A Guide’s Honour: Girl Guides and Caring for the Environment

A Guide’s Honour

Girl Guides and Caring for the Environment

A Guide’s Honour:
Girl Guides and Environmental Stewardship

By Jaime Clifton-Ross, Communication and Outreach Curator, NET

A topic that was discussed at length during our Biodiversity Conversations, was the idea that if love and respect for nature is instilled in children, these values will likely stay with them into adulthood. After all, how could you possibly care about the planet if you feel no meaningful connection to it? The easiest way to do this is to get kids into nature at a young age.

Girl Guides of Canada is one organization that has been foundational in environmental stewardship for over 100 years, with many activities based in outdoor education. Much of their programming uses nature as a lens to help girls grow into “confident, courageous and resourceful leaders”. Taking shape in Canada during the 1910s, their goal is to spark the imagination of girls, to encourage them to take action on what they care about, and to help them find their place in the world. When joining Girl Guides, you take a pledge of honesty, where trust, support, and kindness to others (humans and animals) and to the planet are a driving force.

Girl Guides of Canada circa 1964.

Girl Guides Uniform Canada circa 1964, by Girl Guides of Canada, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license, Wikimedia Commons

Climate change and biodiversity loss has more recently become a focal point for Girl Guides, as the organization continues to evolve and adapt to the contemporary needs of women and girls. Back in 2005, they launched their own climate change challenge aimed at raising awareness around this issue and demonstrated what individuals and families could do to reduce their GHG emissions. They subsequently endorsed the Climate Change Challenge Badge guide, which was collaboratively developed by the Youth and United Nations Global Alliance (YUNGA) in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.

I really attribute my 10 years as a Girl Guide for sparking my love and respect for nature. I remember the immense pride I felt when earning a badge for building a bird feeder or the excitement of exploring the forest as I followed in the footsteps of the female environmentalists who came before me. This article published by Think Progress shares a thoughtful reflection on the impact of such organizations (Girls Scouts of America specifically), and how exposure to the values they embody can help future generations make a difference.

Girl Guides of Canada circa 1994

Jaime Clifton-Ross (left) and her best friend, Kathleen Cooke (right), circa 1994.
Image courtesy of Kathleen Cooke

Children and teenagers are becoming more mindful of the growing climate and biodiversity crisis, with many never knowing a world without this looming threat. This is especially apparent through the actions and programs spearheaded by young generations. Since Girl Guides and Girl Scouts have often evolved in response to the conditions of contemporary society, the fact that they have taken on the climate and biodiversity crisis potentially signals a much larger cultural shift.