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  • Writer's pictureljmarkson

Influencers Focus on the Positive to Help Protect Nature

January is a great month for reflection and learning. This past weekend I pushed my attention span a bit and spent a looong but satisfying Saturday listening to 6 different speakers at the Chattahoochee Nature Center’s Go Wild With Your Garden event.

The 127 acre Chattahoochee Nature Center was the backdrop for a day of speakers talking about habitat restoration in our own yards.

My hometown favorite was Vickie Mann of Quiet Georgia who presented Your Yard is Nature’s Best Hope based on Leslie Inman’s book and and Doug Tallamy’s Homegrown National Park teachings. Leslie's informative Pollinator Friendly Gardens Facebook group is already reaching far and wide educating and spreading the word about creating welcoming yards for wildlife. Vickie presented for Intown Atlanta GNPS in the fall, but her message about 10 ways to bring nature home using healthy landscape practices can’t be said loud enough or often enough. Her candid stories about her journey learning how to be a better custodian of her own yard offer a compelling perspective.

Vickie Mann and Leslie Inman were all smiles talking about nature at their vendor booth.

Kyle Lybarger and Jake Brown of the Native Habitat Project who are fairly new to me are on a mission to restore and educate people about native habitats. Native plant lovers tend to traditionally skew older and native plant groups can sometimes feel a bit like niche gardening cliques but Kyle and Jake are helping propel the native plant movement forward as it shifts to focusing on the function and habitat value of native plants in our ecosystem. Kyle who is a conservation influencer is using social media to reach a new generation of nature lovers on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. He is particularly engaging because he’s a soft-spoken outdoorsman and hunter who explains the value of prescribed fires – which means his popular 1-minute videos tend to be more interesting and exciting to watch than anything you usually see associated with native plant informational videos. I love Kyle’s idea of “showing people something they’ve never seen and they’ll be interested”!

I think everyone in the audience was charmed by Kyle Lybarger's self-effacing personal stories about his path to becoming a conservation influencer around native habitats.

My fan favorite presenter was Nancy Lawson who shared the same gentle and compassionate approach to living in harmony with nature as she does in her beautifully written book called the Humane Gardener. Her slides and stories about how to coexist with bunnies, deer, frogs, turtles, and bees in their home (our yards) were charming and relatable. She lures you into a possible world where adorable groundhogs belong in your garden munching on the native plants you let grow between your beds.

Nancy Lawson somehow captured the most adorable photos and videos of the wildlife where she lives!

I also noticed my favored speakers were all engaging and effective because they told personal stories and focused on the positive. It’s hard not to profile the negative to make a point about how precarious our natural world is, but there is so much negativity everywhere that we tend to tune it out. We really want to hear stories of hope about how way we can make a difference. I love this approach and am going to try to model it a bit more this year when trying to influence others around protecting nature.

This is a tiny section of my own rewilded yard in the winter.

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