On a rainy Thursday night in Toronto I ventured down to Evergreen Brick Works to listen to a panel discuss how Toronto can use its ravine system to “enrich the health and happiness of our families and community.”
Cameron Collyer, Executive Director – Programs for Evergreen, kicked off the evening by delving into the land on which we sat, land that has been used for thousands of years. He described Toronto – which has looked like “Tkaranto” [Mohawk], “Ouentaronk” [Huron], and “Taranteau” [old French] over the years – as the place where there are trees in water. He explored the significance of the dish with one spoon wampum which serves as the first peace treaty in North America between the Anishinaabe, Mississaugas and Haudenosaunee to share and protect the land on which they lived. Anyone who came to the land after the treaty was established was invited to participate in the peace treaty. Toronto falls within the territory covered by the dish with one spoon wampum.
Collyer turned the evening over to Mila Redwood, director of the community choir Sing for Joy. Redwood led us in the opening song, “Humbly.” The song was written by Laurence Cole to “honor and remember the beings that had lived and walked on the land…before we showed up.” As the north half of the audience worked the song’s melody, we in the southern half of The Kilns worked our magic on the harmony. Redwood kept time with a djembe drum.
Food for Thought
With a wide-open mindset created for the evening, each of the three panelists gave 15-20 minutes of his or her time before opening the floor to questions from us. To try and distill each speaker’s message into one concept might be complicated. Here’s what I took away from the evening:
Jon Young – Nature connectivity shouldn’t be a luxury nor should it be something to be chosen (i.e. bowling or taking a walk in the park). Humans can’t live without air (three minutes), water (three days), food (three weeks), or Young argues, nature connection (time is individual-dependent).
Kathleen Lockyer – Our neurology developed through the “forms, patterns, rhythms” of nature over tens of thousands of years. It makes us “unconsciously competent” when it comes to the “affordances of nature.” But with 90% of a child’s time now spent indoors, have we set up the next generation for developmental failure?
Richard Louv – People need to feel that nature connectivity is fundamental to humanity, a basic human right, in order to feel it deserves protection.
More to Chew On
With the floor open to questions, the following themes and ideas came forward:
We have metrics to track education modeling and fitness/health modeling. What are the metrics to track connection modeling (i.e. how do we know when we’ve reached nature connectivity)? From Jon Young: individuals who are nature connected are happy, vital, empathetic, compassionate. They have true initiative to help others, feel the sacredness of life, have access to their own creativity, have vision, know that it’s a gift to be here, have a quiet mind and love in their hearts. We need to find the children who possess these qualities and/or can achieve these attributes through the benefits of nature immersion and mold them to lead the connectivity movement.
If we can’t even get safe drinking water as a fundamental human right in Canada how can we support the movement for nature connectivity as a right? Is this a place for policy? From Richard Louv: We need contagious social change at the grassroots level (e.g. building “homegrown parks” in our own backyards) to build the constituency that cares about nature connectivity and will drive for policy change.
Can Toronto be the best city in North America or the world for encouraging children to develop nature-rich lives? With all of the green space already here and still in the process of being created (because conservation is no longer enough), it is possible. How I will be part of the movement is something I am working out.