By Steve Simons
“Tell me a fact and I will learn. Tell me a truth and I will believe. However, tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever!” ~ Native American Proverb
In the polarized public debate over natural resource development people are hyper focused on arguing positions of economy versus the environment. One tip for breaking that nasty cycle is to identify a common value and wrap your story around it.
Stories are amazing communication vessels, especially when they are authentic. They give information in vivid and engaging fashion; provide social proof; are easier to share; are an easy way to talk about ideas; give context and perspective; and, carry morals and lessons.
My story follows as an example of communicating care:
Like many people from small towns in Canada, I grew up watching my dad, granddad, uncles and most of our friends work in the resource industries. Some were loggers, some fishers, some pulp mill workers or miners. My mom ran the household; while other ladies in our town were lumber mill workers, warehouse experts, environmental technicians. Some were accountants, or safety officers, engineers, or truck drivers. My grandmother worked in the finishing room of a paper mill during the Second World War.
Most Friday nights we’d pack up the camping gear and head out into the woods for the weekend. A caravan of friends and family would settle at our favourite spot by the lake, or next to a river, or on the seashore of a protected bay. We’d see the same families conducting the same weekend ritual over and over.
In the summer it was fishing. In the fall it was hunting. And regardless of time of year, it was lawn chairs and laughs by the campfire. But it was more than fun and adventure. Those weekends and summers away were packed with lessons… things you could never find in a schoolroom or a textbook.
The small town loggers and accountants made it their business to lead those weekends and summers by example. And the lessons included leaving the great outdoors in better shape than we found it. We’d always pack out what we took in, and in some cases even pick up behind the less than careful; whoever they were.
I can’t honestly say who the greatest teacher was, because it was a community culture of shared values that guided the way impressing environmental responsibility on the next generation.
My grandmother’s rule for hunting or fishing was: use all of what you take, and take no more than you can use. It was not a sport, nor allowed to be a sport; it was to fill the dinner table for the evening or fill the freezer for the winter. Honestly, if it were left up to me to put food on the table this way we would have starved to death. I wasn’t the luckiest hunter-gatherer.
All together, this was a community of resourceful people, working and living in the same environment. And in doing so they took it upon themselves to be stewards of the environment. It’s a critical resource citizen value that is often overlooked by opponent’s arguments against resource development.
As much as these resource folk’s paycheque depended on harvesting natural resources, their livelihoods depend on caring for them. This is a place where economy, environment and community go hand in hand in hand.
We bring those caring values to bear in our chosen vocations, knowing that this is how we have made and sustained our living. We teach it forward knowing that each coming generation of resource people must be even more diligent, dutiful and balanced in our service to modern society.
These are the resource people who are our nation’s true providers and protectors.
Although my story is nostalgic, it isn’t about living in the past; it’s about stepping into the future, with an inspired new generation, capable of leading a new era of economy and environment; where communities are working together, not being divided. The people in my story stand for a collective of caring values that bind communities and, hence, societies together. They are a symbolic subset of the millions of natural resource community citizens that provide and protect every single day.
These aren’t just my resource people. They are your neighbours; volunteer firefighters, little league coaches, Lions Club members, Search and Rescue volunteers, Scout and Guide troop leaders… They are the droplets of water that initiate the ripples that subtly serve society. Each of them has touched the lives of countless people. Collectively, their caring, values based, lessons teach the next generation and, in turn, with each new person they reach, those lessons are carried exponentially throughout the greater community.
Together, with the assets before us, we can guide a different public dialogue on natural resources; a constructive one anchored in common values.