Category Archives: First Thoughts

Our Dying Environment

Planet Earth does not get the respect it deserves. It is evident, especially in the U.S.A. For example, the preservation of our beautiful world is subpar to the profit to be gained from the likes of oil and deforestation. Cutting down trees to print money? Its madness. I feel as if we live in a society today that sees progress in regards to something like a television sitcom family; Illusionary. The regression of this place we call home  has been an ongoing occurrence since the industrial revolution. There, started a theme of wanting to have more things, yet put the place where we live on a back burner and hold it in regards to general disrespect. The result: Ice caps are melting, weather is becoming more extreme, species are becoming rapidly extinct, and the planet’s average temperature is rising. Yet, to be fair, only since around Al Gore ran for president and the internet blew up, not much information was spread in regards to what is really happening on Earth. Environmental writing is crucial, we need to be knowledgeable about what is going on in our world and conscientious of the effects that result from a lack of care.  I believe it is our generations responsibility to say “No, this is not okay.” and put all natural things back into equilibrium. I am proud of the direction some are pushing towards in regards to keeping our environment healthy and diminishing toxic emissions, but there will always be a counteracting force, such as special interest groups who put money before anything else. What a shame to think we can take and take from a planet that has done nothing but give; Not only give nutrients in order to survive, but has also provided us with beauty among the diversity in creatures and all life forms alike. We are not disassociated from this earth, (even though we may act like it sometimes) we are a part of it. We are just humans and are not immune to its wrath if we push neglect too far. It is our responsibility to save and preserve Earth, its the least we can do for her.

 

 

Writing in an Endangered World and my connection to nature

Prior to entering the course Writing in an Endangered World, with professor Mark Long, my college writing experience was quite limited. My involvement in courses that revolve their focus on writing and literature was limited to only one writing class required by all students of my college.  My own academic roots lay within the sciences, and more specifically the study of the natural environment. Within this newly created blog and a fresh start in a new writing class; I will share my own scientific knowledge as well as interpreting newly found environmental literature. I look forward to gaining a better understanding of what writing in an endangered world really is throughout the semester; as well as sharing my own experiences and thoughts about environmental literature and what they mean to me.

I have only just begun to create and edit my first blog here as you read it now. My familiarity with blogs and content creating before today is close to nothing. Other than fulfilling class requirements and using this blog for academic purposes, I wish to utilize this blog as my own voice to the outside world as an environmentalist and outdoor recreation enthusiast.  My hopes for Writing in an Endangered World, and this new blog; is to become a better writer, become a more profound thinker in an environmental sense, and create a voice for myself within this blog that shares my thoughts with you, the world.

Before I begin to share information, opinions, and facts about our “Endangered World” it is important for you the reader to learn about myself, the creator and writer of this blog.

Hello reader, my name is Nicholas DeCarolis, 21 years old and a junior at Keene State College in New Hampshire. For the past 2 years I have studied Environmental Studies, my major that I shall complete several semesters from now. As you already know my experience in the college writing world has been quite limited and throughout the semester I hope my skill in writing will grow. My foundation as an environmentalist begun at a very young age. I grew up in a relatively small town in southern New Hampshire called Pelham. As I grew up my hobbies and interests lied with outdoor recreation. The sports and activities that I have done in my last 21 years have shaped the person that I am today. These sports and activities include football, skateboarding, skiing, fishing, hiking, cliff jumping/ swimming and many more. My greatest passion in this world is skiing; I have skied since before i can remember, and it is what I look forward to the most no matter what season it is. I crave winter and cold snowy storms. I must thank both my parents and two older brothers for always pushing me to progress my involvement and skill in all the sports and outdoor activities I have done throughout my life. Without them showing me first when I was younger the beauty and thrill the world has to offer, I may have grown up ignorant to planet Earth’s magnificence. All of these sports and activities have helped shape the person I am today by surrounding myself with a circle of great friends with similar hobbies, and outlooks on the natural world. I chose Environmental studies as my major; because through these sports and activities I have realized how diverse and exquisite this planet really is; and with this major My knowledge and appreciation will only grow greater.

