Five Ways to Make a Difference Today

@HeatherKallevig

by Heather Kallevig

In the modern world, the average person is constantly bombarded with 24-hour news. Whether it’s on TV, social media, websites, and radio, a large portion of what we’re hearing and seeing is negative. In this environment of seemingly endless drama, difficulties, and sadness it is easy to become disillusioned.

The truth, however, is these news sources are offering a disproportionate frame of reality. The world is not becoming sadder… It’s become better! Through education, we are seeing an increase in activism, peace, and prosperity. In Be the Solution: How entrepreneurs and conscious capitalists can solve all the world’s problems, Michael Strong offers new and invigorating insights about our generation’s potential to change the world. The best part is, we are doing so in a society that is already in the upward scale.

It’s true, we are plagued by concerns with pollution, loss of biodiversity, and terrorism, to name a few, but we are also witnessing the regrowth of hardwood forests, a dramatic decrease in violent conflict, and a rise of conscious consumers and capitalists. We are coming of age in a world with growing potential.

Tibetan Buddhists, in spite of their heartrending history, hold dear to the future. According to strong “they are committed to a 500-year plan to making a better world.” The goal of each individual is to make the best of their world with the opportunities they receive in their lifetime. This is their contribution to the better world.

We can all benefit from this principle, and the best way to focus on making a difference in your lifetime is to focus on the difference you can make today. Below are five simple things you can do today to move us forward into a better world.

  1. Smile

This is perhaps the simplest contribution you can make, and the easiest way to quickly improve a person’s day. By smiling you change the mood of a moment, end an altercation, or instantly help another. After all, it’s very hard to see a smile without giving one in return.

  1. Make contact

Take the time to make contact with those people in your life you may have been neglecting. No matter how busy your world is, there is always time to get in touch with old friends, family members, or even coworkers. By doing so, you are letting someone else know you are thinking about them and that they are important to you.

  1. Show your gratitude

Showing your gratitude includes saying thank you, but it so much more. Take the time to show genuine appreciation for the people in your life, the skills you possess, and the blessings you’ve been granted.

  1. Get outside

Make time every day to get outside. You will increase your overall health, making you stronger for tomorrow. You will disconnect from technology and the distractions of the modern world. Finally, you will enhance your appreciation for the world beyond your own sphere. Better yet, when you do go outside, take someone with you!

  1. Be happy

This the most important way to impact change in your surrounding environment. Nothing else matters if you are not genuinely joyful. Make happiness a priority, and it will become a habit. Even on those days when your car breaks down, you fought with your significant other, and your daily work is drudgery finding the little reasons to be happy will dramatically change your overall gladness and your contentment will lastingly impact others.

Three Ways to Stay Active with a Busy Schedule.

by Heather Kallevig

When our lives become busy, and they inevitably do, the first thing to go is almost always exercise. When you’re working ten hours a day, making time with friends and family, and dealing with unexpected schedule changers – it can be increasingly hard to get to the gym. Just because your schedule is tight, does not mean your health has to suffer. Here are three quick tips for incorporating activity into your daily schedule.

Make movement a purposeful part of your day

Being an active individual does not simply mean you go to the gym regularly. It also means you keep an lively schedule throughout the day. Even if your position chains you to the desk, there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re moving. Consider putting things you need in different parts of the house or office, that way you have to get up and get them. If you know you’re going to be sitting for a long period of time, set a get-up alarm every half hour or so, and take the time to walk around, stretch, maybe a do a few quick exercises, then get back to work. If you are the type who likes a To Do List, plan out your day so that active chores interchange with sedentary ones.

Change up your exercise

If you are able to get in that regular workout time, make it fun and enjoyable. Don’t get stuck in a rut going to the gym and gliding on the elliptical every day. Change it up! Try to choose different activities. This will ensure exercise is more enjoyable and work different parts of your body. You can also incorporate more outdoor activities. Perhaps Monday you are at the gym, and Tuesday you hit the track. Wednesday you go for a bike ride, Thursday gym time, Friday swim, Saturday hike, and Sunday yoga. You can also get your time in small increments if you don’t have the ability to do one long workout. For example, go for a 30’bike ride in the morning and 15’ of yoga at the end of the day. By purchasing DVDs or following an online blog, you can do your yoga right at home.

Make an Activity Date

Getting together with friends and family is important. So is date night with your loved one. Rather than meeting for drinks or a meal, consider a healthier choice for your get-togethers. Meet your best friend for a walk. Take your nieces to the wildlife sanctuary. Join your honey for an old fashioned date of put-put golf. There are innumerable alternatives that are fun, engaging, and full of movement. You’re likely to have a better time and make stronger memories.

Photo By Jessica Polar

Physical health is important for your mental and emotional well being. As you get bogged down with that crazy schedule, don’t let it hurt your health. Make sure you are conscious about how your down time is spent, and try to get up, get out, and move. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you for it!

Leave No Trace Behind but a Facebook Photo #trailheadselfie

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It’s the age of the selfie – we’ve all done it. There’s no one else there take to you’re your photo, so you snap a quick shot with a little bit of scenery behind. What if someone told you a selfie could save your life? Search and rescue teams are now asking hikers, bikers, skiers, and all other outdoor enthusiasts to post a selfie.

Search-and-rescue squads’ main work is out of doors. These altruistic individuals risk life and limb to aid fellow outdoor enthusiasts, but many are turning to the value of social media. Not as a marketing tool, but as a new innovative rescue strategy. Search-and-rescue volunteers across the country are asking people to take what they call a “Trailhead Selfie” and post it on your social media platforms using #trailheadselfie.

A few things to think of when taking your trailhead selfie:

  1. If you know you won’t have service at the trailhead, post before you go.
  2. Don’t be afraid to use several platforms, particularly Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
  3. After posting your photo, shut off your phone to conserve battery – this also reduces technical distractions during your wilderness time.
  4. Make sure the selfie shows what you’re wearing, the trailhead location, and anyone with you. If this doesn’t fit in your photo, add it to your description.

It can be a bit intimidating setting off in a new location, especially if your new to an area or enjoy hiking alone. While snapping a #trailheadselfie does not ensure your safety, it is a useful application for our phones and social media. Just remember to be smart, be safe, and most importantly ENJOY THE GREAT OUTDOORS!

“The mountains are calling and I must go…”

John Muir

#trailheadselfie

#resurrectionpass

The New World of Birding – With Technology

DSC_0422by Heather Kallevig

*All photos in this post are taken by Heather Kallevig

When many people think of birders they devise a mental image of three men, a tall, slick blonde in bright colors, an intelligent, goofy white-haired businessman, and an unkempt computer geek, all locked in a great battle, vying for the prize. This picture portrays birding as an expensive, obsessive, competitive sport dragging its players across the country to see who can view the greatest number of birds in one year. This is the picture drawn by the 2011 motion picture, The Big Year.

While these compulsory birders do exist, chasing species and migrations across the country, most birders would be more likely to identify with the other characters in The Big Year. These individuals enjoy birding as a life-enriching hobby, based on the beauty, surprise, and excitement of discovering new species. Birding is an activity built on comradery and conservation.

Though many do not realize it, The Big Year is based on a book, by Mark Obmascik, “The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession.” In the introduction, Obmascik defines the important difference between a birdwatcher and a birder. “No longer is it accurate to call me a birdwatcher, a term the pros use to dismiss the spinsters and retired British Army colonels who wait passively for birds to come to them. I have become an enthusiast, a chaser – a birder” (Obmascik, M. 2004).

The sport of birding has changed dramatically from its inception. Jean-Jacque (John James) Audubon, a French sailor in 1820, is credited as one of the first great birders with the initial goal of drawing a portrait of every bird in North America (National Audubon Society). Because of this feat, his name is revered by all birders. Today, instead of drawings, we take pictures, and with the new innovations in cameras and binoculars, we generally take very good ones. Nicholas Lund, writer for the Birdist exclaims, “Digital photography has changed everything” (Lund, N. 2013). If you were to attend a bird watching festival, you would be astounded to see the many thousands of dollars in lenses wielded expertly by the patient, dedicated birders.

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Innovations have changed birding in many ways including our methods for tracking migrations, viewing birds, and even the way birders communicate with one another through an online social network. Similar to the computer programmer in A Big Year, most birders are part techy. We carry iPhones with expensive apps to help identify birds and maintain our life list, our cameras and advanced optic lenses allow us to take fantastic photos without every taking a photography class, and our findings are posted online contributing to knowledge and science.

