Across the Bay Area, our passion for nature is indisputable. We have come together as a nine-county Bay Area region to protect more than 1.4 million acres of land, setting in motion efforts to reclaim entire ecosystems, underscoring the value of habitat, biodiversity and wildlife linkages in protecting the quality of life for all living beings.
Here at Midpen, we spend a lot of time talking about conservation values to help community members understand how healthy watersheds ensure clean water, how thriving forests help clean the air, how grasslands promote biodiversity, how working lands create food security and how our ridgelines and shorelines may hold the keys to adapting to a changing climate.
Over the past six months, in light of the ongoing pandemic, we have been focusing our attention on how nature is critical for our mental, physical and emotional well-being. Our shelter-in-place orders put this very essential nature of nature front and center. As schools, businesses and sporting events shut down, outdoor open space was one of the few essential services that has remained open to all. For many, this provides an opportunity to reconnect to nature and take much needed respite in its healing powers.
Much research has been done over the past decade to quantify the health benefits of time spent in nature, beyond the benefits of exercising outdoors. Access to nature, according to the American Public Health Association, has been related to lower levels of mortality and illness, higher levels of outdoor physical activity, restoration from stress, a greater sense of well-being and greater social capital.
As our communities begin to open again, many are struggling with the fear, anxiety and tension of what that might mean. Time spent in nature can help reduce stress and worry. I know my family has relied on walks outside in nature to alleviate the angst, monotony and strain of staying home.
I cannot imagine what our community would be like without these special places providing green hills, shady forests, sweeping vistas and comforting signs of the changing seasons. In nature, you can experience a sense of normalcy listening to songbirds, glimpsing deer in a meadow or feeling the warmth of the sun as you hike along a ridgeline. I am grateful to be a part of an organization that offers all of us places to restore our health and well-being; places that give us comfort, renewed perspective and hope for what is possible.
Ana María Ruiz,