Stewardship from the Start
"When we care for the Earth,
the Earth in turn will care and provide for us."
"Umhlaba ophethwe kakuhle uyabaphilisa abantu."
"Umhlaba ophethwe kahle uyabanakekela abantu nawo."
Sustaining the Wild Coast, South Africa
Where does Stewardship fit into Nature Journaling?
Image that there is an hour of daylight before the dusk. Earlier, you noticed an aloe, a nest or rock from the window. The aloe was starting to show signs of flowering, or perhaps you noticed the pattern on the rock. You pick up your nature journal kit to head outside. Is this the beginning, the start of your nature journaling? The decision to connect with the aloe or rock now may be the first step of this session, but what’s in your bag? When you began your nature journaling journey, you put together a kit that you keep inside your shoulder bag. So perhaps the start was putting the kit together, choosing the bag, the journal and your writing tools.
A call to stewardship is often the final note or a side bar in field guides, nature and instructional art books. However, you can integrate stewardship into your nature journaling from the start, then carry it through your practice, and beyond from the entries on your pages into other aspects of your life (citizen science, conservation, environmental justice).
Did you choose your supplies with the environment in mind?
Did you bring a packet for collecting your own rubbish and litter left by others?
Did you know the full history of the place? Have you looked for information to know if your presence is possible because others were pushed out?
Observe, Record and Reflect from the perspective of a Steward
Choose to pay attention to the well-being of habitats, ecosystems and people in places where we nature journal. We can record these in our observations. We can record these in ways in ways which inform us personally, and in ways which can be shared with others and used to improve conditions.
Study habitats and keep records of places.
Learn how to keep records of seasonal changes.
Notice patterns, and changes in patterns. Ask what is causing these changes? Are these better for the Earth and life on the planet? If not, what needs to be done?
If you participate in conservation and environmental actions or programmes, you can:
Keep records of environmental actions like habitat restoration, clean-ups, etc.
Keep records over different periods of time. What is staying the same? What is changing?
Integrate nature journaling as a tool into environmental education, conservation, environmental justice and other programmes.
Connect Nature Journaling to other Stewardship Efforts
You can connect your nature journaling with other interests and activities. This can be part of your nature journaling process. You can choose if, when, and in what ways you connect your nature journaling.
Here are some possibilities:
Share data with citizen science projects like iNaturalist.
Learn more about how to contribute to citizen science here.
Make note of environmental problems and report them to the authorities.
Share observations with local authorities to improve practices and decision-making.
Connect with people who are different from yourself
We can connect interests like birding and plant focusses, science and written and visual arts, foraging and gardening. We can connect across race, class, languages, cultures and ages. We can connect across types of education, and ways of knowing like professional and volunteer scientists, and indigenous and scientific ways of understanding.
Connect with people living in & around protected and special places
We can acknowledge the stewardship of people living in and around special places through history.
We can deepen our understanding of how our shared history shapes the present. This is an important part of the context in which we nature journal.
Learn about the challenges facing the people and places you visit. Support the efforts of other stewards to fulfil our collective responsibilities.
We can start by connecting with local guides when visiting special places. We can approach these connections with respect and openness. We can choose to support local economies, employment and projects. This can build relationships across divides of race, gender, language, culture, class and more.
Codes of Conduct, Guidelines, Rules
The Code of Conduct for Nature Journalers has practical suggestions for what we can do.
It includes questions and suggestions to guide how we practise stewardship in different contexts.
We can get off to the right start by knowing our roles and responsibilities in different situations and places.
We can ask questions:
What is in the best interests of the place (habitat, wildlife, wildness, other people)?
What is in the best interests of the connected places, people and things?
What is respect in practice? What’s right? What’s legal?
What is fair, just and equitable for people and the planet?
You can read the Code of Conduct for Nature Journalers here.
The Code of Conduct for Nature Journalers is based on codes of conduct for different interest groups from South Africa and other parts of the world. There are specific codes for scientists, naturalists, photographers and artists. There are South African guidelines on environmental and conservation issues.
Nature Journaling Process