Alberta Grassroots: Introduction
As children, my siblings and I would often go into the woods by the local playground. It was a small, fenced off area, dense with trees and the remnants of long forgotten forts and tree houses. The only paths were the ones made by past eager children. In the woods, we were free to to be ourselves; to explore and to create our own adventures. There was this sense that this place belonged to whoever dared to go into it, unlike the playground, which was under the control of the parents. No one ruled the forest and all were free to be in it. Those experiences taught me the value of being free to discover. We were able to appreciate the gifts the forest had to offer us, even as children, and that gratitude created a sense of duty to protect the places that belong to all of us. If tomorrow I was told that that woods were to be bulldozed, I would not hesitate to act in preservation. It is difficult to imagine myself writing for an environmental blog without those early experiences.
I imagine experiences in nature, like the ones I had, are common in the city. At least I hope so, because I believe the connections people make with their local environment can have a serious impact and can motivate them to preserve those natural spaces. I don't believe that much progress will be made towards environmental goals without these local connections to the natural world. This may be why I have an appreciation for grassroots efforts. At the 'root' of any given ecological situation are the communities that inhabit that environment. The people who use a place are best situated to not only understand its needs but also have the deepest investment in its health. It is not hard to convince people to protect their own backyard and I want to explore that bond and how its created.
For my series, I'll look at two examples of local communities connecting with their environment. Both of these projects have been nominated for Emerald Awards in the Grassroots category in recent years. While both were only Emerald Award Finalists, these projects still have something important to say about how we can make the world greener. One shows how to educate a community about its environment and the other demonstrates how the simplest of actions can promote future green vigilance. Both of these projects show the range of ways grassroots efforts can connect with their own slices of the natural world.
[Photo provided by Malcolm Vick]