Learning to love the natural world

May's guest blogger, Ruth Lera, writes about the ways she teaches her children to respect the earth.

I find it hard to recognize my own accomplishments. I don’t have a career to really call my own. I have programs of study I am in the middle of and don’t know when I will ever finish and many projects on our property sit half-finished. In general, what I have done in 34 years seems like a bit of a hodgepodge and finding places to pat myself on the back can be difficult.

Luckily, there is one area of my life I feel really proud of and this is my children’s love of nature. What I love about living in Yukon is that nature isn’t some distant theoretical concept to be discussed but it is part of every moment of our life (really it is for everyone living in city or country, but that is more of a political rant that I will spare you from this time).

My children are in love with the natural world. As spring slowly arrives to our Yukon home the identification of the birds returning to the feeder, searching for the first purple crocus, making homes for little bugs and the discovery of frog eggs in the pond are daily activities. Daily activities that no adult needs to guide my children through, they just walk out the door and meld with the natural world because that is the world they know.

My son wrote an article about what home means to him and he wrote about his real home, the camping tent. My daughter can spend hours looking at a grasshopper she caught herself. Muddy boots, dirty hands and a heart full of love for the natural world are signs to me of a successful day.

Why is it so important to me that my children fall in love with nature? Uh-oh, I feel that rant I promised not to give coming on. I will keep it short. It is just that we as humans are not separate from the natural world and I get concerned that, through the belief that we are somehow not the natural world, we can continue to abuse the earth until the planet will no longer be able to sustain humans on it.

I predict one of the greatest challenges our children will face as adults is figuring out how to create a life-sustaining society that is different from the one that presently exists, based on industrial growth. Therefore, by instilling a love of nature in my children — and knowledge about how to live with nature — I hope I am helping to prepare them for being part of a human community that will find a way to live in a sustainable fashion together for always.

This education includes discussions about why we can’t buy cheap plastic toys and why we aren’t driving to town every day. There are also dreamy conversations about sustainable technology that there father works on and talks about why we need to care for the trees. Through the experiences of connecting with the natural world in a visceral way, by walking in the boreal forest, canoeing in glacier-fed lakes and building our own soil by composting horse manure, these larger conversations about how to protect these precious resources make sense to my children not from a place of intellectualizing the need to care for the earth but from a deeper place of being in love with the natural world.

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