Reciprocity in our relations
When we think about the relationships we have in our lives, it is easy to think about our family and friends. These are people who we can talk to and who we associate with love and happiness.
When you think about the relationships in your life, do you recognize the environment or any non-human connections you’ve made? We all have an important relationship with the land that needs to be nurtured, but it is oftentimes overlooked.
Growing up in in Samson Cree Nation, I was always taught that we are all related. “That rock is your grandfather,” my kokom (grandma) would say. In ceremony, I could hear the spirits of non-human entities bringing important teaching and messages to my family about life and how to be a good relative. This helped me immensely when thinking about the environment and its elements as living beings. Ones that we are equal to and must have a balanced relationship with.
The environment provides everything that humans need, and, in return, we must take care of it in reciprocity. I think a lot more people are beginning to recognize this as fact when we experience environmental disaster and turmoil that affects our physical, mental and emotional well-being. Good thing we are designed to have relationships and know how to thrive in community!
Ongoing ecological damage is the result of a broken connection to the environment. As we start to heal this relationship, we can begin working with the land in mutual respect to find solutions. To me, this is a huge goal that always seems out of reach due to an overarching theme in environmental management — taking without giving back. However, the time I’ve spent at the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) this year has shifted my perspective in a positive way.
Conservation Volunteers making connections with one another and building a relationship with the land. (Photo by NCC)
Working as the volunteer programs assistant in Alberta all summer, I was fortunate enough to experience reciprocal relationships play out in nature. I hosted 10 Conservation Volunteers events and met almost 100 different people!
Motivated individuals of all ages would show up consistently at each event, happy to help in any way they could without expecting anything in return. It was truly inspiring to see so many people willing to donate a full day of their time toward ecological restoration. They would remove barbed-wire fences to make way for wildlife, clear trails and manage invasive species on different NCC properties and conservation easements.
Removing old fence at Red Deer Connop Bragg Creek, AB (Photo by NCC)
Taking on the responsibility to conserve the environment is a humbling task. Not only are volunteers making connections with one another at these events, they are building a relationship with the land as they become familiar with many of the natural areas we work in.
There are so many ways a person can get to know the environment around them. Recognizing that we all have an important role to play on this planet and showing gratitude toward one another can foster reciprocity. Another way to take hands-on action toward conservation is through volunteering! I have learned how important NCC volunteers are to accomplishing many stewardship jobs across the country. A lot truly cannot be done without them!