Hey there and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast. My name is Sam.
And today we are asking what’s the craic about nature. So we’re gonna look at the color green, green areas, green places, our hometowns, home regions – beautifully green. Do we love animals and nature? Do we have any of those wild creatures in our homes?
What we think about keeping plants and any advice we can give about that, specially it’s gonna be important to me I can tell you. And should we protect this beautiful green planet? We spoke about space and how we should protect this world and keep it safe. And how beautiful it is, so shouldn’t we protect it and keep it safe? So. Are you sitting comfortably?
I am, I just couldn’t be more comfortable.
Really? Don’t fall asleep.
Yes, you might lose me, I’m so comfortable.
Do you like the color green?
I do like the color green. I remembered something from this question. I’m gonna ask you this.
I remembered that when I had the opportunity the first time in my life to buy my own bicycle or to have my own bicycle gifted to me. It was a gift to me. I chose a green bike.
It was a ten-speed bike, ten speed. Now this was in 19…
Light green. Kind of a metallic green.
Very flashy. This was in 1965.
Okay. So you were like two?
I was two at the time, yes! Thank you again. Yes, I was extremely young. It was a very small bike. Little legs.
Yes, stabilizer. Training wheels we call them.
We have something in common, because I wasn’t… It wasn’t bought by my parents, but I… When I was 12-13 I had not in 1960something, but I had a lovely green bike and they used to say ‘here comes Sam on his mint green flying machine’.
I used to cycle to school and it got to be known that Sam was coming to school on his green bike.
It got to be known that I didn’t drive the slowest, or cycle the slowest, so it was Sam coming in his mint green flying machine.
I’m kinda proud of that. I mean it was the best I could get out of school.
You had a reputation already, I’d say. I do like green.
I must admit it is my favorite color.
It’s my favorite color too.
I love it more than ever to be honest. And you know, Ireland, and I’m from Northern Ireland, but nevertheless. Ireland has a nickname of being the Emerald Isle.
And, I mean, there are other green places, don’t get me wrong. And England is very green too, and Scotland, but you do notice that Ireland is green, it strikes you in all the different shades. It’s fantastic.
Beautiful. Do you have snow?
Yeah, like four or five days a year we have snow. And it’s almost half an inch thick, or one centimeter, so it’s quite severe. Nothing moves. But it doesn’t stop the grass growing. It’s not quite enough. Those five days aren’t enough to stop the grass growing.
Does it actually… Does it cover the grass?
It’s above it. No, I mean, you get a bit of white and the place looks like a Winter Wonderland, right? And everyone there every year hopes every year for a white Christmas. And it doesn’t happen too often. It’s not that kind of weather, and I was gonna say unfortunately, but it’s okay. I mean, I love the idea of white Christmas, but I don’t know… There’s something magical about green too.
I guess I would miss it if it were gone for too long.
Like in Novosibirsk. Where there’s a question whether it’ll ever be seen again. Each year.
It shocked me, you know, when I came. I was shocked by the idea that there wouldn’t be grass straight away when the snow melted. I obviously didn’t think too clearly about this beforehand, right? But I never thought clearly enough the idea that of course the grass would die underneath of, you know, a meter or half a meter of snow.
Of course the grass would die. But it never really occurred to me until someone said that, you know, the grass is gonna have to grow again. And I was like ‘Oh yeah! Right!’
So of course it dies… So about 8 months of snow, or maybe it’s not quite 8 months, maybe it’s 6-7 months. But it seems…
Is your home region, way back in America, I know you’re here for a long time in Novosibirsk, but is it very green?
The emerald state, yes. It’s known for its potatoes and its emerald color. No. It is quite green, especially depending on the part of the state, but where…
It’s Ohio, which is up on the Great Lakes, it’s kind of across from Canada, across from Toronto basically you could say so.
So it’s kinda North-Eastish.
Not as far as the coast, but…
Yeah, not on the coast, right. We call it Midwest but it’s actually not very far west, it’s more east. But it is quite green.
If you live in New York, it’s Midwest.
Yeah, I think that’s where it came from. Started from the east coast and went west, and so for some time it was like the west.
I guess before the west was really taken over by… While it was still the wild west, I guess.
At least this is what I’m imagining. Not knowing too much about it.
It was not the wild west, but it was everybody was… it was the west of the country at some point. The frontier moved west.
Going to the east coast, yeah. So it is a beautiful…
It is quite green, yes, lakes and rivers. And if you especially get to the middle of the state where I spent about ten years, I was working, and it’s even more green and has hills and… where my home city of Cleveland, Ohio, is kind of flat. But it’s still green. It has nice parks, there is a ring of parks around it.
