Saturday, December 15, 2007

It can begin in the playground

(Backtrack: Random thoughts while doing rowing umpiring duties at a reservoir in Pattaya.)

There is really nothing much to do in the middle of a reservoir after each heat except wait for the next one to begin. Everything seems to stand still. It is the kind of stillness that brings a vibrant quality to the breeze that carries with it a sense of peace.

It is exactly during these moments of just sitting and waiting on the catamaran (or rubber boat if the catamaran is not working) that I stare into a vast expanse of water. A backdrop of trees with brown leaves burnt by the sun completes the picture that is being etched in my mind. Then I look up and notice the clear sky. And this is when I realize, again, that this is exactly one of the reasons why this sport makes me feel much closer to nature.

Seven years of active training in dragon boat rowing have given me a treasure trove of memories that include beautiful sunrises. I have rowed in different bodies of water, each one unique and nestled in breathtaking landscapes. Each place has made me yearn to see more.

It is hard not to feel blessed when I am out there. It is like nature is infusing its energy into me and giving me the much-needed strength to perform. I think this is a feeling shared by almost everyone, especially those who engage in sports whether for fitness or competition. More than the endorphins, more than the camaraderie and friendships, more than the satisfaction of going beyond limits - sports offer a lot of opportunity to commune with nature.

It more than makes sense, therefore, why the International Olympic Committee has included sports and the environment as one of the pillars of the Olympic Movement. It even revised its mission and role to include the following:

“to encourage and support responsible concern for environmental issues, to promote sustainable development in sport and to require that the Olympic Games are held accordingly…”

Quite simply, it is reciprocity at its best. Everyone depends on the environment, sports people even more so to achieve optimal performance. The Namibian sprinter Frankie Fredericks said something that resonate in the consciousness of sports people worldwide and I quote: “I breathe at least twice as deeply when I’m running. Air pollution is a threat to my health and my physical performance” (UNEP 2005).

Almost all sporting activity I know, if not all, rely heavily on the environment. In the Philippines alone, the Rowing team feels the weight of the sorry state of Pasig River. Around the world, athletes are feeling the effects of climate change, which is perhaps one of the reasons why sports luminaries and organizations are actively campaigning to help raise awareness on environmental issues and promote sustainable development.

Apart from the efforts of these sports personalities, there is also an increasing involvement from the grassroots level, which is an untapped goldmine that can really help turn the tide against pressing problems such as climate change. It is in the grassroots level that children learning the values of play can be taught about the important relationship of sports and the environment. It is in the grassroots level where clubs can be a rich resource of volunteers for various environment-related projects and initiatives.

The environmental issues has become so big and complicated that sometimes I feel helpless just thinking if there is something that I can really do to effect change. Thankfully, I have my sport that consistently reminds me of how beautiful and precious the environment is. It deserves all the attention and concern it is getting.

As I continue to draw energy from around me, I am also beginning to feel the infusion of hope just thinking of the people who see what I see. The world is a big and beautiful playground. I think appreciating it begins with really seeing and experiencing its beauty.
Play time is nature time. Now, more than ever, is a good time to stand up, go out, and play.
All images are from here.

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