Where has all the nature gone?

BloomI leaned back into the thick pillar of cedar behind me and let my eyes drift shut. The strong and unwavering voice of Elder John Eliot filled the room as he wove traditional Aboriginal stories of creation, mischief and lessons around his listeners.

Professors, students, esteemed researchers and MLAs alike sat enraptured as he described the tricks of Coyote, the greed of two sisters and the freeing of the mighty salmon into the river.

We were transported back to a time long ago, when connection to the land was integral to survival and humans learned wisdom from animals.

This was the opening to the Wonders of Nature Research Day at UVic. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend thanks to a bursary from my department, the School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education.

The Ceremonial Hall of the First Peoples House was the perfect setting for an event dedicated to the importance of re-integrating nature into children’s playtime, schooling and everyday lives.

How We Lost Nature

I use the word “re”-integrating because although we may not realize it, today’s youth have been steadily disconnecting from and distancing themselves from nature.

Technology, busier schedules and fears of stranger-danger and the unknown have pushed into the gaps of free time in our lives, smothering the desire to romp around the neighbourhood, have a bonfire with friends or explore tide pools.

I have been passionate about this issue for a long time, but have felt quite alone in my interest and aspirations to pursue a career in “weird nature hippy stuff.” Watching the room come alive with passionate people sharing their research projects and hopes for the future was an amazing breath of fresh air.

Photo by Jenny Tran

MLA Andrew Weaver provided opening remarks after Elder John Eliot’s incredible welcome and they were followed by an amazing line-up of researchers from all over Canada and the United States.

I was swept up in the enthusiasm and hopefulness that was ringing through the air as people described their work at revolutionary, nature-based schools right here on the island and how they were tailoring curricula to center on local eco-systems and wildlife.

Ideas about how to engage non-nature enthusiasts “popcorned” around the room and stories of parents forming “muddy child carpooling groups” and volunteering on winter camping expeditions evaporated people’s concerns about the lack of support for nature based schooling.

Give it a Go

The event was truly an amazing experience and I came away feeling rejuvenated and inspired.

Sometimes we forget that even though we have busy lives and a gazillion things piling up on our to-do lists, in the end we are all a part of the natural world.

So what do you say, why don’t you take a break from whatever you’re doing and go for a walk in the woods or step outside and look at the stars? You might be surprised by what you find out there.



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