It is snowy in the winter. Not like here of course. But we do have snow, so it would be maybe a couple of months of snow, maybe something like that.
Yeah. Great. If you… oh hang on, I’m not gonna ask you that. Not yet.
Don’t ask me that. Why were you gonna ask me that?
Are you a nature or animal lover? That’s what I’m gonna ask you.
I would say lover is a very strong word, but I think, I guess I’m a nature lover.
You’re not a nature hater.
No. I’m surely not a nature hater, maybe a nature liker, I like nature. I love nature. I’m actually not one of those people who do not….
Basking its beauty every day.
Not every day. Sometimes I do though.
Yeah. You’re not like Superman who needs the sun to recharge and stay alive. I mean theoretically. And you’re not like that, you need plants, green, to survive?
I think maybe not to survive, but for things to be healthy and happy. I think green plants really helps.
Do you have pets at home?
I don’t have pets. That’s one of those things if you’ve a family didn’t have pets, then you don’t have pets.
Do you love dogs and cats? Have you ever thought on having?
I would call myself a genuine dog or cat liker.
I don’t necessarily love them. How about you?
You’re not allergic to them?
I am a lover of animals in general. One of my favorites is bats.
Okay, well. I would have to say I don’t even like bats.
I talked to Ken about this. It’s… I know it’s unusual right? I’m not, I’m aware of that. I mean, I’m a lover, I enjoy seeing and spending time around animals, and I love nature and green and trees and plants.
I’m not like, you know, lover of flowers per se. For me they are to be gifted to, you know, my wife or mom or whatever. But I’m a lover of nature and being in nature, and I’m a lover, I’m especially a lover of dogs.
Okay. But do you have a dog?
Bats interest me. My parents have a dog. Here in Novosibirsk I don’t – my apartment… it’s not suitable for a dog in my view. So… but my parents have a dog – a lovely little toy dog, bichon fries. A little ball of white fun.
So some kind of French dog.
My French is bad, but it is a French name.
You can trust me it’s not. But the words are French. My pronunciation is not, but the words are French.
Sam, this is so beautiful, right.
I just don’t know what to do here, you know.
Let me talk of my little dog.
Do you want a piece of my …. I’m starting to become a Dracula now.
So yeah, they have a little white ball of fluff, little white ball of fun with its lovely tail and its curly white hair and mild nature and, you know… You enjoy its company. She – Poppy is her name, which is a name of a flower, it’s мак in Russian, this flower. You get little seeds that you can eat.
But she’s really really friendly and you come in and she welcome you, and she’s not a good guard dog at all. Pretty useless in that respect. She’s a great friend. So I’m a nature and animal lover. For sure.
I would say I am too, but I know that there are people that are more so, including probably you.
You’re not super enthusiastic.
No. Although I am a tree defender.
We have this phrase, tree hugger. Are you a tree hugger?
I am afraid I may even be a tree hugger.
So hug I love. In Russian it’s обнять, обнимать. So yeah I am… Maybe I am a tree hugger. I will tell you why. Where I live, in my apartment, used to have…
In your apartment there’s trees?
No. Outside my apartment. There was a nice row of very nice birch trees.
Yeah. Beautiful white trees. And for whatever reason my building decided that they needed more parking.
For their all-important automobiles. Well, more important than anything in the world is a lot of parking. And they cut down all of the trees.
All of them. Well that row. At which point beautiful shade…
No, thankfully. I’m sure that they would’ve done all the world if they could, cause that was the way they were thinking. More parking.
They were on the war path.
We need parking, right. And I was very unhappy. And had I been there when the decision was made, I think they just made the decision without talking with the residents.
The stakeholders, as they say, hence that’s why they just did it. And I was not happy. Cause the sun as we say is beating down and it looks like every other place in the city…
No joy, no light on your street.
Yeah it just looks like it has wonderful parking. I gotta say.
But that’s increased the price of your property, I mean the value of your property.
Well I’m… I would rather have my living quality improved by the same amount that was damaged by taking the trees down.
So I don’t know Gary… You’re saying you’re not a nature lover…
But maybe you are more than you realize.
I think you may be right. I think…
I must say there’s a lovely leafy… There’s a lovely leafy street that I’ve started to come recently to work down…
Каменская, and it’s very nice.
to walk under the trees. And beside the park and lots of green. I enjoy that.
Speaking specifically about trees. We could’ve actually called this trees – what’s the craic about trees.
Right. Let’s rename this.
We’re just gonna talk about trees for half an hour.