I am truly excited to see what this course and semester has to teach me, and what I can take from them and give back to the world from my own point of view.  My goal with this blog is to both educate and give you, the world, a sense of pride for the planet that you live on, and hopefully drive more people to reconnect with the incredible planet that 7.5 billion of us call home.

Nick DeCarolis, Solitude Utah                          (February 2017)

The Beginnings of a Lifestyle

How often are we challenged to change our viewpoints and better ourselves for the future outcome of the planet, our communities, and our own personal well being? Honestly, not often enough. Every day is a new day to become a more positive individual to help better the greater good. And we as socially conscious individuals should pay especially close attention to our role in this change. How can we make the biggest possible impact as these small, almost entirely unimportant little specks in the big scheme of it all?
I believe that if all of us tiny little unimportant specks were to consciously make the effort to change at least half of our activities to be more eco-centric and less carbon reducing, we would make a substantial difference in the world. It’s all about being the change we expect to see. If everyone who said they don’t recycle because “not enough is done it’s just going to sit in a pile, my personal impact means nothing” decided to recycle, a real difference would be made.
It’s sad and unfair to the environment to not think of the broader horizon. Granted, it’s not always easy for people to think of the things beyond their immediate world. However, it’s generally imperative to the survival of humans as a species- and the world as we know it, for us to think Green. This can be done in many ways: across city expanses, prairies, and even deserts. It’s all about the bigger picture, the vast expanses, and how we as small little ants on a giant lawn can work together to make the grass a little greener.
It’s time that we, the generation to create all sorts of internet media surrounding positive quotes and thoughts, finally use those thoughts and quotes to stop being so miserable and make an impact. So often we are blinded by our day to day rhetoric and fail to make ourselves aware of the way the world around us is functioning. We are all apart of nature, whether our daily lives remind us of that or not. It isn’t the easiest life: we only have a select number of hours a day to live and experience. As members of this planet, we need to try to peel our eyes a little further to pay attention to how we can make a positive impact. It’s honestly the least we can do as active members of this planet.
Humans make such a negative impact consistently in the conditions of the Earth. There are so many more species than humans, and yet they are constantly doing things that change the very condition of the exterior of our planet. There are larger, much less invasive species that make way less of a negative influence in the world we live. Why are humans, the supposed “most advanced” primate on the planet, the least concerned with its well being? We all live here, why not all love here as well?
Personally, I really love to appreciate nature in small and large ways as often as I can. That means when I walk down the street, pausing to appreciate whatever flower or wild weed is growing along the sidewalk is absolutely important. Every day. That means that as I ascend a mountainside, paying extra close attention to the kinds of mosses growing, if any at all. Every time. That means paying less attention to where the sidewalk is leading me, but more attention to the colors of the leaves on the early Fall Maple. Every tree. I will forever love the way the world looks a little more vibrant after having been in a really down mental space, and then you open your eyes a little wider to see how simply beautiful it really is outside around you.
Who needs to be cooped up in their head all day, when there is a vast expanse of world beyond our little tiny heads, and it has so much to offer and teach us. It’s our moral duty as small specks on the surface to take all it has to teach us and use it to benefit the lovely provider (our beautiful Mother Earth).
For a large part of my life, I was an individual who found little appreciation in nature. I spent most of my days inside, behind closed curtains in the dark, hiding from the sunlight and everyone who walked in it. Until I reached my later years in high school, I was a homebody entirely. Whether it was reading Walden Pond, going hiking often for myself, or just my growing awareness for the nature around me… I’ll never really be able to pinpoint the exact moment that changed my mindset.
All I know for sure is that now my eyes are windows to the wild world. With a simple deep breath and a slow blink, I almost feel the world brighten and become more vibrant right in front of me. I think it’s really all about being aware. Those trees and skies have always existed, long before me. So why are they all of a sudden so constantly vibrant? Perspective. It’s all in the perspective.

Speaking of perspective:
It’s almost impossible to wake up one day and see things from an entirely new perspective. These things take time, and take a bit of time, if I’m being honest. It’s all in trusting oneself and knowing that, if like the flowers that push up through leftover Springtime snow, you will get through this. We are all creatures of nature, even if we’re surrounded by a synthetic concrete jungle: we are still of nature.
I know it’s hard to make that connection, we’re not of nature, we are constantly logged in and tuned out to the world around us. How can we be nature? Well, you drink water daily, your skin warms under the sun and it nuturtures a warmth in your stomach and makes your body happy all over. You fall asleep and wake up to the brisk morning air, and you breathe in the clean, fresh scent of the outside air. And it is in those instances of minute interaction that we are of the most nature without realizing it. And that is something that has kept me positive in my struggle with perspective of nature.

