Turning people into science is only natural
Sharing the beauty and wonder of the natural world has been a life’s work for Albert and Pirkko Karvonen. With their recent donation of $250,000 to Science Outreach – Athabasca, they hope to inspire a younger generation to become equally captivated by the great outdoors.
Over 36 years, the Karvonens combined their passions for the environment and for education by producing more than 120 wildlife films and documentaries through Karvonen Films. They gave audiences worldwide a window on animals, plants and landscapes in diverse habitats, with a focus on the boreal forest that surrounds the couple’s home near Amisk Lake, Alta.
“They sold the company’s assets and are using the proceeds to invest in what they hold most dear: the future of nature. They did this, in part, by supporting Science Outreach – Athabasca.
“It can be hard to change an adult’s perception,” Pirkko explains, “but maybe we can provide an incentive for a young person to look at nature and develop an interest that stays with them through life — to see that the natural world needs to be kept natural, to enjoy it.”
“Kids are going to be the keepers and stewards of land in the future,” Albert adds. “They’ll be making the decisions about our lakes, rivers and forests, and even how we grow our food. We want to focus on the environment and create a greater awareness of nature — to try to increase the understanding of the issues we face.”
“Science Outreach – Athabasca does just that. Operating as a standing committee of Athabasca University’s Centre for Science, the 12-year-old initiative promotes science awareness in the greater Athabasca area and beyond with community and school presentations, camps, field trips, a website and travelling exhibits open to children, youth, teachers, parents and anyone who wants to learn about science. It’s a labour of volunteer driven love with many partners including community groups, AU faculty and staff and the Karvonens themselves, who have been involved for more than 10 years as both presenters and event participants.
“The Karvonens’ donation, to be realized as $50,000 per year over five years, will enable Science Outreach – Athabasca to focus its energies on educating people rather than chasing funds, says Dr. Robert Holmberg, one of its founders and an AU professor emeritus of biology. And because “success breeds success” in the funding world, he hopes the Karvonens’ donation will help to leverage additional gifts.
“The Karvonens share this hope. “This is giving back, and we hope others donate, too,” Pirkko says.“We’re all part of the natural world,” Albert adds.
“We’re all part of the natural world,” Albert adds. “Fundamentally, we all need the same things: air, water, a place to live, food.
“I want to give back to nature, to give back to the community where I was born and raised. What is the best investment? It is to educate youth to be more aware of nature, of the environment, to begin to understand the relationship we have with all living things.”