Our Relationship with Nature
Feeling at home in nature does not always come naturally to everyone.
I believe a lot of this has to do with the way you grew up, where you grew up, your proximity and accessibility to nature and the people you are surrounded by. As a new member of The Wilder team I have been welcomed into a space of people who understand and value the relationships we form with nature and the importance of sustainability and compassion. Growing up in Maputo, Mozambique my idea of nature was going to the beach. I felt at home basking in the southern sun and swimming in the warm Indian ocean. To my father he felt at home hiking in the mountains and valleys of South Africa, running in the forest or off road biking through wildlife reserves and the tall grass of rural Mozambique.
My mother didn't share that love of outdoor activity, she was always more comfortable at home where she felt she could control her surroundings as growing up in Apartheid South Africa meant a childhood of hardship and uncertainty. For her, playing along with my dad's adventures was not her idea of “fun” and she once told me how terrified and uncomfortable she was a lot of the time. That's because to her she didn't need or enjoy the thrill. She was happy to fill her house with plants and wooden statues that smelt like the forest and fill her life with nature that way. And who is to say that is wrong? The more she appreciated nature by her own metrics, the more love and care she had for it because it was hers. Not hers to own and manipulate but hers to keep and protect.
Not to say there isn’t an interesting relationship between fun, play and nature. Those who feel like they benefit from nature in a way that is stimulating often go on to be the people who feel incomplete without spending time in nature. They are the people who go on to love it and want to protect it as they feel a moral responsibility to it almost as an extension of themselves or their own wellbeing. An interesting article by Jacalyn Beales titled If You Love the Outdoors, You’re an Environmentalist examines this relationship as well as offers options on how to take action. This article says that environmentalism “begins with forming a compassionate and empathetic relationship with, and concern for, nature”. This definitely has some solid merit and a lot of people can relate living in BC and being surrounded by accessible and breathtaking natural wonders and an endless possibility for adventure and activity. But is this the only way to form this compassion? And what can be done about the limitations that many still feel, be that in BC or the rest of the world?
One of the driving values behind The Wilder is connecting people with nature, in order to ultimately catalyze a love of nature, the outdoors, and protecting our Earth and her ecosystems. This includes communities and people who are inexperienced with getting outdoors, with groups who may be underrepresented in adventure sports and outdoor activity, and those who want to engage with nature in ways other than high-level hiking, skiing, boarding, cycling etc. BC, and Squamish in particular which is where we are based, is a mecca for extreme outdoor sports, but not everyone can, or wants to engage with nature in these ways. We aim to make nature and outdoor education accessible through creative ways of being in nature or bringing nature home, such as our nature-inspired crafting workshops and DIY craft kits, a summer nature festival and adult summer camp that we hope to run in the future, as well as other fun community events we are going to announce soon.
There are also some incredible other organisations who aim to empower and educate women (cis, trans) and gender minorities through rock climbing courses and retreats for all levels (even people just starting out), such as the US company She Moves Mountains; local non-profit Girl in The Wild who provide free outdoor camps for teenage girls; and Indigenous Women Outdoors who help eliminate barriers to Indigenous women participating in nature activities.
Changing our perspectives on who nature belongs to is important if we are going to live more sustainably and fight to protect the planet. Nature should belong to everybody and be open to everybody so protecting our future becomes everyone's joint responsibility rather than the privilege of a select few. We are responsible for our world and we are responsible for leaving behind a legacy of inclusion, acceptance and freedom to experience nature in all its facets and beauty so that we may collectively nurture, thrive and survive. It all starts in us re-examining our own personal relationships with nature and using that to guide our actions towards this better future.