(Estimated reading time: 5 minutes) – Audio version of article available.
With the onset of the summer season, holidays, and gradually returning to normal, we can also once again go to the countryside to take a stroll, do a bit of sport, or simply enjoy the open space. After weeks of lockdown, we feel the call of nature, the raw need for contact with the earth.
Once the lockdown came to end, we watched the parks and gardens in our cities and the rural pathways in our villages fill with walkers yearning to enjoy such an vibrant spring, brought about by a warm and unusually humid month of April (AEMET, 2020). Everyone engaged in lively conversation with friends and family, normally at a slow pace to draw the stroll out, or at least make it feel longer. This is understandable: deep down, we are nature.
In all actuality, nature has no special need for us. As we observed during our compulsory shutdown, indicators for nature’s health considerably improved: the air quality in large cities, the quality of water in our rivers and reservoirs, wild animals boldly traversing humanised areas, and plant life reclaiming its space. At the end of the day, we are no more than another cog in the ecosystem. Why? Because we are nature.
During our drawn-out at-home stay, we enjoyed plenty of audio-visual products on traditional television channels, on more modern content platforms and, of course, on ever-present social media. The diversity in environmental content is vast, in contrast with the time of El hombre y la tierra (1974-1981), when Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente delighted both young and old with his thrilling tales of nature on the Iberian Peninsula. Since then, other Spanish productions have continued his mission of environmental dissemination and awareness: El arca de Noé (1983-1987), El escarabajo verde (1997-2020), El bosque protector (2002-2020), and the more recent Aquí la Tierra (2014-2020), by our good friend Jacob Petrus. In their own way, each one has helped to break down nature’s secrets. This captivates our attention in a powerful way, because it is part of our identity.
Which is why, now that we are returning to our much-desired normalcy, it is important that we consider the huge opportunity the environmental sector is giving us for economic reactivation, wealth generation, and qualified jobs. May we make the most of Europe’s drive through the Green New Deal, such that this forced halt acts as the boost we need to leap toward a decarbonised economy and fight climate change. All the economic resources we devote to preserving and improving biodiversity, ecosystems, and the protective shield provided by nature are an investment, not an expense.
Our mountains, forests, and nature in general, are also a huge source of stable employment, with work the management and preservation they require, sustainable natural-resource use, active tourism companies, rural restaurants and lodgings, and a long list of new respectful business opportunities that have yet to be developed. The European Commission stated (DG Environment, 2011) that environmental appeal had become one of the main criteria for visitors when selecting their holiday destination. Specifically, 21% of visitors place importance on the presence of Natura 2000 Network locations when selecting their tourist destinations. And what is the economic result of all this? Visits to Natura 2000 Network locations in Europe lead to associated annual costs between 50 and 90 billion euros (European Commission, 2020). In Spain, the economic benefits from Natura 2000 Network for all of society are equivalent to 4% of the GDP in 2014 (MITERD, 2019). Because nature is also wealth.
Next time you stroll through the countryside, enjoy yourself, close your eyes, take a breath and shout: I am nature!