I’ve been thinking about us nature lovers quite a bit lately and I’ve realized we have an important role to play. We can be the teachers to a surprising percentage of the population that has no understanding of the natural world. Let me tell you what I mean….one day I saw a little boy throwing rocks at some geese in a pond. Nobody else was speaking with the boy, so I did. I explained what the goose was doing there, that it was in its home, and that throwing rocks wasn’t the right way to connect. I made it personal, by asking what if people who didn’t know him threw rocks at him instead of getting to know him. He put down the rocks pretty quickly! I realized then that so many people have no reference point when it comes to nature, and so they are afraid. What do we do when we are scared? We pick up rocks. Native peoples taught their young how to connect to the natural world through stories and rituals, by showing how to sustainably harvest plants and animals that they needed. They taught reverence and gave their young ways to connect with the natural world.
I’ve come to the realization that this has been a sub context to my work all along. The landscapes I paint exist because the people in my area have deliberately set them aside. Citizen scientists have taken the time to learn how the ecosystems work, and roll their sleeves up in restoration projects. Maybe if we, in our photographs and paintings, portray people connecting to nature in a positive way we will begin showing people better ways to respond to the natural world than, say, driving jeeps through it.