Today was Day 2 of volunteer training. Insects and Soil were the topics. Howard, the second staff naturalist, began the day. We went through some background information about the Animal kingdom and where Insects fit in, targeting the 1st grade through 3rd grade audience. Then he sort of stepped outside of the topic to comment on why we teach this stuff. He said that he likes to keep AAA in mind: awareness, appreciation, and action. I understand completely that there is a dearth of awareness about the natural world in our urban youngsters, especially as technology advances and funding for enrichment education is continually cut. They spend more and more time on the computer and less time outside, then they look under a log for the first time and are amazed to find critters living there. Ta-dah! First step. Then comes appreciation. They wonder and want to know more and are fascinated by what there is to learn. Animals, plants, rocks, the solar system, cycles, etc., all inter-dependent and inter-active, details and marvels in abundance. I recognize that my appreciation increases every day and that I have a voracious appetite for more. I want to spend more and more time outdoors, more and more time learning. This is a pretty cool place to be, but it’s not the end. The final step is action. What do we hope for these young people who come to learn about the natural world? What do we hope for the next generation? Well, I raised my hand and ventured, “Responsibility?” because that’s what I hope for myself. I want to take all this awe and love and turn it into decisions that will make a positive impact. This is indeed the toughest part of the trilogy to grasp and embody, and it’s where Steve and I are currently stuck. It’s fine to recycle, buy local food, and support environmental legislation, but is that really going to make a difference? In order to reverse trends and live sustainably, we need to make more progressive and radical life decisions, and we need to implement them in community with others. But where do we begin? How do we find others who are committed to that progress?
We have a lot of reading material (as you would expect), and Steve is planning to write to some of the authors he’s following: Derrick Jensen, David Orr, David Foreman, etc. He’s looking to start or join a forum or study group of people with similar action goals. I know that often, when I sit and think about how to solve a problem, I end up going nowhere because I’m too much in my head. I find it useful to just get out and do something in that direction, anything, and see if that reveals the next step. That’s why I’m happy to be meeting naturalists and educators. It feels like I’m tracking down a clue. When Howard began talking about action, I got excited. That’s it! That’s where I want to go! I’m hoping that more clues will open up.