Take Only Photos. Leave Only Footprints
Jul 4, 2012 Posted by: Guest Expert
My kids have to wash their hands extra carefully before dinner in August, after handling all those toads and frogs. This is the month we spend at a family cottage every summer; my three boys’ favourite place to while away our vacation is knee-deep in swampy muck, catching critters in what we call the Turtle Pond. The reptiles are studied, given temporary homes in cardboard boxes, and often nicknamed. As the sun begins to set and their mother hollers a dinner call out the screen door, the bare-chested lads release the captives and run up the path with sticky, sand-coated legs, after hours of entertainment—not a screen in sight. Nature’s theatre trumps electronics.
It warms my heart more than I can say to see my children settle so swiftly and so deeply into a communion with the wild the minute they get out of the city. The roots of my own environmental passions lie in the summers I spent in nature as a kid. The sound of the wind through swaying pine boughs, the feel of soft moss underfoot, the smell of a campfire; all offer me great peace and comfort, even today, because of the soul-stirring impression they made upon me many years ago.
I don’t remember my parents ever prescribing a reverence for natural events; it just materialized in the warm summer air, much the way my boys need little prompting to lie back and gaze at the stars in the night sky, or hunt for wild raspberries along the path, or notice the shapes of clouds in the sky at sunset. Mother Nature works her charms on us all; we only need to give her the opportunity.
What I do try to teach my kids is how to show respect for the natural world, making them see that they are stewards of their environment, wherever they are. At the cottage they know even the cutest toad must be treated with care and returned to its habitat; on canoe trips they understand why we use only biodegradable soap and shampoo; when we camp, they learn to take only photographs, leave only footprints.
I try to help them understand their role in keeping the great outdoors great, so that it will be as magical and restorative when we return again next August. And a safe and happy home for all the creatures who live here in the meantime.
- Gillian Deacon
Planning an August vacation? Here are some tips to help make it as enjoyable for the environment as it is for your family. Join us all month on Facebook and Twitter for more!
-Building a dock or raft? Cedar only, not pressure-treated wood. Don’t want all those chemicals in contact with the water.
-Tubing, kneeboarding or waterskiing? Save gas and spare the fish—enjoy watersports on your way from A to B.
-At the cottage, four strokes are better than two. Make sure your boat engine is a four-stroke—90% cleaner, no oil discharge into the water.
-Attention anglers! Get the lead out—of your sinkers. Ducks and other waterfowl ingest old sinkers, the lead ones are poisonous. Load your tackle box with non-toxic, non-lead sinkers and jigs. Dispose of old lead sinkers in a proper hazardous waste facility.
Award-winning broadcaster and bestselling author Gillian Deacon is one of Canada’s best-known environmental writers. Gill is well-known for her work on television, most recently as host of CBC TV’s flagship daytime talk show, The Gill Deacon Show, and before that as co-host of @discovery.ca for five years on Discovery Channel Canada and Discoveries This Week for Discovery Science Channel in the U.S. She was also a weekly arts correspondent for CBC News: Morning.
Gillian is a director on the board of EcoJustice, Canada’s leading charity using the law to restore and protect the environment, and also sits on the board of the Writer’s Trust, a national organization supporting and promoting Canadian writers.
Gill lives in Toronto with her husband Grant Gordon and their three sons.