How to be Batman, or the Flash, or even Aquaman if you want

Female superhero (Image by Vegas Bleeds Neon, Wikimedia Commons)

Female superhero (Image by Vegas Bleeds Neon, Wikimedia Commons)

November 18, 2014 | by Maggie Cascadden

This past Saturday, the Alberta Conservation Volunteers team hosted our last event of the year: a winter willow harvest in the Red Deer River area. While I was there, working alongside volunteers, it struck me how lucky I am to be part of this program. I feel lucky because this program has enabled me to channel my inner five year old, become a superhero and help save the world. Like the superheroes on TV, I want to use my special abilities to make a difference for others.

I am not five; I’m 22. By now I have enough experience to realize that it is virtually impossible for one individual to save the world on their own. Luckily, I also realize the importance of trying. That is why I love my internship: it gives me the chance to try to save the world and the opportunity to help other world savers to do the same.

Nexen CV event, Horseshoe Canyon, AB (Photo by NCC)

Nexen CV event, Horseshoe Canyon, AB (Photo by NCC)

If you are someone who's passionate about the environment, the Conservation Volunteers program is the kind of place you want to be. Being an environmentalist can be emotionally hard: sometimes, it can feel like environmental news is all negative. Like Batman trying to protect Gotham City on his own, the sheer scale and complexity of many environmental issues alone can make a person feel small. The Conservation Volunteers program provides a much-needed contrast to this.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC's) Conservation Volunteers program is all about action. Last Saturday, for example, we harvested 1,238 willow live stakes (living branches), which will be planted all over Central Alberta, including on our very own H.G. Lawrence conservation property bordering Pine Lake. That one day of work, that one action, is going to make a real impact on the biodiversity and erosion of hundred of acres across Alberta!

Conservation Volunteers cleaning up beaver habitat, Waterton, AB (Photo by NCC)

Conservation Volunteers cleaning up beaver habitat, Waterton, AB (Photo by NCC)

Like when a superhero rescues a civilian and saves the day, actions like these are what empower environmentalists to continue their mission. Each day that we are out in the field, volunteers are doing great things for the environment; like promoting biodiversity or ensuring animal safety.

Each event can make for a good news story, like when we pulled thistle at the Clifford E Lee Nature Sanctuary or improved the habitat at our Busenius property. Plus, the act of getting out into the world and doing something that make a positive difference is something people can feel good about.

“[We] can see that we’ve made a difference, one (small) piece of land at a time – so rewarding!” Said Pat & Errol Smith, the recipients of this year’s Golden Glove Award for attending the most volunteer events.

I love being part of the Conservation Volunteers program because it is a fantastic way to feel like you are doing something, like you’re really making a difference. It is, in my opinion, just what you need to combat thoughts like, "you can’t do anything to change the world." I’ve learned that when you feel like you can make a difference, you can get excited and empowered to do more.

Zoe Cascadden, NCC volunteer, is all smiles as other volunteers walk up Pine Ridge, organic snacks in hand. (Photo by NCC)

Zoe Cascadden, NCC volunteer, is all smiles as other volunteers walk up Pine Ridge, organic snacks in hand. (Photo by NCC)

Two of the best examples might be my sisters, Zoe and Katie Cascadden, who volunteered for the first time this year but, like Spiderman or the Flash, became inspired to use their talents to help others. In the end, they came out five and six times this year, respectively. 

The Conservation Volunteers program puts the power back in everyone’s hands: everyone and anyone can come take a day to help change the world.

Together, in 2014, Conservation Volunteers removed 5,570 metres of fencing, pulled 205 bags worth of noxious invasive plants, planted 3,080 shrubs, harvested 1,238 willow live stakes that we’ll plant next year, and much more...We, as a team, are helping to make the Alberta wilderness healthier and saving the planet one step at a time. And that is a powerful thing. 

I have learned an important lesson in my six months with the Nature Conservancy of Canada: superheroes don’t actually save the world. There is always another bad guy out there, another weed growing. What superheroes do is try. Superheroes find allies, and they do their best to save the world together.

I love my internship because I get to be part of NCC’s band of world-saving superheroes: the Conservation Volunteers who join forces to make a difference for Alberta’s wilderness.

Care to join me?

Maggie Cascadden (courtesy Maggie Cascadden)

About the Author

Maggie Cascadden is a former Conservation Volunteers intern for the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Alberta Region.

Read more about Maggie Cascadden.

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