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Botanic Garden’s mission: To inspire people to connect with nature

Phyllostachys vivax, in the Bamboo Garden at San Diego Botanic Garden. Photo by Rachel Cobb
Phyllostachys vivax, in the Bamboo Garden at San Diego Botanic Garden. Photo by Rachel Cobb

I am one of those very fortunate people who always knew what he wanted to do with his life and always had my dream job along the way. It was plants and all of the wonder of nature that set me on that path. I was inspired by nature and I personally know how powerful that is.

So I was a believer in the mission of San Diego Botanic Garden: “To inspire people of all ages to connect with plants and nature” long before I became the president/CEO of the San Diego Botanic Garden over 20 years ago. And there are compelling reasons why pursuit of that mission is important.

All of us humans on this planet live in an increasingly urbanized world.

There are so many wonderful electronic ways to spend our time. But electronic connections that keep us indoors also rob us of some of the best medicine we all need.
There is a growing body of scientific research that confirms that time spent in nature is important in sustaining and restoring health. There are physicians wise to this who are writing prescriptions for patients to get out in nature to best deal with ills of the mind and body. So “connecting” with the plants and nature in SDBG can be a healthy alternative to some of the pharmaceuticals meant to help us cope.

But beyond the proven medicinal advantages connecting with nature provide, we will always depend on the natural processes of our earth home for the air, water and food we need to survive. There are no virtual options here.

Because I loved nature from an early age I became very concerned about the increasing rate of species headed toward extinction. In more recent years it has become increasingly obvious that we humans are also vulnerable and have had much to do for that vulnerability.

We know that the earth in its 4 billion-plus year history has essentially started and then restarted most life on the planet five previous times.

Humans would have never survived those upheavals. We depend on the stability of our planet home for our existence.

While changes to earth’s environment are inevitable they tend to be very gradual but we are exacerbating the rate of change. Rightfully, today’s children have reason for concern for their future.

At the current rate of species loss we are in the sixth major extinction episode on planet earth. This loss of species diversity, let alone the rate of climate change, destabilizes the earth’s processes. Given the social implications of that for us humans, we could be listed as among the endangered species. It is obvious that we need our planet home more than it needs us.

So if we want the earth to continue sustaining life for us humans in the future we need to become better stewards of our planet home now.
I believe the work we do in pursuing the mission of the San Diego Botanic Garden gives us hope for that.

We have many educational programs that advance our mission but most of the good work we do in inspiring people of all ages to connect with plants and nature occurs with a walk through the garden.

For our children visitors we have two children’s gardens where their imaginations can be inspired by the wonder and beauty of nature. This is where love of the living world we share begins and will always be the best start for becoming the future stewards of our planet earth.

Some of them will be lucky enough to develop a passion for nature and maybe become the president/CEO of a botanic garden.

Julian Duval is
President and CEO
of the San Diego
Botanic Garden in Encinitas.