So here, what’s the craic about trees? You know we’ve renamed it.
But we’re very good at it so you wouldn’t even know.
Try not to laugh. If you were a tree, what kind of tree would it be?
Okay. I know you don’t want me to name the kind of a tree.
I’m a talking tree. I’m a walking talking tree. I would be an oak tree.
Oak trees, in Russian it’s дуб.
And no comments on my being дуб.
Do you know that it also means that someone is a little bit dense?
Yeah. It means like как дуб, the thing people say, you’re like an oak tree, and then you’re supposed to hit a wood thing. I’m telling you.
Do you use… Could you theoretically use that to talk about a person?
Yes, that’s what I’m saying.
That’s some Russian thing.
I’m learning bad habits from you Gary.
I’ve got a million of them…. You’ve only touched the hem of the garment as they say.
So why would you be an oak?
I would be an oak because I have had the opportunity to have some large oak trees in my world.
And they have very amazingly large tree when they get old. And so they get very very tall, they’re very wide at the same time, they’re just a very amazing tree. And they all grow from a very tiny acorn. Which is желудь. Желудь.
I’ve seen that word. I’m not gonna try and pronounce it.
I can and I just tried. And that was not successful, but anyway – and I just think they are very amazing and wonderful, impressive just kind of being, creature.
I must admit there are some oaks where I grew up and they’re beautiful tree. I don’t know… They remind me of home probably, but I mean, I love pine trees, I like…
Lots of different trees. Maybe because oak is quite traditional, it’s not the only one in the UK, but I think it’s one of those trees that a lot of people admire in the UK, and I guess we kinda feel like it’s kinda our tree or one of our trees. Like a national tree like Russia has. But… Well… If I were a tree….
Yeah, if you were a tree…
We’d talking about this now.
I was gonna say an oak, but I would like to be a tree where things can live in. I mean, plants. Certain plants and animals can live beside, under, on me. I would like to be a tree that has branches that is comfortable for lovely little animals to come – squirrels, and then owl or two. And my bats, my favorite bats.
Yes, your bats. Bats love the trees.
I’d love to have a few bats accompany me, being friends with me. And they love to roost in trees, if that’s the right…
Inside a tree you could find them. Or some people put boxes so they can live in those. They need to sleep upside down of course, it’s true. You’re laughing, but if you saw what I saw as a young teen, very young teenagers, maybe 12-13 and I saw bats. They’re not big, I mean, in the UK they’re not big and they eat insects and flies.
And they’re flying about and they’re doing this acrobatics, pardon my pun.
But they’re doing their acrobatics. And they’re so maneuverable. And the more…
When I started to learn about them, the more I learned about them, the more I read about them, the more I realized – these are an amazing creatures. Their hands or their wings, I mean, if they’re very long fingers with the wing is like a skin, strong skin stretched over their, between their fingers. And that’s their way to maneuver. They just turning their fingers and flying about. And echolocation and these big ears and everything.
It’s like a high-tech bird.
Yeah. I mean, if it was like a computer, it would be, you know, with all the Wi-Fi, even back in 1990.
They would have 5G back in 1999.
Exactly, yeah, but they are amazing, so I would want them to live in me, and maybe some fruit, like berries and stuff. I used to pick, well, not from a tree, but I used to pick blackberries with my grandmother, my dad’s mom. I guess, maybe, I’ll have some of that too on my tree. Nothing extravagant.
So you’re making up a tree here. Which is fine.
I mean, it’s a tree with berries and with animals, living in it, I am gonna say. I don’t know… That’ll be mulberry, maybe.
I don’t know. Mulberry is berry.
Mulberry is too small of a tree. So I’m making up a tree.
But I’m talking too, this tree is talking. So, I mean it has to be an interesting one.
Absolutely. It’s a multitalented, multifaceted tree.
Activities in nature. Do you enjoy them? What was the last one you’ve done, do you enjoy them, first of all?
Well, I enjoy them, in a small way, but very much, so just, I have a little place, little section of woods, couple of them, in Academgorodok, to the south of our fair city, a part of our fair city, and I just go and I walk around for like, you know, half a day. It’s very beautiful woods, there are birch trees.
There is a pond there. Have you been to that duck pond there?
Yeah, this is another section, that’s even nicer, it’s kind of arranged, and this is…
Don’t tell us your secret place. We’ll spoil it.
You know, there’ll be people, all listeners of the podcast… People in the woods, full of…
I do, Yeah, very much so.
I am the lover of hiking, I’ve spoken about this before, I am a lover of hiking. In the Northern Ireland there is a mountain range called the Mourn Mountains.
