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Focus on the EnvironmentWhere will Tomorrow's Stewards Come From?

Where will Tomorrow’s Stewards Come From?

Photo by: Rickai Robinson

There couldn’t be a more ideal place than Bermuda to get out and enjoy nature.  No matter where you may find yourself on the island, we are surrounded by natural beauty.  It also doesn’t hurt that the ocean is a stone’s throw away, no matter where you are.  

Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors

There exists today a sense of urgency to get our young people outdoors.  Sedentary lifestyles are keeping our young people indoors.  On average a child spends more than 7 hours per day in front of a screen and less than 20 minutes per day in active outdoor play, which is leading to unprecedented rates of childhood obesity.  

The benefits of spending time outdoors are well-known. Children’s overall development has been shown to significantly benefit from nature. There is growing evidence to suggest that experiencing nature improves self-esteem, emotional and physical health in children.  Yup – you heard right parents.  Nature can ignite inspiration and creativity and all ages can benefit.

Life in the water

Growing Up Wild

I have fond memories of the time I spent outdoors in my early years.  Playing outside or roaming my surroundings was the norm.  Intentionally engaging and interacting with the natural environment was also part of my childhood.  Of the many youth programs I participated in, I gained fond memories to last a life-time – from frequently being in awe of schools of parrotfish, longtails nests to navigating the marine environment.  By the time I was 12 years old, I was snorkelling around coral reefs.  I learned to sail, kayak, swim and abseil – you name it, I probably did it.  

We Protect What We Love

Ever wonder why you might care about nature and the environment, however big or minute it might be?  Most likely it’s related to your experiences in nature.  Perhaps you had the opportunity to gaze on some amazing features of our natural environment; from its grand features such as mountains, waterfalls, beaches to the simplicity of a ladybug landing on your hand.  Nature can be truly breath-taking.

This is why it’s key for young people from all backgrounds to be exposed to nature as early as possible.  But why?  Experiences in nature create wonder, curiosity, and connection.  And people naturally want to protect what they love.  With our present environmental challenges, we need people from all walks of life to be stewards of the environment.   

This desire to protect what we love, otherwise known as environmental stewardship, is when we act responsibly towards each other and the environment ensuring conservation, sustainability and protection.  This mindset can be cultivated at any age.  But introduced at a young age, the more engaged environmental citizens we will have today and in the future.

Photo by: Tysen Harvey

Growing Environmental Challenges

Every day, it seems we are confronted with new challenges facing the environment – from climate change, ocean pollution, single use plastics, biodiversity loss, extreme weather, forest fires and the list goes on… And despite our best intentions, not much progress seems to have been made.  

This may seem daunting and it’s hard not to be dismayed with the type of world we will be leaving behind.  But Simeon Ogonda, a youth development leader from Kenya, said it best, “Many of us often wonder what kind of planet we’re leaving behind for our children. But few ask the opposite: what kind of children are we leaving behind for our planet?” 

As parents, it can all seem pointless to try and make a positive difference in the environment.  However, we can inspire and empower our children to become environmental stewards, building hope instead of being overwhelmed.  No matter how young your children are, they can become an engaged steward at every age and stage of their development.

Environmental Stewards

So how do we cultivate environmental stewardship in our kids?  It was already pointed out that Bermuda is the ideal place to explore nature.  Parks and green spaces are plentiful in Bermuda – take advantage of them.  Spittal Pond, Southlands, Walsingham nature Reserve and the Railway Trail are Bermuda favourites to experience nature.  Riddell’s Bay is our newest and largest green space.   Watch for wildlife and smell the flowers along the way, literally.  Then of course there are our beaches that provide tons of experiences.  Try not to shy away from the beaches during the winter months – there are still tons to see and explore.  These are few great ways to intentionally get your children to explore nature.

Outdoor Programs

Then there are outdoor youth programs.  There are abundant programs in Bermuda where young people can gain hands on experiential learning in nature.  And the majority are accessible to all children at no charge, a nominal fee or with bursaries. 

In 2020, I re-entered the world of tourism – this time as a kayak excursion tour guide, to use tourism to promote sustainability, help people connect with nature and provide the opportunity for people to move and freely explore.  Along this journey, many locals were sharing that they had never had this experience before which got me thinking.  Wouldn’t it have been great if they had this experience when they were younger?  What could I do now to ensure that young people have the opportunity to have this experience?  

This is how Paddle With Purpose was born – a program with the goal to produce the next generation of engaged environmental stewards.  Naturally, young people will be engaging in the marine environment.  With the ocean as our back yard and crucial to our cultural identity, traditions, island life, livelihoods, our economy as well as the health of the planet, it is vital that children get exposure in this environment.  We’re aiming to soft launch the program this Spring.  

Simeon Ogonda also said, “Our generation learned about capitalism, and soon became its experts. Our children can learn about the planet, and become its most dedicated proponents”.

Provided with the right opportunities, tools, and experiences to know, love, respect, and protect the very natural systems that sustain and nurture us all, we can all collectively ensure we leave the planet in capable hands.  

So what are you waiting for?  Ensure your young people are spending time in nature, it will not only improve their overall health – they will also be better at saving the planet.

Marcelle Lawrence is a Bermuda based sustainability advocate.  She writes about social impact, the sustainable development of islands, sustainable tourism, climate resiliency of islands and diversity and inclusion in conservation.  She is the founder of The Eco Island Group, a sustainability consultancy business. She is the local chapter lead of Impact Travel Alliance, a global nonprofit aimed at educating and empowering travellers with the knowledge they need to have a positive impact on local communities and our environment.  

Marcelle Lawrence

Interested in joining Impact Travel Bermuda? Email: bermuda@impacttravelalliance.org 

Visit www.impacttravelalliance.org 

Join Marcelle on IG at @ecoislandtraveller 

Join Marcelle on FB at @theecoislandgroup

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