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 BLOG >> December 2017

Invest In Nature: Part 1 [Investing
Posted on December 19, 2017 @ 01:33:00 PM by Paul Meagher

If you google the phrase "invest in nature" you will encounter companies discussing various green projects they are funding. There will also be complaining about how government should be doing more to help the environment. This is certainly one way you can understand the phrase "invest in nature": it is about how to allocate funding to fix or improve some aspect of the natural world. The purpose of this blog, however, is to offer another interpretation of what "invest in nature" should mean.

I propose that "invest in nature" refers primarily to how you allocate your time, not your money. In fact, you can invest heavily in nature without spending a dime if you are spending a lot of quality time in nature.

Time as Money

Investing time into nature is a real investment because you could be doing other things with your time. Instead, you are investing your precious time into getting out and doing stuff in nature. As you get older, time is more precious than money which makes the investment of time into nature even more significant.

Partially or Fully Invested

When you are out in nature you can be checking out your smart phone, listening to music and chatting to people on the phone. There is nothing wrong with that and nature is a nice backdrop for all these activities. It is time in nature but you are not fully invested in nature while you are there. You may be getting exercise or going from point A to B but you are probably oblivious to alot of what is happening around you. If you are going to invest in nature consider whether that means spending time there doing other things or whether you intend to be fully invested in your surroundings. Some of benefits of an investment into nature can only be realized if you spend some of that time fully invested in what is happening around you.

No Regret

There are alot of investments you can make that are cause for regret afterwards. When you invest time into nature you don't regret it.

Return on Investment

Does investing time into nature benefit the investor in the long term? Some aging research suggests that one of the keys to a long life (100+) is spending a good amount of time in nature gardening, walking, exploring and so on. That is only one type of benefit you might expect and perhaps not even the most important.

What benefit a person derives from investing in nature is a deeply personal issue. What benefits I get out of it, and what benefits you get out of it, don't have to be the same.

One of the benefits I get out of nature, for example, is the experience of natural beauty for which there is no substitute. Like this Icy Splendor I encountered exploring a new walking path last weekend.

Nature Is All Around You

Nature pervades everything. Nature may be more difficult to recognize in the city but it is still omnipresent. Nature interfaces more with the built environment in the city than in the country and this interfacing is often quite interesting to observe. For example, the reservoir for our town water supply drains into a concrete spillway that takes it to a structure designed to slow the water down before it merges back into a stream. This video, which I call, Interface, illustrates how the built and natural merge in an interesting way.

Local Investing

You can invest your time into traveling the world in search of the next natural wonder to explore or you can be like Henry David Thoreau who said "I have traveled a good deal in Concord". Within a 50 mile (80 km) radius of where you live there are likely many areas you have never explored and it may take a lifetime to fully explore all of nature in that area. It may take some planning to find new local places to explore and visit but that is also what it means to invest in nature.

Investing locally is often viewed as a good thing. Investing your time exploring nature in your local area can be the foundation of any monetary investing into nature you may ultimately decide to do. Investing time into nature as the foundation for investing money into nature.

A Holiday Mantra

Lately I have been using the phrase "invest in nature" as a mantra to remind me to get out and do things in nature and to reflect on how I want to spend that time. I'm especially excited to have a few days off over the holidays to explore nature without the rush to get back to work. Maybe you can use the mantra "invest in nature" over the holidays to remind you to devote some time to getting outside to enjoy and learn about nature. You will have no regrets over the holidays if you invest time into experiencing nature.

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SMART Christmas Trees [Agriculture
Posted on December 12, 2017 @ 09:13:00 AM by Paul Meagher

This morning I read an article about Dr. Raj Lada's research on SMART Christmas trees. A primary goal of his research was to slow down how long it takes for Balsam Fir trees to lose their needles. This is a problem for consumers that don't want Christmas tree needles all over their living room, and for the producer who wants to ship their product further afield without worrying about needle drop.

Many factors control post-harvest needle drop from how well hydrated the tree is, what type of hydration is used (don't use clorinated water), where it is positioned (away from a heat source), how it is transported (covered with burlap if travelling a longer distance) and so on. Genetically, however, there are also factors that can prevent needle drop such as how much of the plant stress hormone Ethelene the tree produces. Ethelene ripens fruit and also has an effect on how quickly needles drop. Dr Lada has developed a variety of Christmas tree that produces less Ethelene and is able to retain its needle 2 to 3 times longer (potentially up to 3 months). This is a big deal in the world of Christmas tree retail and production.

The term SMART is an acronym for Senescence Modulated Abscission Regulating Technology. The first SMART seedlings were planted this year so we'll know better in a few years whether such trees will command the premium price developers and growers are hoping for.

Better color, aroma and pest resistance are other attributes that SMART Christmas Tree developers are looking to add to the Balsam Fir gene pool.

This research illustrates a few points:

  1. Don't take anything as a given. Many of us endure fallen needles without thinking this attribute might be improved.
  2. What makes things SMART is not just electronics based. In this age of global warming, we may need alot of our plants to become SMARTER in order to adapt. See Kernza for an example of a SMARTER grain seed.
  3. Industry, Government and Academia can work together well when there is a clear problem to be solved (e.g., needle drop problem) but industry alone lacks the expertise and capital necessary to properly address it.

Ironically, the Christmas Tree Research Centre is slated to shut down after Christmas of this year due to lack of ongoing funding. Dr Lada believes that there is alot more work he could be doing to improve Christmas tree traits. My conjecture is that after hitting his home run on addressing needle drop, other attributes are not considered as important to solve. You apparently cannot rest on your laurels for very long these days.

Part of the Christmas Tree research project involved touring around to find the best Balsam Fir tree specimens to select from. Needles were donated by the owners of this Christmas tree to the research project.


Source The Chronicle Herald

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