign neglect. Bella Bathurst wrote the text and Murdo MacLeod took the photos.

“Since the idea of rewilding took hold, it has generally been seen as a rural pursuit involving withdrawal from farmland so that animals and vegetation can restore their own ecology. At its most herbivorous, it includes allowing hedgerows or scrub to flourish unchecked. At its most primal, it involves deliberately releasing animals such as beavers or wolves in the belief that the re-entry of a single alpha species brings with it a cascade of ecological benefits. …

“The perception is that it is expensive, far away and often inaccessible. It certainly isn’t something that just anyone can do.

“But what if the wildest places of all were right under our feet? In the forgotten spaces in our cities, rewilding has always happened naturally, land falling under stone and resurging again, concrete lids flipped off before submerging once more. In the margins and the demilitarised zones, the abandoned embankments, the bits we don’t want or the lands already contaminated beyond human tolerance, ecology is thriving.

“In some places – such as the land around the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine – plant and insect life has adapted to the extreme conditions: boars have moved in, there is a new radiation-munching fungus and, in the thin strip of no-man’s land between the borders of North and South Korea, leopards and Asiatic black bears have been spotted. …

“In Scotland, the 40-mile strip between Glasgow and Edinburgh has always been mined, for not just coal, but stone, gravel, lead and even gold. After centuries of hard pickings, parts of Lanarkshire and Ayrshire have an upended appearance. What was underground is now on top and what was above has gone below, with buildings and bridges slumped over old drift mines and razor-lined spoil heaps terraced by extraction tracks. Wildfowl nest on lochs made from old coal holes and an orchid called Young’s helleborine, discovered in 1975, favours only the best iron ore. …

“At an explosives factory once owned and operated by the Alfred Nobel Company, [sections] are still in use, but most of the 330-acre site was long ago abandoned. Along the cracks in the old pipelines and through the decaying buildings, it would be quicker to list the native plants that are no longer there than those that are. …

“Public feeling is that big business should be obliged to make good what it has taken, but human attempts to restore land are often amateurish. Planting a few conifers and flinging around a mix of wildflowers may be a quick fix, but sometimes it appears that the best thing to do is nothing. …

“In 1913 the 13th Earl of Home tried to lift local unemployment at Douglas by allowing mining nearby. The mining unseated [his] castle, it was demolished, and the flooded workings (known locally as the Black Hole) are now so patterned with commuting birdlife that it resembles an avian Heathrow. …

“On the other side of the Clyde, between the Erskine Bridge and the old John Brown shipyard, lies what used to be the Beardmore naval construction works in Dalmuir. In the early 20th century it produced munitions, planes, submarines and warships before being converted into a fuel-supply depot and then being gradually abandoned.

“Now a cycle path runs through it, but otherwise there is nothing new here except nature: golden leaves of birch springing from the concrete jetty, hawkweed drifting Ophelia-like in the drowned oil storage tanks, wrens nesting in the rusted embankments, mallards cackling from the blackthorn scrub. …

“Dalmuir is beautiful, dangerous – and almost certainly contaminated. … Halflands like these can be among the most joyous and optimistic places on earth, but they can also carry with them a polluting sense of menace. Finding them means that you may end up meandering across an indeterminate line between a walk in the park and full-scale urban exploration; you explore at your own risk. …

“They also have a habit of vanishing. Brownfield sites tend to be classified as wasteland, and with the pressure on housing, they are first in line for redevelopment. Ardeer is intended for ‘regeneration’ and Dalmuir will shortly be dug up to make way for the Scottish Marine Technology Park, a deepwater ship hoist and a new small-vessel fabrication yard.”

More at the Guardian, here.

Abandoned naval construction works in Dalmuir, Scotland. Explore at your own risk.

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Photo: The Wildlife Trusts
What the Broadmarsh area of central Nottingham could look like if the Wildlife Trust’s post-Covid wildscape plan gets the go-ahead.

Although headlines tend to feature the thoughts of leaders with limited imagination, that doesn’t stop other people from thinking. Stories like today’s make me happy, whether or not the ideas ever are fully implemented, because it’s reassuring to know there are always people working on creative solutions to problems.

