Here are six ways to understand how nature thrives even in the midst of a bustling metropolis, says Maya Ganesan

Isn’t it common that when we go on a holiday or picnic to a lake, a park or to the beach we think we are in the midst of nature? And when we are in our homes, offices or at the grocery store, we somehow feel disconnected from it? Nature is omnipresent. It is in the water that flows through our taps, in the air we breathe, in the food we eat.

More people live in cities today ever before and yet, issues like climate change, soil erosion, loss of arable land, water scarcity, depletion of natural resources and so on are treated as something that affects “other people”. We are not sensitive about our connection to the health of the planet. So how do we create more meaningful and enriching connections that help orient us with larger natural systems?

l Be aware of your bio-region. Read, ask and research about the ecosystem of the city you live in- its topography, water sources, vegetation, precipitation, soil and rock varieties.

l Familiarize yourself with directions. Most urban folk cannot tell if they are facing north or south. Learn to read the directions of the wind, slope of the land and destination of the flow of rain water from your locality.

l Orient yourself with the phases of the moon. Delving further in this direction, learn to identify constellations at different parts of the year. Mark solstices and equinoxes.

l Be tuned to the seasons. Be aware of the winter winds as we draw kollams at our doorsteps, the enchanting ‘margazhi’ mists, migration of birds, availability of seasonal vegetables, the shorter days of summer, the onset of monsoons and their directions. Catch an early sunrise and sunset and celebrate the rare shower or thunderstorm.

l Grow plants and identify local species. Nurturing even a single tomato plant will help us respect the process of growth, the hard work of farming and the sheer effort of the earth to sustain us. Children should be encouraged to feel the soil, water and to understand the cycle of growth.

l Visit parks, nearby lakes, farms to observe water levels, wild plants, flowers and birds through different seasons of the year. Join bird-count groups, animal watchers club or as a clean-up volunteer for groves near temples, ponds.

An understanding of the natural world and of our role in it is of utmost importance to us – so we may leave behind cleaner, greener footprints.