In honor of World Environment Day, I'd like to share this post which I wrote in 2010 that was recently published on Jeff Corwin's Citizen blog entitled Passalong Your Passion for the Planet.
If you are from the south, or if you know someone who is a dedicated gardener, you have probably heard the phrase “passalong plants”.
This phrase describes the point in most gardeners’ lives when their hobby quietly changes from a pastime to a passion. When that happens, they want to share their joy.
They give flowers to friends. They share homegrown produce and herbs with neighbors. They even begin collecting seeds and rooting their cuttings so they can encourage new gardeners. They’ve discovered the deep wonder of working the earth and they want to share it. And from the process, multitudes of new gardeners have been encouraged to get outside and to enjoy the pleasures of the earth.
Steve Bender and Felder Rushing explain this gardening custom is their book, Passalong Plants (© 2002, University of North Carolina Press). “The experience of husbanding a flower through sowing, germination, growth, and blossoming is so spiritually rewarding that it engenders a sort of botanical evangelism in its participants,” Bender and Rushing explain. “It simply reflects the belief that people don’t own the wonders of nature, they just take care of them for awhile. What brings joy to one should bring joy to all.”
These words seem to exemplify the fact that gardeners don’t just passalong their plants. They passalong their passion. And as nature lovers, we should all take heed of those words. What brings joy to us can bring joy to others. We just need to quit being shy about passing along our passion.
As naturalists, scientists, nature writers and photographers, we already understand the wonders of wildlife and the excitement of the environment, but there are many people out there who do not. And although we may be tempted to try to persuade them with lectures about environmental responsibility and the extinction of species, we will probably make a much bigger impact if we share our passion.
We need to become PR people for the planet and evangelists for the earth. We need to get others to feel what we feel and to see what we see. We don’t need to explain the details of the whys and the hows of the natural world as much as we need to share the wonders.
Amateur nature photographers capture incredible images of miraculous events that are occurring all around them but their photos sit unshared on their computers. Writers pen inspirational thoughts about the joys and miracles of their experiences in nature and then hide their journals away in desk drawers. Scientists and naturalists make new discoveries every day that they share with their colleagues but keep quiet about when in the company of family and friends.
But now is not the time to be shy. The environment is suffering and we hold the key to its survival. The key is our passion.
Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for World Peace Day encouraged humankind to “renew and strengthen their covenant between human beings and the environment.” The United Nations declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity. But environmental advocates such as Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), feel that we will make little progress unless we can get people outside to experience nature.
“Human beings are becoming increasingly cut off from nature,” Djorghlaf said. “Without contact [with nature], people are not aware that their patterns of consumption lead to habitat loss, pollution and other drivers of biodiversity loss.”
And that’s where we come in. All of us feel a spark of excitement when we make a new discovery in nature. And we need to share that spark….share that joy….share that discovery.
Whether you share your enthusiasm for nature quietly with your closest friends and family, on-line with blogs and wildlife forums or at weekly meetings of your favorite social get-togethers, don’t be reluctant to share. Teaching others about your passion for the planet can be a valuable gift for both them and the environment.
Don’t ever feel like your photos are not good enough or your blog posts aren’t important. If you were excited by something in nature, than share that excitement. Passalong your passion for the planet so that we can all make sure we have a healthy planet to continue to passalong.
“In the end, we conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand. We understand only what we are taught.” - Baba Dioum, Senegalese Poet