Phoebe Weston writes about a UK mall at the Guardian, “An empty 1970s shopping centre in Nottingham could be transformed into wetlands, pocket woodlands and a wildflower meadow as part of a post-pandemic urban rewilding project.

“The debate about Broadmarsh shopping centre, considered an eyesore by many, has rumbled on for years. This year it was undergoing a [$116 million] revamp by real estate investment trust Intu when the firm went into [bankruptcy]. …

“As retail giants such as Debenhams and Arcadia Group falter, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust has come up with a new model of inner city regeneration: urban rewilding.

“The trust wants to bulldoze the already half-demolished Broadmarsh building and turn it into [6 acres] of scruffy green space at an estimated cost of [about $5 million]. The designs were created with Influence Landscape Architects and could set a precedent for what to do with the growing amount of vacant retail space in other cities. …

“Ponds surrounded by reeds, crocus meadows and wet grasslands would attract butterflies, dragonflies and a range of birds including reed warblers and black redstarts, according to the Wildlife Trust, which is calling on people to back its green vision. It will put its plans to Nottingham city council in the coming weeks as the authority canvasses views on what Broadmarsh could become as part of a 10-week consultation process.

“The proposed scheme would run counter to the conventional idea of urban parks and instead hark back to what Broadmarsh would have looked like in centuries gone by.

“ ‘Often open spaces in cities can be manicured and a bit formal,’ said [Sara Boland, managing director of Influence].

‘The idea of this was to have more rewilding, restoring, protecting [so] the zones we then developed were about foraging, pond dipping and protecting species.’

“Nineteenth-century maps helped architects get a clear picture of what this part of Nottinghamshire once looked like – a fertile garden area covered in fruit trees. Old street names include Pear Street and Peach Street; those fruits would be grown in the park to reflect its heritage. Crisscrossing the park would be walkways based on centuries-old street layouts.

“Nottingham Wildlife Trust has long wanted to create green corridors in this area of the city to connect it to Sherwood Forest to the north. It has put up nest boxes on many buildings close to Broadmarsh to encourage black redstarts, which used to live in the city but are now rarely seen. …

” ‘Over the past 20 or 30 years … we’ve submitted ideas for roof gardens and new avenues, all sorts of greener features,’ said Erin McDaid, head of communications and marketing at Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. ‘We feel this could be a real opportunity for the city to stand out from the crowd as cities across the UK look to recover their economies and find a new direction for urban centres.’ …

“ ‘Anyone coming into Nottingham on the train would have to pass by [Broadmarsh] before they reached the city centre, and it was just this horrible, ugly building with no windows. It was very unwelcoming,’ [Nottingham resident Ewan Cameron] said. …

“David Mellen, Nottingham city council leader, said the conversation about the Broadmarsh site had captured people’s imagination. He said: ‘It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine a significant space right in the heart of one of the country’s core cities.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photo: JN Phillips
A white-crowned sparrow sits near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. “During lockdown,” writes the Christian Science Monitor, “traffic in the city dwindled to levels not seen since the 1950s.” The lack of noise caused surprising changes.

One thing that’s been interesting in the pandemic has been reading about various wild animals that apparently feel safer exploring suburbs and streets now that they are quieter. Today’s story is about birds that have stopped feeling the need to shout.

Eva Botkin-Kowacki reports at the Christian Science Monitor, “When the pandemic began, Elizabeth Derryberry wasn’t thinking about her research. Her focus was on the basics: how to teach remotely as an associate professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; how to manage the lockdown with her young family; and how to keep everyone safe and healthy.

“But as she scrolled through social media one evening, she saw a picture of a coyote at the empty Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. She recalls thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, there really are no cars.’ And as she stared at that image, Dr. Derryberry thought about how quiet it must be nearby without the normal hubbub of traffic – and about the birds she had been studying there.

“Along with her colleague David Luther of George Mason University, Dr. Derryberry had been recording the songs of white-crowned sparrows in both the urban setting of San Francisco and the more rural Marin County to study how the birds responded to the hum of human-made noise. They’d found that the city sparrows sang more loudly, but with a much more limited range, than their country cousins. And the shutdown presented an unprecedented opportunity for the researchers to see if those urban birds changed their tune.

