When I became CEO of Ducks Unlimited Canada in 2016, I thought a lot about the responsibility I’d been afforded to guide our organization through the challenges of conservation. I thought about how we’d raise the money, build partnerships, and balance the need to remain steady in our delivery of critical conservation work, while also being courageous, creative and innovative. I’ll be completely honest that I—not once—considered what it would be like to be an ambassador for the outdoors at a time when the world has turned indoors.
COVID-19 has turned everyone’s world upside down. The most significant challenges lie with our health care workers and public health agencies who are tasked with the well-being of the 37 million of us who call this country home. And my heart is with them.
But for the last few weeks, our task has been to uphold that responsibility we have to the people who’ve entrusted us with the care of their treasured natural spaces.
Do we tell people to go inside and stay inside, forsaking nature and the benefits it offers our health and well-being? Do we tell people to go outside and risk being complicit in images we see of crowded beaches and parks?
How do we do what’s right, what’s true, and what’s responsible at such an unprecedented time?
Our answer—as it often does—came from you. In a world of physical distancing, nature still has a place for each of us. Enjoying it, while keeping our distance from one another, is our new responsibility as conservationists. Your memes, gifs, tweets, posts, stories, and images over the past few weeks have shown us that we, as people and as a community, are extremely creative and committed to maintaining this collective spirit of connectedness.
Nature—our vast landscape of postcard-worthy places—will always remain as the vestibule of where we find our most important connection: with ourselves. And scholars have universally concluded that time we spend in the solitude of nature is time well spent. Nature can do many things; chiefly among them to calm us and focus our attention, to provide perspective and, importantly, offer hope. And it strikes me that we could all use a little of that right now.
For a great many of us, we are gifted an opportunity—a luxury perhaps—that others on this planet are not afforded: a natural world so abundant that we can experience both the magic of it and the solitude within it.
Just because we must distance ourselves from one another, doesn’t mean we distance ourselves from nature. Just as we help nature through conservation, nature is here for us now. Our relationship with nature remains an interconnected compass of connection—to ourselves, to each other, and to our future.