M-O-U-R-N-E-S. Mournes, or the Mourn mountains, without an “s”. They are not big, but they are beautiful. As, I guess, you could say about any mountain range, but they are beautiful. Lovely greens as I’ve gathered, as I’ve spoken about.
And near the sea, the Irish sea. There is a town not far away, Newcastle it’s called. Not the one in England, or Australia or anything. But there is a Newcastle in Northern Ireland too. And it’s a fantastic place. You can go up and down in half a day and it’s great.
And I’ve been there alone, I’ve been there with my best friend, I’ve camped there, I’ve eaten sausages and beans there. I have done pretty much everything in there.
Well, if you have eaten sausages and beans there, then you have done everything there.
Well that is what I was trying to say, yeah.
There’s nothing more you can say.
No need to say any more about it.
We spoke about this before. I have asked you if you have animals at home. So you don’t.
You don’t. And I have a dog. It’s my parent’s. So I grew up with dogs, but at the moment I don’t. But, do you keep plants?
I do keep plants. I have a few plants. I have them in front of my window. I have maybe six plants, seven plants, small number of plants.
They are forest of plants. Garden.
Kind of, yeah. They are orchids. Of different sorts. And one other plant that is something else. And I do enjoy them, I like watching what they do.
Do they needed to get watered often?
I water them once a week, someone taught me how to do this. So that it takes it’s complete minimum care.
Don’t drown them or anything.
Well no. You see what you do is you do drown them. But only for 20 minutes.
And they drain, the water goes out from them and then you just put them back and that’s it. You do drown them. And it’s the orchids that I have anyway are in a kind of a pot within…
You better be careful what you say here.
I’m explaining how useful and wonderful these are. And so the water drains out, the pots have… it’s not really a pot, but it’s kind of a pot inside of a pot, and the water drains through the holes and in this inner pot. It’s plastic. And that allows the water not to stay in, so the roots don’t rot. And….
That’s what you do with these.
Cause I’ve had a couple of plants and before I was married I had a couple of plants and I killed them. I mean not intentionally, I wasn’t violent. But for example I would… I had my own room in a place in Belfast, but my parents’ place was 50 kilometers or so away, 30 miles for you.
And I would spend my time between those two places. And I remember I was on holidays or something for a while, and of course maybe two weeks. And the plants was in a hot summertime, in a hot room. And I might have forgotten about it a little bit, you know. Just maybe.
And I tried to revive it afterwards. I think it was a bonsai tree. I got the idea of having a bonsai tree from the film ‘Karate kid’. It’s got that kind of culture idea of.. Well, karate is from Japan and bonsai, I believe, if I’m right, it’s also from Japan. And it’s a very nice idea, like an art form of a tree, the trimming and all. And I loved that idea. I mean in principle it was a good idea, right?
Right. It’s a fine principle.
This is me and unfortunately I killed that plant unintentionally killed it.
My wife and I have a plant. This was also when we went… Well not on holidays but afterwards unfortunately the poor thing… I don’t what happened but it also died. Maybe just by the fact that I exist near it, you know.
You think that’s the problem?
I’m not good for plants maybe.
Maybe I’m taking energy from them, like Superman.
Yeah, sucking it. I’m feeling the same thing, right. If you’re feeling me weakening, that’s….
You’ve already helped me – you talked about these orchids and draining them and making sure their rots don’t rot.
Kinda helps if a north window, if you put them on a window somewhere… If you’ve south window, east window – if too much direct sun… I think most plants are not real happy with that.
And do you…. I mean, it’s recommended – a lot of hospitals did or still do, I don’t know, move plants at night because, you know, because they switch their mode at nighttime and they start to take oxygen.
Okay. Maybe that’s my problem - they’re sucking the oxygen out of my…
Do you move them from your sleep quarters at night?
Well, they’re not in my sleeping quarters, they’re in my kitchen.
That’s why I have this incredibly robust appearance like…
Youthfulness, right. Then keep talking about historical things and your like ‘I remember that’.
And I think ‘wow’. I didn’t want to ask.
Civil war? You remember that?
Yes, it was a bad one, yeah.
What about the Crimean war? Do you remember that?
That was difficult working, right. I have to say.
We’re gonna talk very briefly about climate change.
I am afraid it may be a real thing.
It seems like it may be a real thing. My one reason that I think it may be a real thing is historical once again. And I remember when I came to Novosibirsk in the mid-90s, 1996 it would have been, and through the 2000. I remember when there were not really very many cars here.
