Entertaining, Inspiring, and Educating People About Nature




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Apr 17, 2019
by Chúk Odenigbo
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Entertaining, Inspiring, and Educating People About Nature

Salzburg Global Fellow Chúk Odenigbo helps produce new publication to change the way people view the environment Gaia's Child, by Salzburg Global Fellow Chúk Odenigbo and Samantha Matters

In 2015 I joined an incredible multigenerational, multiethnic, multisectoral, multidisciplinary team of engaged citizens from across Canada put together by the Canadian Parks Council to conceptualize what we would do to address the falling number of young Canadians visiting parks. We were forced to confront the reality that even though Canada is one of the most diverse nations in the world, we had created an image of nature and the outdoors as being solely for certain types of people. That is to say, not only were we lacking in ethnically diverse representation, but also diversity in the form of thought on how to interact with nature and the outdoors.

In the truest spirit of collaboration, we created The Nature Playbook, an invitation to discover your unique way to connect with nature. The document aims to rebrand nature as being for everyone, seeking to demonstrate the innumerable ways that exist to enjoy the outdoors outside the traditional “hiking and camping.” Suggestions ranged from splashing in puddles to geocaching adventures, with discussions about forest schools and connecting with Indigenous elders being peppered in.

This book was Canada’s official submission to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress in Hawaii 2016, where it was adopted as a global best practice and inspired an international version, created under the name “#NatureForAll Playbook.”

As incredibly successful as this book was, Samantha Matters (Sam - a fellow Playbook author) and I felt that it was not enough. We decided to open up our own non-profit organisation, The Poison and The Apple, because we really wanted to dedicate ourselves to looking for ways to change how we, as Canadians, view nature/the environment at a sociocultural level and re-forge those connections with nature in a way that acknowledges the present realities of our nation and our people.

Fast forward a year later, I was perambulating around a city park in Montréal at midnight, as is albeit my odd habit to do, listening to music, when all of a sudden, it came to me. I saw the 12 superheroes, their powers, the plotline, the villains... everything. I immediately called up Sam at 3 am, and we decided to make this dream a reality.
The Forces of Nature is an illustrated story that capitalizes on the superhero mania that has taken Hollywood and is geared towards teens and young adults in hopes of addressing the challenges that this audience feels in attempting to connect with green and blue spaces. The story seeks to inspire a connection with nature through the reader’s imagination and a diverse group of characters. The superheroes are based on each of the Nature Playbook authors due to their ethnic and geographic diversity as well as their diversity of thought. Ideally, people will be able to see themselves in the characters, and if they feel particularly attached to anyone, they can take comfort in knowing that that character is based off a real-life human being who is doing what they can to help the environment. 

The villain represents the dark side of humanities interactions with nature – controlling and often harmful; thus, while the story seeks to entertain and inspire, it also seeks to educate. This specific installment was inspired by a trip that I took to Haida Gwaii as part of the first ever Ocean Bridge cohort - a group of 40 young Canadians seeking to make a difference in ocean literacy and health. We learned a lot from the caretakers of the land as to how important the ocean is and how it affects us all.

An electronic copy of the book can be downloaded online (free); written in both of Canada’s official languages to reflect the beautiful linguistic nature of this country and to minimize linguistic barriers of access. An audiobook format is also available for those who cannot read, struggle with reading, dislike reading, or prefer auditory above visual stimulus.

To bring this story to life, we received funding from MEC Outdoor Nation, Ocean Wise, Taking It Global/Youth Service Corps and Heritage Canada. We put together a powerful crew of young Canadians - all under 30 because you are never too young to change the world. This crew included artist Andie Lafrentz from Alberta; graphic designer Sara Qarizada from Ontario; French editor Vickie Arsenault from Québec; Zico He from Ontario, who read the English version of the audiobook; and, Gabriel Tougas from Manitoba, who is the voice of the French version of the audiobook.

We are so excited to share this with the world, and we hope that in reading it, you will realize that you too are a superhero chosen by nature with your own story to tell. What is your superpower?

Electronic book format:

Audiobook format:

Chúk Odenigbo is a multi-time Salzburg Global Fellow. He has attended four programs including Parks for the Planet Forum: Nature, Health and a New Urban Generation (2015), Beyond Green: The Arts as a Catalyst for Sustainability (2016), The Next Frontier: Transboundary Cooperation for Biodiversity and Peace (2016), and The Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play (2017).