“Indeed, the urban sparrows took full advantage of the relative silence. When the research team recorded birdsongs near the Golden Gate Bridge in April and May of this year, they sounded notably different – and of higher quality – from those recorded during previous springs. Their findings were published [in September] in the journal Science. …

“As people stayed home this spring, many noticed more wildlife around them. Some pondered whether there were actually more birds, for example, or if the quieter cities just made their songs (and presence) more obvious. …

“ ‘When we’re going about our daily lives, we get used to the patterns of the animals that we see,’ says Allison Injaian, a lecturer in the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia, who was not involved in the study. ‘It’s pretty hard to know what we’re missing out on if that never is visible or audible.

“ ‘But when this really unprecedented shift in human behavior occurred,’ she says, it presented ‘a great opportunity for all of us to realize the impact that we ourselves are having on the wildlife around us.’ …

“For the birds themselves, their songs encode information crucial to their existence. White-crowned sparrows, for example, listen to each other’s songs to pick potential mates in spring, and as a way to assess the fitness of another male from afar when deciding whether or not to fight him to try to take over his territory.

“But in cities, they’re typically making a trade-off between the quality of their songs and simply being heard, says Ken Otter, a biologist at University of Northern British Columbia who was not involved in the new study. …

“Before the shutdown, Dr. Derryberry and Dr. Luther found that birds in San Francisco were competing with nearly three times as much noise as those in Marin County. But when the pandemic closed everything down, there was no difference in noise levels. They attribute that to less traffic, as the amount of cars passing through had reverted to levels not seen since the 1950s.

“As a result, birdsongs could travel much farther. The researchers found that the birds sang more softly because they didn’t have to be louder than the anthropogenic noise, and even still, their songs could travel twice the distance as before the shutdown. 

“The bandwidth of the trill at the end of the sparrows’ song is also key to communicating physical fitness to potential mates or rivals. Researchers found previously that the urban birds limit their trills to higher frequencies so they don’t have to compete with the low hum of traffic. But during the shutdown, the team found that the city sparrows utilized their full range – and when they compared the 2020 songs to historical recordings in the area, they found that some of the sparrows were singing in ways not heard in the city since the 1970s. 

“Whether this has a long-term effect remains to be seen, says Dr. Derryberry. But she plans to study the San Francisco sparrows’ sounds during the breeding season once again next year. ‘I’m really excited to see what happened with the nestlings that learned their songs this year,’ she says. …

Birds don’t just adjust their songs’ volume and range. Research has found that some urban birds will adjust the time of day that they sing to avoid rush hour. …

“Studies like this one, Dr. Otter says, can also help give us direction. ‘It’s really important for understanding how we can move forward with planning,’ he says, ‘so that we can create spaces that not only attract the birds, but allow them to be successful.’ ”

More here.

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Bike path, Lincoln, Massachusetts

If you’re not traveling, you get to know your own neighborhood really well, both how it looks and sounds and smells, and what people are thinking about.

It can get complicated. People on the same side of an issue can disagree. Today for example, a small group of people is holding a rally to condemn our church, of all things! Another group, which I ordinarily admire, plans a counter-demonstration, even though the church has requested that no one show up to give the extreme talk show host the confrontation video she seeks.

Some days, you just have to turn to nature.

Above is a bike path I especially love. It goes past a farm with pigs and cows. I learned the farm has an honor-system, 24/7 shop in a big, airy barn. The food I got there was great. We had it last night for dinner.

I took the first picture of dahlias, and Kristina took the one from a Western Massachusetts dahlia farm. Did you know you have to bring dahlias in every year and replant them the next year? Whoa!

At the nature preserve Great Meadows, I was astonished by lotus leaves as far as the eye can see. Next year, I will definitely come when the plants are blooming.

The flowers in the next three photos — asters, clematis virginiana, and a wild bouquet — are mostly from our yard. Then there’s a local jewelry shop, which has wonderful window boxes in every season.

After the pumpkins, there’s a painted door called “Walkies,” by Kayo Burmon, located on the Bruce Freeman bike trail.

