Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother Nature’s Day

Many of us may think of Mother’s Day as one of those “Hallmark Holidays” designed to encourage shopping. However, the earliest efforts to establish a day to celebrate mothers started before Hallmark existed. Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, but the U.S. Mother’s Day wasn’t established until 1914 when Woodrow Wilson issued a Presidential proclamation establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Of course, there’s our other Mother – Mother Nature. Her origins date even further back to Gaea, a goddess in Greek mythology who was seen as the embodiment of the Earth. As both a goddess and as Earth itself, Gaea features in many myths explaining the natural order of things.

Though how we view Mother Nature may have changed over the years, the basics idea is the same.

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, Mother Nature is “nature personified as a woman considered as the source and guiding force of creation.”

Native American Elders describe her this way: “The Great Spirit is in all things. He is in the air we breathe. The Great Spirit is our Father, but the Earth is our Mother. She nourishes us. That which we put into the ground she returns to us.”

But sometimes it seems like Mother Nature gets angry (like our own mothers may have done). Author Moisés Naím, a Distinguished Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC, wrote in a 2015 article in the Atlantic (just before the Climate Summit in Paris, “Human nature vs. Mother Nature. The Struggle for Our Time.” He continued by saying that it seemed like Mother Nature was trying to get our attention – with hard-to-miss signals.

It’s true that the Earth’s climate has changed all throughout history. But no matter what we believe is the cause, NASA reports that there is evidence today that most of the current warming trends are likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity.

Fortunately, Mother Nature is strong and in some cases is able to help herself – it’s sort of like she’s gotten tired of waiting for us. An article published in Nature Geoscience earlier this year reported that wetlands are natural water purifiers on a vast scale and can reduce nitrate concentration (caused by run-off from farming) better than any other method. In fact, some types of wetlands are so good at this filtration function that environmental managers construct similar artificial wetlands to treat storm water and wastewater.

But we can’t leave Mother Nature to totally fend for herself.

And there are ways to recognize Mother Nature and mothers in May. You can plant a tree (in memory or celebration of someone), take a hike, or take a walk in a local arboretum. A number of places around Atlanta have been designated as an arboretum, including Georgia Tech University, Agnes Scott College, and the Atlanta Beltline.

Or if your family or friends are runners, you can go plogging, a new craze that’s come to the U.S. from Sweden. Plogging is a play on the Swedish words for “pick up” put together with “jogging.” It’s becoming so popular in the U.S. that Keep American Beautiful has partnered with Lifesum, a health app that allows users to log, track, and estimate the number of calories burned while plogging.

Oh, yeah, and please leave the cut flowers off the list this year, unless they come out of your own garden.

It’s never too early to start educating your kids, or your friends’ kids, about sustainability. Studies have found a significant relationship between how young children learn about sustainability when parents and teachers are part of sustainability-related discussions and activities.

Recycling and other conservation activities are good habits to nurture at an early age. So, find out if your local schools recycle. In one school in Vermont a few years ago, a persistent mother or two children in the elementary school worked with school principals, facilities managers, and food service staff to reinvigorate recycling.

Take time to read to children and other members of your family. There are children’s books on many topics, everything from young people who are becoming environmental activists at an early age to conservation and environmental protection.

To bring us back to the other Mother’s Day …

In an article on tentree.com, blogger Brooke Willson wrote about “10 Things Mother Nature Can Teach Us.” Reading through the list, it’s impossible not to see the similarities with qualities our own mothers probably tried to instill in us.

  1. Strength                                             6. Acceptance
  2. Perseverance                                    7. Balance
  3. Patience                                             8. Appreciation
  4. Optimism                                           9. Self-worth
  5. Respect                                             10. Happiness

(Ten Tree sells clothing and accessories and plants ten trees for every item sold).

Additional Information

  • More on the history of Mother’s Day
  • Here in the Atlanta area, Trees Atlanta has a lot to offer, including their Holiday Gift Program and they also tell you how to plant your own tree. They also partnered with WABE Atlanta Public Radio to planta tree in metro Atlanta for every pledge WABE receives on one specific day of their fundraising drive,
  • To find a designated Arboretum near you, you can search ArbNet
  • Farhana Borg, Mikael Winberg & Monika Vinterek (2017) “Children’s Learning for a Sustainable Society: Influences from Home and Preschool,” Education Inquiry, 8:2, 151-172, DOI: 10.1080/20004508.2017.1290915


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