Stewardship of the natural environment.

This week’s blog post will take the form of a personal reflection on class excursions to the Faerie Glen Nature Reserve as well as the Moreleta Kloof Nature Reserve.

The Faerie Glen Nature Reserve was the first scheduled tour with my class. This isn’t the first time I have visited a reserve, but this was the first time that I had the opportunity to be guided by an Environmental Scientist. I was surprised to find that the tour guide had a lot to say about plants and trees that I have seen on more than one occasion, for example, the Acacia Karroo tree or Cycads, to name but a few, and how, by just learning a few facts about a plant, the way in which one looks at and thinks of them can be influenced. The Acacia Karroo for instance, is able to communicate with plants around itself, and takes the role of a ‘protector’ when predators lurk. Knowing that a tree like the Acacia Karroo is able to communicate with other plants through pheromones, transforms the concept of plants just being things with no ‘human’ qualities, to living things that are worthy of protection.

The class was asked to do silence exercises that consisted of listening to sounds every fifteen minutes or so. This exercise was employed to demonstrate how the sounds around us changed the further we went into the reserve. It was refreshing to hear birds chirping without a car honking along with it. This exercise was humbling and relaxing.

Where the first walk illuminated how people tend to be separated from nature, the second walk opened my eyes to how fun it could be to walk around in nature with one’s friends. Growing up in a city in South Africa means usually spending time indoors and on the off chance one has the opportunity to walk around, a persistent underlying fear of being pick-pocketed or mugged exists (perhaps this is just my underlying fear due to having gone through both experiences). Nature offers a relatively safe experience. When walking in nature, one has the opportunity to de-stress.

On both experiences there was at least one instance where team work was required. On the first excursion at Fearie Glen, all the classmates had to walk over a small river. It was remarkable to see how people who didn’t know each other at the time, jumped at the opportunity to help a fellow classmate over the slippery, watery terrain.  At Moreleta Kloof there was an instance where a fellow classmate had a fear of heights. The simple act of holding this classmate’s hand and walking with her over a bridge, encouraged her to take her fear head on. These random acts of compassion or teamwork lead me to believe that nature is able to bring the best out in people by just putting them in a better frame of mind.

Visiting parks or nature reserves can offer humbling experiences. It can aid in de-stressing from mundane issues, and help to appreciate our green friends for all the things they do for us. They offer beauty when life gets more difficult. They stay consistent and never judge. These are great enough reasons to preserve and appreciate our natural world.