I am a long-standing member of Ontario Nature, and have been an active member and twice-President of Nature Barrie, one of the member organizations. I am very supportive and appreciative of the work our federation does.
I also teach Conservation Biology to undergraduate students and I know from that experience that engaging people in the protection of nature presents some challenges. One thing that is necessary in my opinion is that an engagement with Nature herself is a condition precedent for engagement in protection. I sometimes describe this situation as the two Davids problem. While it unduly simplifies two complex people and their substantial contributions, David Suzuki’s messaging is directly about problems and it includes what we should be doing about them. In contrast, David Attenborough’s messaging is more simply about wonderful nature.
You can perhaps tell by the way I’ve framed this that I favour the Attenborough approach. I think from it, a love and respect for the natural world tends to flow and some measure of activism will follow. I can see with my own students that if they have little or no reference points for a personal connection to nature (and, alas, most of them do not), it is difficult to expect them to be engaged in nature protection, even if they know it’s a “good” thing.
In this vein, although I think ON Nature is a great magazine and I eventually read most of each issue, I think it suffers from too much Suzuki and too little Attenborough. I’m looking as I write at the cover stories for this years’ three issues: Sending out an SOS, Troubled Waters, Disruptive Din. It is good stuff, but I don’t think it’s a formula for gaining new members, for nourishing members’ love of nature, and I bet it actually lets some slip away. I certainly would never suggest that the numerous issues faced in environmental protection be ignored. But, I ask your editorial board to consider a revised formula: more Attenborough than Suzuki.
Read a response to this thoughtful letter from Ontario Nature’s executive director, Caroline Schultz