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."

Sinegugu Zukulu,

Sustaining the Wild Coast, South Africa

How can nature journalers care for the Earth?

We live on the Earth. We consume its resources and enjoy its beauty. In this relationship, we have a responsibility to act as stewards.


Nature journaling connects us with nature. This connection changes the way we relate to nature. It changes the way we understand nature. We care for the Earth. In caring for the Earth, we put our feelings into action when we practise stewardship from the start. Those who care for nature, care for humanity; for humanity needs nature to thrive, nature does need us.


What can we do to put stewardship into practice?

As stewards, we can protect, nurture and restore nature. We can be respectful in our relationships with people and the planet. We can choose equitable and just approaches to living. 

How can we do this while nature journaling and in the connections we make through nature journaling?

Integrate Stewardship into the Nature Journaling Process

We can integrate stewardship into our nature journaling process from the start, in:

  • Preparing

  • Arriving

  • Observing

  • Recording and Reflecting

  • Connecting nature journaling with other interests and issues.


The stewardship from the start principle is the foundation of the Nature Journalers’ Code of Conduct:

“I put nature first, above my wishes.

My experiences are a privilege;

the wellbeing of the wildlife and habitats are essential for the planet.

I observe with minimum interference.

When recording observations, I consider how my behaviour may be affecting wildlife and habitat.

If in doubt, I err on the side of caution.”

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.

There are also international, country- and place-specific laws, policies and regulations. You can read more about legislation and policies on Centre for Environmental Rights' website.

Observe, Record and Reflect from the perspective of a Steward

Choose to pay attention to the wellbeing of habitats, ecosystems and people in places where we nature journal. We can record these in our observations. We can record in ways that inform ourselves personally, and in ways that can be shared and used to improve conditions.

  • Study habitats, and keep records of places.

  • Learn how to keep records of seasonal changes. Notice patterns.


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 tool into environmental education, conservation and other programmes.

Connect Nature Journaling to Stewardship

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 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.

  • Learn more by connecting your questions with learning from others, and researching possible explanations.

Connect with people who are different from yourself

We can connect across (between) interests like birding and plants, 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. As visitors, we need to acknowledge, and support communities who are stewards of these special natural and protected places.

Connect with local communities

We can choose to support local economies, employment and projects.

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 fulfill our collective responsibilities. Read more here.

While Nature Journaling - through nature journaling