GUEST BLOG: By Paul Swaffield.
All over the world, more and more of the world’s population find themselves living in ever expanding urban areas. There is a continuing shift towards the built environment, as social and political systems make the pull of employment, education and a perceived “better way of life” irresistible to many.
Towns and cities are not always complete concrete jungles, some urban centres have beautiful parks and recreational spaces that their inhabitants can relax in and enjoy. Modern architecture is starting to understand the importance of natural light and “bringing the outside in”. But this is a very well-manicured and sanitised version, the connection between us and native habitats and wildlife is being lost. To truly immerse yourself in nature is a fundamental joy that is being denied to many, or many are denying themselves.
It is possible to go through many years of life without taking the time to sit still and enjoy the stillness of a forest, the symphony of birds or feel the driving force of a river. Our spectrum of experiences with animals is often narrowed too, with household pets often the limit. Cats, dogs and other domestic roommates are genuine loved ones to so many, but these are individual relationships that only scratch at the surface of the wider understanding we can have with the animal kingdom.
It is not to say that we as a individuals are necessarily any less caring for the natural world and our animal friends, just that life today can lead to a detachment from these. A concerted effort is required to make this reconnection, and luckily there are some fantastically passionate people able to help us.
Recently I had the extreme pleasure of traveling to Colombia with my wife Kristina. During our stay we were able to escape the incredible & relentless whirl of activity, traffic and noise that is the capital, Bogota, to spend time in true nature. To be able to spend days and weeks cut off from big cities, spending the night sleeping in a hammock with sound of a nearby waterfall as your lullaby is a real privilege. Not many people are able to travel to far corners of the world to get their nature fix, of that I am very aware, but having arrived back in my homeland of England I am acutely aware of the beautiful countryside on my door step that I had come to take for granted and had allowed to drift out of my life. Smells of conifer, bursts of colour from bluebells and the grandeur of an old oak tree that evoke memories of my childhood have come flooding back. Within the last few weeks, making time to reconnect with the local countryside has been essential in keeping me connected to nature.
But the highlight of our Colombian trip, was the two weeks spent at the beautiful Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary, has really reminded me of the importance of our bonding with animals. I would describe myself as an animal lover, supporter of animal rights and a staunch opponent of any violence or cruelty to any species. However, I soon realised that I actually spend very little time in the company of animals.
Julianna, her husband Paul & the amazing sanctuary manager Ekala have dedicated themselves to caring for rescued animals, including dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, a horse, a cow and a bullock, along with educating people about how and why we have to respect animals. The time we spent at this blissful sanctuary allowed us to interact with the animals as individuals, to understand their personalities, likes, dislikes and the love they want to give and receive. Places like this are vital, as even those of us that commit so much of our time and energy to helping animals or protecting the environment are often in need of a reminder as to why we actually do it!
So, I am thrilled to be home in England, as I am discovery new initiatives and projects that facilitate this coming together of humankind and nature, as well as rediscovering the natural joys of my early years. I would implore you to do the same, as when we really connect with nature, we understand its importance to us, and our importance to its ongoing survival.
BY PAUL SWAFFIELD | DIRECTOR | THE ONE WORLD COLLECTIVE
If you are interested in learning more about Julianna’s Animal Sanctuary, please visit their website or Facebook page at the links below: