National Tree Day isn’t just about caring for our environment, it’s also about connecting with our communities. JCU Alumni and Environmental Officer, Brandan Espe, tells us why it’s important to branch out and cultivate connections as we care for our natural world.
While Brandan Espe was growing up in the rural settings of Western Australia and Northern Queensland, he could always be found adventuring through his backyard and beyond. “I had a fun time terrorizing our poor native animals and plants as a child,” Brandan says.
Brandan’s fascination with the outdoors grew along with him, leading him to pursue a career in environmental research. “Studying at JCU made me realise how few people focus on our native flora. Most environmental students are glued to our fauna but know little about their study subjects’ food or homes,” he said.
“Seeing this niche, I happily moved to the plant side of environmental study, only to find that this actually allowed me to do more for our native animals than I likely could have if I had stuck with just fauna.”
For Brandan, National Tree Day is worth getting excited about, and not just because it means improving our environment. “I think of schools, community groups and organisations joining together to get out of the classroom or office and into the fresh air to plant some new homes for our local fauna and have a nice, chill, stress-free break from the bustle of life.”
Taking a break from the hustle and bustle by soaking up the sun and getting our hands dirty sounds great. But Brandan believes there is greater opportunity besides just a mini-vacation in our rich surroundings.
“I believe it’s important to have public events like this to allow people to catch up or meet new people, especially in this age of technology,” Brandan says. “The natural environment is the best place for bringing people together, as many of our local environments are quite tranquil places to relax and learn about how the world around us works, especially outside of our concrete jungles.
“I like to think that these events also help people learn some more patience and hopefully take pride in knowing that the small plants they put in today will help cool the world, clean the air, and in the future, turn into a large, shade-bearing tree.”
It’s true that our personal peace and confidence can be rooted in time spent in nature. Studies have found multiple benefits to being around flora. Not only do plants lower our anxiety levels, but they also reduce physiological and psychological stress as we care for them. One study found that people are 15 per cent more creative when surrounded by greenery.
Those plants in your office are important, too. Plants can increase our attentiveness and memory by 20 per cent. They can also increase our productivity, as one study shows that employees were more productive with plants in their workspaces.
But National Tree Day isn’t just a reminder to give your indoor plants a drink. Not sure how to go about planting a tree by yourself? There are plenty of ways to get involved in your environment and your community.
If you want to be further connected to the JCU community, you could join the TropEco intern program. Make a positive contribution to sustainability and increase your skills and knowledge through the many projects available at both JCU Townsville and JCU Cairns. You’ll also receive certification for your efforts.
If you’re more drawn to your local community, there are multiple community groups to join in caring for our environment. You could check out Coastal Dry Tropic Landcare Inc. in Townsville or Mulgrave Landcare & Catchment Group Inc. in Cairns. Or you could search through the many groups throughout your area that need people passionate about protecting and improving our natural world.
By getting outside, getting our hands dirty, and getting together with like-minded people with a passion for plants, we can make a difference in our mental health, in our community, and in our world.
Do you share Brandan’s passion for flora and fauna? Consider how you could branch out with JCU Environmental Management.
Feature image: Shutterstock