June 2020 Theme: HOLIDAYS COVID-19 STYLE

Jurassic Park in your Backyard

by Katrin Scholz-Barth, President, SustainableQATAR

Summer 2020 will be very different for most people. Let’s acknowledge that this is sad, scary and disorienting. The global pandemic doesn’t give us much control over things, but we do have a choice in how we respond to the situation

To lighten the load, we invite you to a different kind of travel option while staying safe and curious. Together, let’s enjoy the wonders of our host country Qatar and learn new things about how to live more consciously so as to savor the little things around us, and reduce our carbon footprint. 

The first stop we can make is our own backyards or balconies. The United Nations declared Biodiversity as the theme of this year’s World Environment Day on June 5 and that “2020 is a critical year for biodiversity. It’s a year of crucial decisions for the planet and people, and all other forms of life on Earth.” And indeed, there is a Jurassic Park in plain sight awaiting to be discovered. There are birds, bees, geckos, butterflies, dragonflies, the occasional grasshopper or beetle, and, yes, spiders. Who knew that our backyards and balconies are so full of life despite the summer heat?

When we reframe the current situation and find a way to view it optimistically, we realize that it’s an opportunity for learning. We need to do things differently now and small steps can lead to big impact. Often, the fear of change is a barrier to progress but, once we make the first step, we realize that it is possible.  Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Deep learning and change happen outside of our comfort zone and right now, in 2020, we are learning that we can do things very differently.

Exploring our backyards and appreciating the diversity of life in our close surroundings also fits very nicely with a thought from HE Ahmed Amer Mohammed Al Humaidi, Minister of Environment (2014) in the Foreword of the book Irkaya – Celebrating Biodiversity in Qatar.  “It is said that where the quality of environment goes down, the quality of life goes down for mankind…We must protect our flora and fauna, and make sure that our rapid development leaves minimal carbon footprints on our beautiful nature.”  

Therefore, let’s observe the delicate nature of Qatar that many residents may not have discovered yet, and leave it undisturbed and able to flourish. Summer will still be that time of the year when the hustle and bustle of school and work life slows down and we long for a well-deserved vacation to rejuvenate. As the hot and quiet days of summer descend upon Qatar we can take time to learn or teach ourselves and our children about the wildlife and biodiversity in our backyards and on balconies. It takes a calm and relaxed mind to observe the wonders of nature just outside the window in front of our eyes and patience will reward us.

Let’s also remind ourselves that nature is essential for healthy childhood development and the physical, emotional and spiritual health of us all. Gardening and direct contact with nature has been proven many times over as a potent therapy to treat depression and other ills of modern life, and who doesn’t need therapy right now? With restricted options for moving about, our backyards and balconies still offer a tiny escape from our screens into real nature. And while outside, remember to protect yourself and your family with clean and nontoxic sunscreens that are harmless to wildlife and pose no threat to biodiversity. Check out EWG’s 2020 sunscreen guide for the best and safest products (Environmental Working Group, EWG). 

This month, we invite you to explore Qatar-based nature adventures at home. Our June challenges are designed to protect, preserve, and support biodiversity right here in Qatar. You will discover how to nurture family, nature and community; together we can contribute to creating unique destinations in support of a carbon-neutral 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar while protecting our fragile marine and terrestrial environments. All of us can make a real difference in the world while refreshing and rejuvenating our bodies and minds during our staycations.