In the picture after that, my neighbors are holding up their pink voting slips at the coronavirus outdoor town meeting. Signs of the times.

Literal signs of the times, below, need no discussion, although I do wonder if any of you know the code in the sign copied from Tolkien: “Speak, ‘Friend,’ and enter.”

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Photo: Carl Triggs
Wild Kashmiri goats pay a visit to a newly empty Welsh town. “The goats live on the hill overlooking the town. They stay up there, very rarely venturing into the street,” a resident told CNN.

They say that Nature abhors a vacuum, but I doubt anyone was thinking of this. In a Welsh town under quarantine, wild Kashmiri goats decided it was safe to check things out.

Aleesha Khaliq writes at CNN, “A coastal town in north Wales has found a whole new meaning to the phrase herd immunity, after goats were spotted roaming its quiet streets.

“It comes just days after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced tighter restrictions around social movement last week in a bid to limit the spread of coronavirus.

“Residents spotted herds of goats strolling around Llandudno on Friday and over [last] weekend, after more than a dozen of the animals ventured down from the Great Orme headland and roamed the streets of the coastal town. …

“They are referred to as Great Orme Kashmiri goats, whose ancestors originated from northern India, according to the town’s official website.

“Town resident, Carl Triggs, was returning home after delivering personal protective equipment masks when he saw the goats. ‘The goats live on the hill overlooking the town. They stay up there, very rarely venturing into the street,’ he told CNN. …

“Mark Richards, from hotel Lansdowne House, told CNN: ‘They sometimes come to the foot of the Great Orme in March but this year they are all wandering the streets in town as there are no cars or people.’ …

“Local councilor Penny Andow told CNN she has lived in the area for 33 years and has never seen the goats venture from the Great Orme down into the town. …

“However, the [police] force said it was ‘not that unusual in Llandudno. … They usually make their own way back.’ ” More here.

The town’s website has lots more: “The first intimation of Llandudno Goat – Latin name, Capra Markhor, is the rank odour. It is strong, musty and compelling (a bit stinky). … The creatures eat with discrimination. Delicately nibbling the juiciest berries, whilst carefully avoiding the thorns. …

“All goats have their own peculiarities, and it is possible to identify individuals. One billy, in particular, is easily recognisable. He is smaller than the others, and has a longer, shaggier coat. This goat is an outsider. He is one of three goats introduced into the herd from Whipsnade Zoo.

“It was not a very successful experiment. The first goat died within weeks of arrival. The second decided that he was probably not a goat, but a sheep. He mixed quite happily with the flock, until, unfortunately, he fell off a cliff and was killed. This is very unusual, as goats are extremely sure footed. The third goat survived, and eventually became accepted by the herd.”

You know what I would like to see walking through town: a moose. I have always wanted to see a moose that wasn’t just in a zoo. What would you like to see? Mythological beasts permissible.

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Poet Ross Gay celebrates life.

When Ross Gay read at our library, I liked his poems and his way of talking about them and I bought a book. Recently, I noticed that his writing and his joy in nature had come to the attention of both Maria Popova at Brainpickings and the environmental radio show Living on Earth.

From Living on Earth
“STEVE CURWOOD: In an endangered world, gratitude and appreciation are difficult to balance with practical and existential fears. … Poet Ross Gay took a moment almost every day for a year to write about something that delighted him and has published these observations in his latest volume, The Book of Delights. In this exercise, he found joy in everything from bumblebees to folding shirts at the laundromat and noticed beauty he had never seen before. Ross Gay spoke with Living on Earth’s Bobby Bascomb.

“BOBBY BASCOMB: What inspired you to take on this project?

