Almost as an antidote to last week's announcement that the US intends to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, today, June 5th, we celebrate World Environment Day.
Some people have asked for a break from the bad news and the heartache that sometimes comes with caring for our Earth - whether its trying to stop toxic pollution, prevent climate change, or protecting wildlife and wild spaces. For me, a good antidote to the doom and gloom is checking in with our Wild Child programs on PEI and Nova Scotia.
Right now, kids are outside in the woods, connecting with nature and each other through these innovative and much-needed programs. Our Wild Child Founder and Coordinator, Heidi Verheul met with me last Friday to talk about all the great work going on. We've hired new mentors for the spring and summer and are up and running in Nova Scotia and PEI. It's so inspiring to hear how children thrive when allowed the opportunity to explore the natural world. Last week's breakthrough resulted in some major mud pie manufacture (it’s still pretty wet out East) and bug bites, but you can clearly see the joy on kids faces Heidi captures in her blog.
We are very excited that this year, after providing in-school and childcare facility programming for a few years, we are starting up forest school programming on PEI for the first time. Because it's a new program, some slots are still open. We are hoping we can generate more buzz and sponsors so we can provide Wild Child to as many children as possible, so if you want to sign up or sponsor a child to attend the program, please get in touch with our PEI Wild Child coordinator, Hannah Gehrels, or go here to sign up your Wild Child now!)
Of all the environmental laws, protected spaces, and grassroots teams we've helped establish and supported over the years, Wild Child and other Sierra Club programs that connect kids with nature may be our greatest long-term conservation achievement. A recent study performed by Catherine Broom, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education University of British Columbia, Okanagan, found that having positive experiences in nature at an early age set the stage for long-term love of nature as adults. Getting outside is good for our mental and physical health - and this study shows what we've always suspected in our environmental education work: getting outside can mean more protection for nature in the future.
As Dr. Broom points out, this needs to be done in a way that intentionally fosters awareness: "Students need to learn and have a conscious understanding that the decisions we make each day can influence our environment, such as where we buy our food and how we use Earth's natural resources." Every day, our Wild Ones are out there, opening minds and hearts to the need to tread lightly on the Earth, be it by leaving no trace, avoiding doing damage to habitat, or learning about ecology through long-term exposure to a natural space.
So when the world seems to be topsey-turvey and hope is a dim gleam on the horizon, perhaps the best and most powerful thing you can do is take a hike, plant a garden, or gaze at the stars.
Mother Nature has so many ways to solve problems. It's the place to start if we mean to have the energy and know-how to protect her. Happy World Environment Day.
See you outside,