The single most difficult thing about nature conservation is changing habits. Many of us might visit and enjoy natural areas around Melbourne and Victoria, but a significantly smaller number of people are actively changing the way that they care for the environment.
Dog owners might love spending time outdoors with their furry friend, but do they walk them on a leash? You might enjoy gardening in your own backyard, but did you know that many weeds that invade bushland originally escape from gardens? A new home owner might be excited about landscaping their property, but have they considered planting native vegetation? And cat owners… well, we’re a stubborn bunch and many more of us need to be diligent about keeping our pets indoors (to say the least).
The Victorian National Parks Association, supported by the Greater City of Bendigo, recently produced a small but informative booklet regarding Bendigo’s native bushland, and how both locals and visitors to the area can learn to live next to nature. This fantastic initiative is based on the idea that people are the solution, and not simply the problem. Encouraging a greater sense of stewardship towards natural areas can lead to their protection, and in turn allow humans themselves to live more fulfilling lives.
Victoria is officially the most cleared state in Australia - a terrible fact in so many ways but it’s also what makes Bendigo’s bushland so special. Often referred to as ‘Box-Ironbark’ country, the forests of Bendigo were ‘significantly altered and reduced in size’ in the 1800s, when Victoria’s gold rush occurred. The local bushland is home to a variety of wildlife, with the ‘shrubby nature’ of some locales making it the perfect habitat for a large diversity of woodland birds. Winter and spring see beautiful displays of ‘showy yellow wattles and pea plants, beautiful wildflowers and orchids.’ It isn’t difficult to see why it is a great place to both live and visit.
Titled ‘Living Next to Nature: Being a good neighbour to Bendigo’s Bushland’, the booklet briefly describes the human history of the area, why its natural environment must be better cared for, and some of Bendigo’s most beautiful ‘natural treasures’. Arguably the most important sections, though, are when the reader is asked ‘What can I do?’ Featured throughout, these snippets of advice are simpler than you might think. Love ‘tremendous trees’? Then ‘lop don’t chop’. Like ‘going with the flow’? Then try to ‘be water wise in the home and garden’ or, better yet, ‘install a water tank or grey water system’. Want to create a garden for native wildlife? Then ‘visit your local native plant nursery for advice’ or install nest boxes for bats and birds.
And, finally, get out into nature! It might seem a no-brainer, but if you’re not already experiencing it, then you might struggle to see the benefits of caring for it – and believe me, there are many! Improvements in memory, stress relief, and increased concentration are just some of the happy side effects of spending time outdoors and in green spaces.
A rapidly growing city, Bendigo’s increasing population means that the local environment is under strong pressure to sustain more and more inhabitants. It is therefore now more important than ever that we put greater effort into conserving the local parks and bushland of the area. Of course, things are always easier said than done. But sometimes a nudge in the right direction is all some people need to plant that native species in their backyard, or be more vigilant about keeping pets on leads or indoors. Naturally, such advice is not only applicable to the Bendigo area, but more widely across Victoria and Melbourne, too.
Ultimately, though, habits are a product of choice. Every day, most of us must choose between what is easy and what is difficult; what is cheap and what is expensive; what is convenient and what is healthy. These are not always simple decisions to make, but in the end make them we must – and the environment factors into more of them than you might think. So how will you choose to live next to nature?
For your own copy of this free booklet, contact the VNPA office on (03) 9341 6500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The content of the booklet is also accessible online at http://www.bendigonature.org/
Rachel is an Arts and Science graduate and a freelance writer who is passionate about communicating the importance of the natural world through literature. She has completed an Honours year in Literary Studies, involving research into environmental philosophy and the significance of the non-human other. She is an editor and the Publications Manager for Wild Melbourne.
You can find her on Twitter at @RJFether.
Banner image courtesy of http://www.bendigonature.org/