Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Reconnecting with nature through sports

Sports that require a significant amount of time outdoors is a good platform for environmental education. The setting can be a park playground, a clearing, a running trail with lots of trees around and a lake or reservoir. Spending time outside to play brings with it plenty of opportunities to see the beauty of nature that no lessons inside the four corners of a classroom can teach.

As technology made it easier and preferable for people to stay indoors, more problems attributed to nature deficit disorder emerged. Staying indoors to play became a safer alternative in urban communities where there are no access to parks and sports clubs. Technological advancements made it possible for a wide array of interesting activities to occupy people’s time. Even the social aspect of play was addressed by online games that enable interactions with other virtual players. But one aspect that the best of technology cannot simulate is the experience of being close to nature and the attendant lessons it brings.

I used to be ambivalent about the environment issues. However, years of training as a dragon boat athlete and my current role as a rowing umpire gave me a treasure trove of memories that include beautiful sunrises, clear skies and lush trees. I have paddled in different bodies of water, each one unique and nestled in breathtaking landscapes. I have umpired in places that made me yearn to see more of the amazing sights I am sure the world has to offer.

It is hard not to feel blessed when I am outdoors. Nature often shares its energy to me, giving me the much-needed strength to perform. I think this is a feeling shared by 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 offers a lot of opportunities to commune with nature.

It more than makes sense, therefore, why the International Olympic Committee has included sport 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…”
Sporting activities rely heavily on the environment. Namibian sprinter Frankie Fredericks simplified the connection when he said, “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).

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. The grassroots is an untapped goldmine that can really help turn the tide against pressing problems such as climate change. It is at this level that children at play can learn the important relationship of sports and the environment. It is where clubs can be a rich resource of volunteers for various environment-related projects and initiatives.

The environmental issues are big and complicated that sometimes it is natural to feel helpless just thinking if there is something that one individual can do to effect change. Fortunately, I have my sport that reminds me how beautiful and precious the environment is. It inspires me to contribute in small ways and make lifestyle changes that are in sync with my beliefs. It also makes me appreciate the efforts of individuals and groups to campaign for a sustainable environment.

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.


Blog originally posted here.

(Photo by Chalyn Bueta)

No comments: