Posted On: Saturday, April 4, 2020
I’ve always felt at home in the woods. When I was growing up, my family and I would go on hikes almost weekly along Toronto’s river valleys or Hamilton’s limestone cliffs. I spent my summers at cottages swimming with fish and building fires and learning to identify birds and trees with my granddad, but more than anything my summers were spent frolicking in the forests of Echo Lake. Having been surrounded by the natural world from such a young age has had a profound impact on the course of my life and changed how I see the world. It led me to my education in environmental science, and I know that I will be able to make a truly meaningful difference with the knowledge that I’ve acquired. All of my understanding of and investment in conservation and sustainability is rooted in my summers in the woods.
The forest at camp is full of memories and stories. There is something sacred about the way the wind sounds, tumbling through the highest branches, or campers’ laughter, blending in with birdsong. When I was growing up, these moments at camp taught me how important it is to know the world that gives us clean air, food, water, clothing, and shelter. I’ve found that the more you know nature, the more you love it, and the more you love nature, the more you want to protect it. On a similar vein, the more time we spend in nature, the more we realize how isolated we’ve made ourselves from it; this disconnect from nature in the busyness of the day to day hasn’t done any good for the world that sustains us.
It can be easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer size of the issues our world faces today. There is no debate that the climate is changing and species extinctions are occurring at a record rate, but we can do something about it. It all comes down to this: if we all do what we can, when we can, it will be enough. We can stop climate change and save millions of people from upcoming climate related disasters. We can switch to renewable energy. We can reverse the population trends of threatened and endangered species. We can make the story of the human race not one of greed and selfishness, but one of generosity and stewardship. If we take a moment to breathe and listen to the birds sing, we can be reminded that there is hope even when surrounded by skyscrapers. As long as there are people in the world who care about supporting and advocating for stewardship of the parts of nature that can’t advocate for themselves, there will always be hope.
The biggest issue isn’t that these problems are insurmountable, it’s that most people don’t do what they can when they can. Most people assume that they alone can’t contribute to the solutions of such massive problems, or that it’s not important because it doesn’t impact them directly, or even that ignoring the issues will make them go away. Their desire for a healthy environment either has dozed off over time or has never been awakened in the first place. So how do we ignite that passion in these people and in future generations? How do we become stewards for our Earth by shaping a generation of people who care about its wellbeing? How do we change the story of the human species starting now?
The more you know nature, the more you love it, and the more you love nature, the more you want to protect it. Why would somebody who never leaves the city have any reason to even think about the Earth’s big issues? Why would they have any reason to go on a family outing to the ravine nearby some Sunday afternoon? If their children grow up without listening to birdsong or seeing a deer or chasing a rabbit through the underbrush, how could they ever develop a love of nature? If that love is never nurtured, our job as stewards becomes much, much more difficult. If we don’t break this cycle, the consequences will be dire, especially for the people in the world who have the least power to do anything about it.
So, it seems to me that the solution is twofold: we have to do what we can when we can, and we have to do everything possible to cultivate a love of nature in today’s young people so that they will do the same in the future. The good news is that these aren’t big tasks if everybody does their part.
Everybody who has spent time in community at camp knows that spending time, unplugged, in nature deepens their relationship with nature. Camp’s culture is rooted in an investment and care for people and for nature that doesn’t exist anywhere else. I’ve seen incredible transformation in campers and staff over my years serving its ministry, all for the betterment of the Earth and its people. At camp, we learn that stewardship is one of the most important principles to live our live by, and stewardship is the answer to how we can save the world. Imagine what a beautiful world it would be if we all lived our lives by these principles: serving our world and sustaining it, so that future generations can also learn to support the environment that supports them.
- Caleb "Quorx" McCarroll-Butler