And parking was not a problem, so all the trees could remain exactly where they were. And then when I came back – I was away for a while, and I came back in 2007 and all of a sudden there were just a lot of cars. And every year there are more and more cars, and what is happening here I believe happened through the entire developing world at the same time.
I think so. Speaking about Northern Ireland I think so, yeah.
Yeah. At one stage my family had four cars.
In one house. 3-4 bedroom house we had four cars.
So, yeah. Me and my brother. My older brother, me, my mom, my dad – we all needed one for work. And we all, you know, different time, different places.
One per person. We had three cars when I was, you know…
And I guess, I mean, when I was in youth, I mean, when I was a little boy, I’m not going that far back, right.
I’ll tell myself at least. I don’t think that would have heard of. Most people didn’t have two cars even. I mean, mom and dad.
Yeah, when I was a little too…
Now it’s becoming… Not more affordable, but it’s more normal to have that. And should we be doing more to protect nature?
I suspect we should. I suspect we should. It would benefit everyone and…
Are the cars and stuff doing the damage.
I think they are. I don’t have a car now and I’m glad I don’t have a car now.
And I live in a city, I don’t need a car. If I were in the United States, almost anywhere except a really big city, I would need a car.
Right. I thought I needed car in Northern Ireland.
It’s… Which is unfortunate, but…
I think they’re very… It is not a quality of life, it’s a bad quality of life.
It’s like a bad habit maybe. Not just for one person but for entire human race.
Yeah, kinda like we’re all developing a bad habit at the same time, yeah.
So by education I’m a civil engineer, which means that… I mean, by education I learned how to build bridges and roads. And so I’m kind of guilty of like promoting cars in my point of view. I worked a bit in that sphere. But actually when I think about how could you solve this, I think we need to think of completely different world. We need to rethink how we operate completely.
I mean, basically I mean we need to stop being dependent on cars. But I mean, I’m not the one to tell people to do that.
But I honestly think that to stop the amount of cars we need to rethink how we go to work or do we go far to work. How we live – I mean, you know, completely change urban environment to suit that. Which is, I mean, how you could do that, I’m not even gonna get…
The politics of it are really difficult.
I mean, wow. It would be radical to do that, but… In summary or at the end of our podcast I wanna ask you… Hopefully… Hypothetical question – so if… What would the world be like if people photosynthesized like… instead of eating food? So photosynthesis, pardon me.
I didn’t put my teeth in today. But it’s when plants are dependent on light, sunlight, water and nutrients from the soil. And they take carbon dioxide and give up oxygen. And then at night when the lights not there, they switch over, they suck in your oxygen and put out carbon dioxide and I mean… 00:33:55 S: What would it be like if we were dependent on light, soil, water? I mean we’re dependent on water, but what would it be like if we really needed sunlight to survive? And we really needed to be in touch with the soil? Touching the soil all the time.
I can see you’re enjoying it.
That’s a great question. Besides not, the word that’s hard to pronounce, photosynthesis.
Take a little drink of water…
Okay. Well I think it would be interesting. I think the world might be more peaceful place.
Yeah? Well one thing I could think of is we wouldn’t’ have a lot of concrete on the ground.
I would really be glad of that.
We would need to be in touch with the soil so I think we wouldn’t have that concrete.
Asphalt, tarmac or whatever.
Not to mention the all important tiles, like they have here in Novosibirsk. They’re very, they’re like tiles, плитки.
I walked past the opera theatre on my way over here and there was just this…
What I would call pavement slabs…
It’s with little, with tiles, usual tiles. And there was just nothing out of their edges, along the edges these tiles…
You mean there was nature underneath it. You’re not a nature liker, you’re a nature lover.
Okay. I think you’re right.
So I guess we wouldn’t have the big high rise buildings, we would have to think differently. The cities would be more spread out maybe.
Or maybe, I don’t know, we would have a lot of green spaces nearby where we work or live or something.
So maybe we should try to forget how to do that, so that we can help to protect the planet, cause we have to, we have to survive.
Well you’re a civil engineer, and I’ve got my degree in English, so…. That’s all right, I cannot offer anything to it.
Well, thank you for that. So, it’s been interesting.
It’s been interesting talk.
So we’ve talked about what’s the craic about nature. We’ve agreed that we both love green – we’re from green places, we love nature and spending time in nature. We love trees and we could really imagine ourselves being some kind of tree. And you advised me how to look after my plants, maybe I won’t kill them in future.
And we talked a little bit about protecting our planet. Hypothetically.
We haven’t implemented anything yet, but maybe our listeners will have a bit of cloud, a bit of power to do that.
That’s right. Powerful listeners.
Powerful listeners. So that was the craic about nature.