Thanks to innovative apps, birders no longer lug a field guide on their birding quests. Today all we need is a smart phone. Even luddites are dropping their three-pound field guide in exchange for a device. (Lund, N. 2013). There are many different apps available for beginning and advanced birders. One of the most popular, iBird is a $20 app, and well worth it. With this app, you can identify birds by location, color, and size. Perhaps the best feature of this app is the option to listen to a bird’s song, sometimes even using it call a bird in. You can see an array of photos, read interesting facts, and collect a favorites list of birds. To learn more about iBird, add the app or visit their website at www.ibird.com. While this is one of the most popular, there are many other options. For example, a new app reviewed by Chelsea Harvey in Audubon Magazine was released this summer by researchers from Columbia University. The new app, called “Birdsnap,” uses photos and facial recognition to help birders identify a new species (Harvey, C. 2014). In the American Birding Association blog, Drew Weber discusses future tech and other popular birding apps to check out. A few of the apps he discussed are Birdseye, Birdlog, Oddfeathers, BirdTrax, eBird, and Kiwifoto (Weber, D. 2013). These apps include checklist tools and rare bird alerts allowing birders to connect and share information.

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These new innovations, including the birding apps, contribute to a growing social network of birders that did not exist in the past. Historically birding could be a very solitary sport. Today, if a rare bird sighting occurs, within an hour there can be a hundred birders or more all focused with their opticals in the air. “Birding has become hypersocial” quotes Richard Degener in his review of the New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Autumn Birding Festival (Degener, R. 2014). There is no end of birding blogs, apps, social media pages connecting birders to one another to compare lists, discuss sightings, and evaluate new technologies. People are building friendships on the foundation of birding.

On any social media site, you will find birding networks large and small. I myself am a member of several Facebook groups including Birds of Alaska, American Birding Association, and the Audubon Society. On Twitter I follow posts by the Indiana Audubon Birding Society, the Alaska Audubon Birding Society, and fellow individual birders recognized for their online blogs. These connections facilitate communication and breed enthusiasm for the sport, engendered by a sense of community and network.

One of the most important wide-reaching results of birding innovation is growth in citizen science. According to birding expert and conservation advocate James Currie, this term refers to the collection and analysis of data and the spread of data through voluntary researchers. The main contributions are observations and findings shared by birders rather than trained field scientists. The annual Big Year is an excellent example of this. Though this activity has been popular since the 1900s, it has gained ground as birders connect and communicate via the Internet (Currie, J. 2011). Today scientists can follow migrations, impacts of climate change, and dwindling species all by the contribution of wee, ordinary birders posting online. Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology uses citizen scientist through observation tools like Nestcams, Feederwatches, and eBirds. All of these programs allow citizens old and young to watch, identify, and make an important contribution to wildlife conservation.

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Citizen science has three important contributions. First, it encourages birders by giving them an opportunity to make a meaningful difference. Second, citizen science is often the means of introducing new people to birding. Third, it’s a means of data collection to support public policy on conservation (Currie, J. 2011). Thanks to this research scientists can observe the effects of climate change and habitat loss. The Audubon Climate report estimates 314 species, nearly half of the US’s birds are at risk of extinction within this century (The Audubon Birds & Climate Change Report. 2014).

In 2011, A Big Year brought birding to a larger public eye. It increased many viewers enthusiasm and helped them make the leap from birdwatchers to birders. As more people join this often oddball group of nature enthusiasts the sport will gain recognition and innovation will increase. This will mean advances in gadgets, lens, and communication among members. While these gains are important, there is an overarching awareness that increases with the citizen science supported through innovation in birding.   As this sport grows, it becomes more than a simple weekend activity. It cultivates a conservation movement, one with the potential to protect and preserve threatened species for many generations of obsessive Big Year enthusiasts to come.

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The Audubon Birds & Climate Change Report. (2014). Retrieved November 19, 2014, from http://climate.audubon.org/

Currier, J. (2011, December 6). Birding Technology – The New Citizen Science. Retrieved November 19, 2014, from http://10000birds.com/birding-technology-the-new-citizen-science.htm

Degener, R. (2014, October 24). Event Highlights How Technology Changes Birdwatching. Press of Atlantic City.

Harvey, C. (2014, June 13). Innovative Technology Gives Birdwatching a Boost. The Audubon Magazine.

Lund, N. (2013, December 3). High-tech future of staring at birds in the woods. The Slate Book Review.

National Audubon Society. (n.d.) John James Audubon. Retrieved December 1, 2014, from http://www.audubon.org/john-james-audubon

Obmascik, M. (2004). The big year: A tale of man, nature, and fowl obsession. New York: Free Press.

Weber, D. (2013, May 1). Future tech. Retrieved November 19, 2014, from http://blog.aba.org/2013/05/future-tech.html