Reconnecting with nature on the North Shore
When Robert Bateman was a child, every Sunday morning his family would go to church and every Sunday afternoon they’d go for a hike. Although his parents weren’t naturalists, those hikes — and summers at the cottage — made him aware of the natural world around him. And the more aware he became, the more he fell in love with nature.
Six decades later, as one of Canada’s foremost nature artists, he challenges parents to take a hike. Once a week, he wants them to take turns taking their kids, and their kids’ friends and their kids’ friends’ parents for a walk in Stanley Park, or along a North Shore mountain, or any park where there’s greenery and wildlife. And when they’re on the hike, he wants everyone to turn off their smartphones and iPods.
“There’s an alarming mass of young people who don’t go outside at all to play,” he says during a telephone interview from his home in Victoria.
Young people’s addiction to computer games and television is reinforced by a generation of parents whose fear the outdoors because of the imagined dangers that lurk there. “Most bad guys who hurt children are already known by the child. There are hardly any dangers outside the home but lots of dangers inside the home.”
From Oct. 13 to 23, Bateman will join 80 artists from around world for the Artists for Conservation Festival. He’s including an oil painting he did of an endangered amur leopard exclusively for the event.
There will also be workshops, guest lectures, live painting demonstrations and the world premiere of a short film about Simon Combes, a wildlife painter who fought to conserve endangered species in Africa. He was killed by a charging Cape buffalo in 2004.
The event is “delightful for artists,” says Bateman. “It’s a gathering of the clans.”
The festival is organized by “environmental impresario” Jeff Whiting, a Vancouver-based artist and entrepreneur. “It’s a rare opportunity for the public to personally meet some of the most inspiring and talented artists from around the world. It’s also an incredible opportunity for art collectors to discover talent and acquire some impressive artwork, while supporting conservation,” Whiting says.
For Bateman, Whiting represents the flip side of a generation cut off from nature. Whiting’s one of the young people who strongly advocates for nature and works hard to protect it.
“At the same time I’m describing kids who are amusing themselves to death. I’ve never known more fantastic kids who are making a difference and helping the world be a better place,” Bateman says.
Ironically, although Bateman encourages young children to be exposed to nature, he thinks schools and parents should be wary of teaching them too much about the threats to our natural world. It’s only adults who, by the people they elect, can do something about threats such as global warning.
“All kids can do is worry,” he says. Instead, let them fall in love with the beauties and mysteries of living things “and all else will follow.”
MARTHA PERKINS/Black Press