Restor­ing lost con­nec­tions a fine Earth Day goal

The Woolwich Observer - - COMMENT -

A LIT­ERAL CON­NEC­TION WITH the en­vi­ron­ment – get­ting out and get­ting dirty – is a great way for kids to gain an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for na­ture.

While that was a given for al­most ev­ery kid at one point, in re­cent decades the ad­vent of the he­li­copter par­ent has greatly re­duced what was once an es­sen­tial part of child­hood. That sad state of af­fairs is the im­pe­tus be­hind Earth-PLAY, a new pro­gram launched by Earth Day Canada to pro­mote un­struc­tured out­door play time for kids.

Aside from the health ben­e­fits, more out­door play should pro­vide kids with a stronger mo­ti­va­tion to pro­tect the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

With Satur­day be­ing Earth Day and the nicer weather en­cour­ag­ing us to get outdoors, now is as good a time as any for ev­ery­one, not just kids, to muck it up a lit­tle. Wool­wich Healthy Com­mu­ni­ties would doubtlessly wel­come a few more bod­ies for Satur­day’s com­mu­nity clean-up day – while not play time per se, it’s cer­tainly an op­por­tu­nity to get your hands dirty and learn first­hand how much of a mess we’re ca­pa­ble of in­flict­ing on our en­vi­ron­ment.

The idea be­hind EarthPLAY is a good one, with ben­e­fits be­hind the en­vi­ron­ment.

Un­struc­tured play is se­ri­ously un­der­val­ued, with dot­ing par­ents sti­fling any form of ad­ven­tur­ism in their kids, push­ing struc­tured pro­grams and en­cour­ag­ing pas­sive indoor ac­tiv­i­ties as “safe.”

Many adults have for­got­ten the sim­ple joy of pure, un­var­nished fun that comes with be­ing a kid, es­pe­cially with the ar­rival of spring, not to men­tion the even­tual sum­mer­time school hol­i­days.

For many adults who pre­date the he­li­copter gen­er­a­tion, your sum­mers were en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly and good for you, body, mind and spirit.

Think about it, sum­mers – at least as we knew them – were spent be­ing ac­tive outdoors. At that time, we were lit­er­ally in touch with the earth – and we had the grass stains on our knees to prove it.

We made sand­cas­tles and mud pies, prov­ing that you’ll eat more than a peck of dirt in your life­time. Bet­ter for our di­ges­tive sys­tems were the wild berries we picked, and ate on the spot.

Ponds and creeks – home to the oc­ca­sional plunge – were per­fect places for catch­ing tad­poles, frogs and tur­tles. Nearby trees pro­vided the es­sen­tials for makeshift spears, bows and ar­rows. Pick-up base­ball games – there was al­ways one to be joined – com­bined ath­let­ics with a chance to bake in the sun … and go home with your shoes and un­der­wear full of sand.

Run­ning through yards and hedges play­ing hide-and-seek or chase led to scratches, scrapes and burrs in your hair.

Hands that were al­ways cov­ered in some­thing – bi­cy­cle grease or per­haps the mys­te­ri­ous stuff ac­cu­mu­lated by the Fris­bee – only saw a nail­brush when mom got a close look.

A rope stretched be­tween back­yard trees and cov­ered with a blan­ket was per­fect for camp­ing out overnight.

Even as we grew older, into ado­les­cence and high school, we were still out­side more of­ten than not: camp­fires, bar­be­ques, shoot­ing hoops and the like.

At some point, how­ever, many of us move away from that. Walk­ing, run­ning and cy­cling are re­placed by the car. Our time with na­ture is some­thing of a bat­tle: mow­ing lawns, pluck­ing weeds, trim­ming hedges. It’s a chore. The in­ter­ac­tion with na­ture is a means to an end, not an end in it­self, the way it was when we were kids.

Re­claim­ing such child­hood rites is an ap­pro­pri­ate Earth Day goal.

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