The Power of Getting to Know the Places Where We Live and Visit
by Roleen Sevillena
We cannot protect something we do not love, we cannot love what we do not know, and we cannot know what we do not see. Or hear. Or sense.Richard Louv
For years this quote has stuck with me, but it took some time to understand its true meaning. It was only after immersive experiences in, on and near the ocean, where it really clicked. I discovered the power of getting to know the places where we live and visit, and how that can cultivate a deeper connectedness with the natural world. Place-based learning opportunities and exploration sparked my passion for experiential education and conservation – and continues to shape my life today.
As a kid, I grew up playing in the ocean whenever we had family vacations in the Philippines. I loved swimming, snorkelling and looking at all of the different shells scattered on the beach. I had some tidbits of knowledge from what I learned in school (like identifying “starfish” and knowing they weren’t actually fish). But by no means was there a focus on ocean education at the land-locked schools I attended in Alberta.
Subconsciously, though, I was drawn to live by the ocean. After many trips to coastal British Columbia in my elementary and middle school years, I was determined to move after finishing high school. And so I did.
My love of the ocean grew as I started exploring Vancouver Island and beyond. The first time I saw bioluminescence was at Montague Harbour on Galiano Island. I saw a pod of Southern Resident Killer Whales for the first time from shore on Saturna Island. And one of my most memorable tide pooling adventures was at Botanical Beach, where I saw sea urchins, anemones, chitons, limpets and more!
Then when I started surfing, I couldn’t get enough of the ocean. I lived in Ucluelet for a season and saw a number of marine mammals for the first time: stellar sea lions, humpback whales, grey whales, mammal-eating killer whales, and sea otters. It was a summer filled with kayaking, whale watching, tide pooling and hanging out at the Ucluelet Aquarium to learn more about the amazing creatures found in these waters.
From all of these experiences, my curiosity and care for marine life deepened. And as I began to learn more about the ocean (from others, guide books, events, and my own explorations), a sense of stewardship emerged. I learned to tread lightly when exploring shorelines; I became conscious of the products I use to minimize my impact on the marine environment; I began to see the deep interconnectedness between land and sea.
As I reflect now, I realize how these experiences shaped me and the trajectory of my life. I’ve been fortunate to work and volunteer with organizations (like Seaquaria) that focus on place-based learning, experiential education, and marine conservation. In both my personal and professional life, I hope to spark a sense of stewardship in others through experiences that reconnect them to the places where they live.
A life-long learner that loves reading, writing and exploring. She enjoys spending time outdoors and is passionate about environmental education and sustainable living. Roleen graduated with a B.A. from the University of Victoria and now can’t imagine living far away from the ocean.