“ROSS GAY: I was just in the middle of a [pleasant] walk. I was having a nice, delightful moment. And I thought, Oh, how neat. … It’d be interesting to write a book about something that delighted me every day for a year. …

“BASCOMB: You had a few rules of engagement for your project for writing about delight. Can you tell us about those? …

“GAY: I wanted to write it every day. I didn’t exactly get to that. But you know, pretty close. And I wanted to write them sort of quickly. And I wanted to write them by hand. …

“BASCOMB: Would you mind reading a passage for us? I’m thinking of an essay called Black Bumblebees. …

“GAY: There is a kind of flowering bush, new to me, that I’ve been studying on my walks in Marfa. On that bush, whose blooms exude a curtain of syrupy fragrance, a beckoning of it, there are always a few thumb-size all-black bumblebees. Their wings appear when the light hits them right, metallic blue-green. I have never seen anything so beautiful. Everything about them- their purr, their wobbly veering from bloom to bloom — is the same as their cousins, the tiger-striped variety that shows up in droves when the cup plants in my garden are in bloom, making the back corner of my yard sound like a Harley convention. I wonder how I can encourage these beauties.” More.

At Brainpickings, Popova starts her appreciation with a Hermann Hesse quotation: ” ‘My advice to the person suffering from lack of time and from apathy is this: Seek out each day as many as possible of the small joys.’ …

“Each day, beginning on his forty-second birthday and ending on his forty-third, [poet Ross] Gay composed one miniature essay … about a particular delight encountered that day, swirled around his consciousness to extract its maximum sweetness. …

“One is reminded — almost with the shock of having forgotten — that delights are strewn about this world like quiet, inappreciable dew-drops, waiting for the sunshine of our attention to turn them into gold.

“He writes: ‘Patterns and themes and concerns show up… My mother is often on my mind. Racism is often on my mind. Kindness is often on my mind. Politics. Pop music. Books. Dreams. Public space. My garden is often on my mind. …

” ‘It didn’t take me long to learn that the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle. Something that implies that the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study. …

“One of the readiest sources of daily delight comes — predictably, given the well documented physiological and psychological consolations of nature — from his beloved community garden. (Gay is as much a poet as he is a devoted gardener, though perhaps as Emily Dickinson well knew, the two are but a single occupation.)

“In an early-August essayette titled ‘Inefficiency,’ he writes: ‘I don’t know if it’s the time I’ve spent in the garden (spent an interesting word), which is somehow an exercise in supreme attentiveness — staring into the oregano blooms wending through the lowest branches of the goumi bush and the big vascular leaves of the rhubarb—and also an exercise in supreme inattention, or distraction, I should say, or fleeting intense attentions, I should say, or intense fleeting attentions — did I mention the hummingbird hovering there with its green-gold breast shimmering, slipping its needle nose in the zinnia, and zoom! Mention the pokeweed berries dangling like jewelry from a flapper mid-step. …

“[But his] transmutation of terror into transcendence haunts the book as a guiding spirit. ‘It astonishes me sometimes — no, often — how every person I get to know — everyone, regardless of everything, by which I mean everything — lives with some profound personal sorrow. Brother addicted. Mother murdered. Dad died in surgery. Rejected by their family. Cancer came back. Evicted. Fetus not okay.

” ‘Everyone, regardless, always, of everything. Not to mention the existential sorrow we all might be afflicted with, which is that we, and what we love, will soon be annihilated. Which sounds more dramatic than it might. Let me just say dead. Is this, sorrow, of which our impending being no more might be the foundation, the great wilderness? Is sorrow the true wild? And if it is — and if we join them — your wild to mine — what’s that? For joining, too, is a kind of annihilation.

‘What if we joined our sorrows, I’m saying. I’m saying: What if that is joy?’

More at Brainpickings, here. (Want to bypass Amazon? Buy the book from Algonquin Books or IndieBound, here.)

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Musician Diane Moser says, “Six of my bird song compositions [were] originally created back in 2008 during a 5-week residency at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire.”

The more we lose from nature, the more we’re stunned to discover what we’ve lost. As National Public Radio (NPR) reported recently, “Over the past half-century, North America has lost more than a quarter of its entire bird population, or around 3 billion birds. … Researchers estimate that the population of North American shorebirds alone has fallen by more than a third since 1970.”

Maybe it’s not too late to do something. People are waking up. And artists, as usual, are at the forefront of raising consciousness. In this story, a composer is bringing the music of birds to the attention of concert audiences.

