When I think about what led me to do the work I do in the environmental field, I can’t help but think of the importance of fostering a love for nature in youth. This Giving Tuesday, Ontario Nature is raising funds to grow its Nature Guardians Youth Program to support youth-led conservation action. This is truly an opportunity to help develop the next generation of environmental leaders in the province, and I’m proud to announce Quest Nature Tours, along other donors, will be matching donations up to $15,000.
I’m sometimes asked how I got interested in nature and particularly into birds. There wasn’t a spark so much as a smoulder initially. My mother introduced me to growing plants from seed and caring for them properly until we transplanted them into the garden. Around the same time, my father introduced me to the care of wild animals – notably, moving fledgling robins that happened to land in a bad spot, out of the way of imminent danger.
My parents were both immigrants to Canada and didn’t have a strong frame of reference for the outdoors here. However, the subsequent gift from my mother of a book – the Reader’s Digest North American Wildlife – let my imagination “go wild” as I became engrossed in the content, notably birds and plants. My parents continued to encourage me by investing in books such as Bird Behaviour by Robert Burton and Mammals of the Canadian Wild by Adrian Forsyth.
A little later, a family friend who was an outdoorsman and birder would become my birding mentor and I made nature and wildlife a serious pursuit, including building nest boxes, growing native plants, and eventually leading bird walks. I consider myself very fortunate to now work in a field concerned with the things that I love and with conservation. I can’t fathom having this interest and not being an advocate for wildlife and wild spaces; I’m fortunate to have a platform to do so now.
It seems to me that having access to wild spaces, nature mentors and social connections that normalize nature and nature protection as legitimate interests are crucial to sustaining a community of people who care. These are all things that Ontario Nature works towards, and it’s for this reason that I’m pleased to support Ontario Nature’s Nature Guardians Youth Program this Giving Tuesday 2021. I encourage you to do the same!
Justin Peter is Quest Nature Tours' Director of Programs and senior naturalist. Justin was previously the senior naturalist at Algonquin Provincial Park, where he coordinated the park’s interpretive program and acted as lead howler for the celebrated Public Wolf Howl events.
You can find Justin on Instagram: @birder_justin and @worldwidequesttravel