Connecting with Nature Responsibly in Challenging Times
A message from Ted Clement, Executive Director of Save Mount Diablo.
We hope you are well amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. We acknowledge that we are in challenging and uncertain times. We feel deep compassion for everyone who has been affected and for those who will be. Although there are certainly more challenging times ahead as part of this pandemic, it is also certain that nature can continue to nourish us—if we connect with it responsibly—and this is especially important in difficult times.
We know that nature can help us heal physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Numerous studies and books have documented this.
Stanford University researchers found quantifiable evidence that walking in nature can lead to a lower risk of depression in a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Then there are books like the following: The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative; Your Brain on Nature: The Science of Nature’s Influence on Your Health, Happiness, and Vitality; Forest Bathing: How Trees can Help You Find Health and Happiness; The Healing Code of Nature; and The Biophilia Effect.
Great conservationists, who spent substantial time in nature, also learned that nature can heal us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
John Muir wrote, “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” He also stated, “And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “We need the tonic of wildness.”
Rachel Carson observed, “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
There are a lot of positives with more people going out to connect with nature during these difficult times, but it has to be done responsibly and respectfully (social distancing, carry out what you carry in, use proper equipment and supplies, take only photos and leave only footprints, observe park rules, etc.). Some people have not been going outside in responsible and respectful ways, which has resulted in various park-related closures.
Mount Diablo State Park is temporarily closed to vehicles on all roads indefinitely. In addition, the parking lots at Mitchell Canyon and Macedo Ranch are closed. Fortunately, hikers, runners, equestrians, and bicyclists are still permitted to access the park. However, if people are not responsible and respectful, further restrictions are possible. To learn more about State Parks closures and restrictions during this time, visit this State Parks Resource Center page.
East Bay Regional Park District has also instituted a number of park closures. Fortunately, some of their parks also still allow people access to nature—but further restrictions could be put in place if people are not responsible.
After studying and working in conservation for decades, I have come to realize that the most significant threat to the environment is the lack of meaningful connections between people and nature, which results in us lacking the love and will required to fully address major environmental threats like the climate crisis. With more people going outside, we have an incredible opportunity for more people to start developing direct and loving relationships with the natural world—but newcomers will need some considerate guidance as they begin to develop their relationships with nature. We will be working to share such guidance, like good outdoor etiquette and social distancing, with people in the coming weeks.
Gratefully, because of your wonderful support, our Save Mount Diablo staff continue to work hard on conserving our critical natural world and foundation here, albeit remotely from their homes. That work includes many exciting projects such as two of our new land acquisition efforts to permanently conserve Smith Canyon and Concord Mt. Diablo Trail Ride Association lands. You will learn more about these efforts and others in our upcoming Diablo Watch newsletter.
When Save Mount Diablo was formed in 1971, our mountain was home to just one 6,788-acre park, Mount Diablo State Park. Today, as a result of Save Mount Diablo, our supporters, and our great partners (like State Parks, East Bay Regional Park District, and the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy), there are more than 50 parks and preserves around the mountain totaling over 120,000 conserved acres. Mount Diablo State Park has grown to about 20,000 acres in size, including numerous acres that Save Mount Diablo conveyed to the park over the years.
Together, we will continue to do great things to protect the ultimate foundation for our long-term health and well-being: Nature. Be well!
Photo 1 by Scott Hein
Photos 2 and 3 by Ted Clement
Photos 4 and 5 by Scott Hein
Photo 6 by Al Johnson