Diane Moser writes at New Music USA, “For the past 11 years, I have been working on incorporating bird songs into my music. When I say ‘my music,’ I am talking about my improvisations, because all of the music I compose starts with improvisation, which I then sculpt into compositions. To me, this is a more ‘natural’ way to go. … Six of my bird song compositions that are currently in my repertoire were originally created back in 2008 during a 5-week residency at The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. …

“I was completely seduced by the bird songs around my studio and decided to play around with them for just one afternoon, then get back to work. One afternoon turned into the entire residency; I just had to play with those birds! When would I ever get another chance like this, to have a piano in the middle of the woods, and to play freely? …

“My designated studio was Delta Omicron, and inside was a beautiful Mason and Hamlin grand piano. I had a digital recorder and was able to put the microphone in a small window, covering it with a curtain to have a little separation from the piano, which enabled me to hear the birds clearly through my headphones. In this way I was able to adjust the volume I played on the piano so that the birds and I were balanced. I never saw them, so I was never sure who was singing what.

Every day for five weeks, I improvised with songbirds and any other creatures that made their voices heard, and recorded each session. My goal was to become a member of their band. …

“We had a standing jam session time at around 10 a.m. each morning until lunch. Then they would retreat, and I would do some reading and listen to our recordings. They would come back out to sing with me around 4 p.m. until I left them for a swim in the local pond. …

“The first bird I began improvising with was the American Robin. In fact, the most well known song, Cheerily, Cheerily, seemed to creep into all of my improvisations. I slowed down the song just a bit, and lengthened the motif, and played around with it in Garage Band. …

“Just before sunrise, the first bird I heard singing was the Hermit Thrush. The landscapers at MacDowell referred to the hermit thrush as a deep woods singer, and told me it was the first one singing at the break of day, and first one back into the woods just before sunset. Commonly known as the Nightingale of the Americas, this bird has an amazing set of songs and calls. It’s no wonder that Amy Beach composed two piano pieces based on these songs. …

“The bird I had the most fun with was the chipping sparrow. His dry trill and constant singing at regular intervals of time provided tempo and an ostinato for my improvisations. I used the age old technique of a repetitive note as an imitation of the chipping sparrows dry trill, and that became a “thread” for the composition, tying it together. …

“One of the benefits of being a performer-composer are the ensembles that I lead, and other people’s ensembles that I perform with, where I can arrange the music I compose for any combination of instruments. … Thankfully, the musicians I performed with had a wide range of musical experiences and could untether themselves from the standard go-to licks, as we say in the jazz world.”

More at New Music USA, here. Listen to the birds and the compositions there.

Photo: Dennis Connors
Mark Dresser (bass) and Diane Moser (piano) perform Moser compositions that incorporate birdsong.

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I haven’t shared photos for a while. Some of these are from my last sad visit to New York, others are closer to home.

The first one makes me think of how hopeful I was on September 24th, when I arrived in New York and stayed with my sister’s devoted friend. I learned that my sister was doing better than the day before although she was still in the hospital. She was talking again and saying she wanted to carry on with treatment. We allowed ourselves a flutter of hope.

The bed is a Murphy Bed, made famous in old, silent movies, where someone like Charlie Chaplin might accidentally get closed up in it. This one was comfortable and not at all recalcitrant.

My hosts’ balcony had a glorious view. I sat there and had a cup of tea. I also took an early walk around their neighborhood, which features a statue of the Dutch director-general of the colony of New Netherland (now New York), “Peg Leg” Peter Stuyvesant. I couldn’t help wondering what the descendants of the Lenape natives thought of the statue.

Alas, the next day my sister took a dramatic turn for the worse and died the day after that. Miraculously, our brothers arrived in time from Wisconsin and California.

On days that followed, my sister’s husband, her friend, Suzanne, and I wandered around the city trying to enjoy nature and art and focus on good memories.

Then I took a bus back to Rhode Island, where I had left my car in a hurry. The rooster is in Rhode Island.

The concluding set of photos embraces art and nature back home in Massachusetts, where a long-life sympathy plant from my niece and nephew holds pride of place in the living room.

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Photo: Matthew Perlman
“Pamplona has the running of the bulls; the Upper West Side has the running of the goats,” says New York’s West Side Rag.

I’m in need of a silly story today. The kind of silly that just makes a person feel better about things. This story concerns a nature-friendly initiative to get the grass cut in Riverside Park while entertaining the locals.

The West Side Rag reports, “Twenty-four goats from the Hudson Valley were released into the not-so-wild [recently] and ran from their truck onto a weed-choked hill in Riverside Park that will be their home for the summer.

“There were more than 1,000 people there to greet them.

“It was like the Fresh Air Fund in reverse (maybe the dirty air fund?). The goats immediately started snacking on weeds. …

“Mildred Alpern sent photos and the following account: ‘Cheering and clapping crowds and luminaries were on hand to [welcome] the 24 goats into Riverside Park at Riverside Drive and 120th Street this morning. Riverside Park Conservancy employees guided the goats as they strutted and galloped along the path to the grassy and hilly enclave where they will reside until the end of August. Beribboned and numbered, the goats behaved like New Yorkers – confident, casual, and cool.’ ” More here.

The Riverside Park goats even eat the poison ivy. I wouldn’t mind having friends who do that! You can search this blog on “goats” to find other examples of four-footed weed control. I also posted here about the Basilica of St. Patrick on New York’s Prince Street, which used sheep as lawn mowers last year. If you know of similar examples, do share the details.

Hat tip: Gloria K.

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Photos: The Hu/YouTube
The Mongolian heavy metal band the Hu, which combines traditional instruments with Western sounds, has attracted a following on YouTube. “If lions come, we’ll fight until the end … If elephants come, we’ll fight in a rage … If you come as snakes, we’ll become Garuda birds and fly over you.”

I don’t know the first thing about heavy metal, although I have always supposed it was a rebellion thing, like punk. But as I’m always interested in cultures that are foreign to my own, I was intrigued by a National Public Radio [NPR] story about how a band in Mongolia has adapted heavy metal iconography and sounds for its own purposes.

Katya Cengel wrote, “A band from Mongolia that blends the screaming guitars of heavy metal and traditional Mongolian guttural singing has picked up 7 million views for its two videos.

“Leather jackets, skull rings and bandannas alongside intricately carved Mongolian horsehead fiddles are just some of the images in the first two music videos the Mongolian band The Hu released on YouTube this fall. Excited listeners from around the globe have posted comments like: ‘This makes me want to ride a horse and shoot people with a bow’ and ‘This sounds like ancient mongol rock of 1000 b.c.’ …

“As the Soviet Union crumbled and Western influence flooded in during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mongolian musicians chose to preserve Mongolian culture while also adapting new influences, explains University of Chicago ethnomusicology doctoral student Thalea Stokes. …

” ‘Mongolians are not just taking elements from Western music and just copying and pasting,’ says Stokes. Instead, they’re using some of these elements and making their own authentic music. ‘So it’s not rock music performed by Mongolians. It’s Mongolian rock music,’ she says.

 

“Mongolian rock combines traditional Mongolian instruments … It also involves singing in a guttural way known as throat singing while throwing heads back and forth reminiscent of the headbanging of ’80s heavy metal bands.  …

“The Hu call their style ‘hunnu rock’ — from the Mongolian root word for human being: ‘hu.’ The band spent seven years putting together its first album, which it expects to release this spring. They plan to call it Gereg, the name for a diplomatic passport used during the time of Genghis Khan. [The] idea was to find, study and incorporate as much of Mongolia’s musical culture as they could into a rock style, says the band’s 52-year-old producer and songwriter, B. Dashdondog, who goes by ‘Dashka.’ …

” ‘We wanted to come up with our own thing that we can offer to this big music family. Make something new,’ says Dashka, who spoke through a translator via Skype.

“It is not just their instruments that incorporate traditional elements. In the band’s first song, ‘Yuve Yuve Yu’ (What’s going on?), they mention Genghis Khan and how he was fated to bring nations together. The video begins with images of people inside playing video games, watching television and looking at their phones. A door is opened and the band’s four members step into different natural settings: cliffs, desert, forest and lake. The message they hope to convey through their lyrics and imagery is that people need to pay attention to nature and their history and culture, explains lead singer TS. Galbadrakh, known as ‘Gala,’ 29.”

More at NPR, here.

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