Keep Looking Forward: 20 Instagram Accounts for Environmental Inspiration

Keep Looking Forward: 20 Instagram Accounts for Environmental Inspiration
A person stands on a cliff overlooking Geiranger, Norway. Marco Bottigelli / Getty Images

By John R. Platt

These days many of us have a natural inclination to "doomscroll" — that constant refreshing of social media so we can gnash our teeth at the most recent bad news.

There's an alternative. Let's call it hopescrolling — the art and act of looking for beautiful things and important information to keep us inspired.

With the pandemic and election results still looming over our heads, here are 20 of our favorite nature- and environment-related Instagram accounts. May they fill your days with beauty and drive you to fight for the planet.


Some of the best photos from the app that helps scientists and everyday citizens keep track of the natural world.

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A post shared by Cornell Lab of Ornithology (@cornellbirds) on

BBC Earth

We've all seen the documentaries, but there's a lot more photos and videos to enjoy through this account.

Carls of Ohio

A groundhog that lives in a friend's backyard. Hey — urban biodiversity matters.

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Caterpillar-of-the-Day Follow Along: Day 286⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Like Some Heavy Fruit:⁠⠀ Big Poplar Sphinx⁠⠀ Pachysphinx modesta⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Three poplar trees stand isolated in a large field in Gardner, Massachusetts. Like some heavy fruit or nut, the sphinx, clasping to remnant leaf petioles, dangle precariously in the wind. Far below, in the late July heat, I discover their frass and bits of discarded leaves. The big poplar sphinx is always out of my reach.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ -------⁠⠀ • Caterpillar: Pachysphinx modesta - Big Poplar Sphinx⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ • Range: Eastern and Central North America
, west across the Northern US and Canada.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ • Host Plants: A specialist feeder on poplars and willows. Seems to show a preference for Cottonwood here in the Northeast.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ • Season: Caterpillars active in the Summer⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ • Where are they now: Pachysphinx overwinter as pupa in soil.⁠⠀ -------⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ If you would like to follow along with us this year you can find posts like this one here on Instagram, follow us on Facebook, or just visit the front page of our website to see our expanded calendar graphic. For the best experience, order one of our physical Caterpillar-A-Day calendars so you can follow along, add notes, and learn more, as we go.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ #moths #mothsofinstagram #thecaterpillarlab #caterpillar #caterpillars #nature #naturephotography #science #entomology #lepidoptera #scienceeducation #naturalhistory #art #artandscience #buglife #exciting #insects #bugs #insectsofinstagram #followalong #lifecycle #2020 #macrophotography #insectphotography

A post shared by The Caterpillar Lab (@the_caterpillar_lab) on

David Attenborough

The conservation icon doesn't plan to be on Instagram very long — hey, he's in his nineties — but this account is gold.

Roger Peet

This amazing artist/activist frequently works with our parent organization, the Center for Biological Diversity, but that's just a fraction of his inspirational output.

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The number of people who defend their off-trail travels as not having an impact is astounding. The thing is, humans are inherently lazy. We tend to take the path of least resistance. So, if someone wants to travel to the other side of a field, and they see a slightly beaten path that may have been taken by one or two people before them, they take it. This is how new trails are formed. The hiking community calls these “social trails”. They are unofficial trails that people use as the path of least resistance from Point A to Point B.⁣ ⁣ The problem with social trails is that as they become more frequently used, they become permanent. First the vegetation is slightly disturbed. The people that follow then beat the vegetation flat. Continued use compacts soils to the point that they won’t support new growth. This breaks up what was previously homogenous habit into small fractured pieces. It's not good for vegetation. It’s not good for wildlife. And it certainly doesn’t make for good pictures.⁣ ⁣ The 1st picture was taken by @waterproject. The 2nd is a Google Earth satellite image of the same location taken a few years prior. Notice the difference? How can someone look at these two photos side by side and say that there hasn’t been an impact? How much longer do you think this area can withstand this amount of abuse before it comes a dirt hillside with a couple of flower patches protected behind wooden fences?⁣ ⁣ The next photos are close up views of what these new social trails look like, progressing from slightly disturbed vegetation, to fully flattened and dead vegetation, to fully compacted soils and new dirt "trails" that will require either human intervention or decades of natural forces to recover. This is the progression that we want to avoid. Resist the temptation to use social trails. Stick to the official dirt trails. They are obvious. They are generally wide enough for two or more people to walk side by side. They are a fully dirt surface with no vegetation present. You don’t need to create new trails for beautiful pictures that others will love, as seen in the last two photos.⁣ ⁣ #leavenotrace #poppy #wildflowers #ethics #mindfulness #publiclands

A post shared by RESPECT OUR PUBLIC LANDS (@publiclandshateyou) on

United Nations Environment Programme

This great account frequently features world-saving initiatives both large and small.

John R. Platt is the editor of The Revelator. An award-winning environmental journalist, his work has appeared in Scientific American, Audubon, Motherboard, and numerous other magazines and publications. His "Extinction Countdown" column has run continuously since 2004 and has covered news and science related to more than 1,000 endangered species. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers. John lives on the outskirts of Portland, Ore., where he finds himself surrounded by animals and cartoonists.


Reposted with permission from The Revelator.

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