---- Back to normal? Really?
The Sept. 5 meetup at Lac Leamy of the Club des ornithologues de l’Outaouais -- most were newcomers and there because we’d seen the invitation in the Bulletin d’Aylmer (proof of the popularity of community newspapers). One 9-year old had started observing birds when Covid-19 closed the schools. His cousin, too. When contemplating this re-opening of schools, was outdoor education even considered?
The boy's father had set him the task of learning certain birds. Imagine, at outdoor schools, how many kids would be exposed to the natural world. Lack of the outdoors has become the norm in protective, wealthy societies like ours.
We worry about kids’ reliance on gadgets, lack of resilience, and decline in physical fitness. We also worry about climate change and whether there really is the will needed to turn things around. Medical science tells us, in terms of Covid-19, the outdoors is our safe zone. Could this be our opportunity to tackle all these worries?
An interest in birds leads to interest in trees, soil, insects, climate, even psychology. Like parts of a puzzle, we see everything interrelated, how our species fits into the overall picture. The initial attraction doesn’t have to be birds. Trade binoculars for rubber boots and explore a roadside ditch -- cattails are cool, ducks and blackbirds, too.
Such feelings of deep connection to the natural world become engrained for life, become common sense -- a far cry from having political camps with environmental concerns belonging uniquely to the left. The right digs in and we end up fighting, wasting precious time.
Identifying as an environmentalist becomes equivalent to being a better person, where our Earth feels like our own, as our common denominator. It's not a resource to dominate, nor an issue for the righteous. We need a non-polarized generation to reboot things. Fresh eyes. A sense of ourselves as neither owners nor scolders. We need to feel smaller.
Elementary school re-openings leave many questions: All this a huge mistake, a colossal lack of imagination and creative thinking? If we're safe outdoors, why are we ignoring it?
I hear the push-back: weather, extra demands on teachers. But kids can be hardier than we think. And how about high school and college students, doing online learning -- couldn’t they help out and learn in the process?