Surrounded by 450-year-old growth forest in Squamish, B.C., Hamish van der Ven was inspired to pursue a career in environmental policy as a way to help protect wild spaces for future generations. With plans to become a professor, he now studies and teaches political science, focusing on environmental politics, climate change policy, corporate sustainability and global governance.
"I look at my time at camp as kind of like the foundation and what provided the emotional core of what I do," says the 29-year-old Vancouver native, as he remembers when he had worked for seven years as an instructor who taught campers about the environment, or "eco-fun."
"All of that really stems out of the fact that I have a very deep personal connection to natural wild spaces, developing just a very close personal connection to the landscape that surrounded us.... I think it was really just feeling that connection to it and seeing the effect that being out there could have on campers when I was working as a staff member."
While schools try to instill knowledge and appreciation for the environment, the PhD student and teaching assistant at the University of Toronto says it's really hard to get a personal connection to nature unless you're there to experience that yourself. "I think there is something tremendously important about being in the physical environment of wild space," he says. "(Camp) can be a great place just to grow emotionally, spiritually and socially as well."
He believes those who are not nature-loving people should also give camp a shot. He tells the humorous tale of a frightened camper who started out not liking camp. As they were sleeping under the stars during an overnight hike, someone yelled, "Help! Help!" The scared camper woke them up to warn them about what he feared was a bear.
"It turns out the bear that we thought was growling out there was actually one of the campers who happened to have a deep rumbling snore," van der Ven laughs.
The once-scared camper grew to like camp so much he wanted to return the next year.