Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Conservation as Stewardship

Tenth in a series of ward Scouter Training topics

Conservation: a careful preservation and protection of something; especially: planned management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect1

Stewardship: the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care <stewardship of natural resources>2

Every time we venture out, the natural world has been entrusted to us. We owe it to those who succeed us to give them the same experience we enjoyed. Both of these lofty words imply accountability for one’s actions in relation to one’s responsibilities and resources, and toward society at large. The Parable of the Talents is a great illustration: Three servants were entrusted with certain responsibilities; those who lived up to the expectations could take pleasure in knowing they had done their best, the one who did not lived in fear of being found out.

Conservation, the wise use and stewardship of resources, has always been a hallmark of the Scouting movement. Ansel Adams, the master photographer and a personal hero, said, “The preservation and, at the same time, the human use of wild places present a mind- and spirit-wracking challenge for the future.”

There are many ways to teach stewardship, but the most effective way is to experience it firsthand. In a conservation model of stewardship, this necessitates going out into nature, and actively caring for it. The spiritual connection with nature is also evident, both to those who partake, and in Scripture. When God wanted to really reach someone (for example, Moses, Elijah or Nephi) He took them into the wilderness: a desert, cave, or mountain. There is a real, spiritual dimension and closeness to God that comes from being close to Creation. When God entrusted His creation to Man, He described it as very good. Let us teach ourselves and our charges to keep it so.

Wild, pristine places have a tremendous effect on our psyche. We need to be in nature. Watch a film about Yosemite or the falls of IguazĂș, and see if you can resist wishing to be there. And there are plenty of places closer to home that offer an experience with nature: city parks, wildlife refuges, national forest and other lands, even a vacant lot provide habitat for wildlife and recreational and other uses for people. Finding the balance that Adams spoke of is the real challenge, and by starting them early, a new generation can be caretakers rather than takers only.

The BSA provides many resources for encouraging boys to exercise sound conservation principles. From Leave No Trace camping, to conservation projects; if young men can see the effects of their use of the land, and the difference they each can make, we can build not only young men who understand how to care for natural resources, but who can also take the same principles of stewardship and apply them to their adult lives as leaders (priesthood and otherwise), teachers, employees and bosses. Naturally, this requires a continuous effort, rather than a “done-with-scouting-at-14” mentality.

I'm hardly a green zealot, but I want my children to have the same opportunity to experience the natural world as I did. And that said, there's no reason not to give our daughters the same opportunities, since we have the same expectations for them as for our sons.

1,2- Meriam-Webster online dictionary
Conservation handout - Quotes, Awards and Links
BSA's Teaching Leave No Trace page
BSA Outdoor Ethics

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