Thoughts on a Natural World

The “Human Experience” is certainly challenging to comprehend and explain to one another. The consciousness and perception of life by man is not often been recognized for how incredible it really is. The meaning of the life has always been debated. Part of understanding this larger than life idea is examining the world that extends beyond humans. The natural world holds the answers and holds more secrets than man, can comprehend. The picture I brought to class helped show me the areas of my life that are not associated with humans. The picture displays five young men, including myself. This is not directly through the content. The picture creates contrast, as all of the different friends represent a different aspect of my life. This helps me separate the different parts of my life that link to the natural world, and what link to the human world. There were four friends pictured in a shot from my high school graduation. Each of the friends has a vastly different appearance, which helps me explain their relevance. The first, my friend Aaron, is dressed in a suit and tie, the typical attire he wore for his job at a luxury hotel in our hometown. We lost Aaron to suicide in 2015, months after the photo was taken. His role in the photo illustrates the realness of death and its continual presence in our life even though it is the “end” of life itself. Although I truly miss my friend, I’ve come to understand what his death means and what death means to the human experience. It is the conclusion to the human experience as we know it, and I feel it should be highlighted, as we, people, give it meaning. I believe in a way this separates death from the human world, the being in question ceases to continue their life and become one with the natural world again. The next person in the picture is my friend Cam. He writes and produces his own music, and follows many who are part of the growing Electronic Music genre. Cam and I have mutually introduced each other to various groups and styles of music. We discussed in class the presence of music-like sound in the natural world, equally present in both the human and natural world. If not for this presence in my life, I would have no contextual basis to acknowledge this. The other two pictured on my right side, my friends Dan and Thomas. It is with these two that I spent much of my youth. We would spend our days riding bikes or roaming the woods and exploring our hometown for all of the hidden beauty. I can easily say that I came to admire the natural world in the time I spent with them. I’ve found that I can best identify my relationship with our world by examining the almost opposite side of my life, and what it means. When I think about the time I spent with my friends, I can often remember my surroundings and how simple and beautiful they were. True beauty can be recognized by recollection, and this picture is the core of this process.

Our Dying Environment

Planet Earth does not get the respect it deserves. It is evident, especially in the U.S.A. For example, the preservation of our beautiful world is subpar to the profit to be gained from the likes of oil and deforestation. Cutting down trees to print money? Its madness. I feel as if we live in a society today that sees progress in regards to something like a television sitcom family; Illusionary. The regression of this place we call home  has been an ongoing occurrence since the industrial revolution. There, started a theme of wanting to have more things, yet put the place where we live on a back burner and hold it in regards to general disrespect. The result: Ice caps are melting, weather is becoming more extreme, species are becoming rapidly extinct, and the planet’s average temperature is rising. Yet, to be fair, only since around Al Gore ran for president and the internet blew up, not much information was spread in regards to what is really happening on Earth. Environmental writing is crucial, we need to be knowledgeable about what is going on in our world and conscientious of the effects that result from a lack of care.  I believe it is our generations responsibility to say “No, this is not okay.” and put all natural things back into equilibrium. I am proud of the direction some are pushing towards in regards to keeping our environment healthy and diminishing toxic emissions, but there will always be a counteracting force, such as special interest groups who put money before anything else. What a shame to think we can take and take from a planet that has done nothing but give; Not only give nutrients in order to survive, but has also provided us with beauty among the diversity in creatures and all life forms alike. We are not disassociated from this earth, (even though we may act like it sometimes) we are a part of it. We are just humans and are not immune to its wrath if we push neglect too far. It is our responsibility to save and preserve Earth, its the least we can do for her. 

Nature and Literature

I grew up in Northwood, New Hampshire.  And, like most people from New Hampshire, my town was small, rural, and completely unheard of by most out of staters.  Most people from this state can relate to life in the ‘sticks’.  (My high school, Coe Brown Northwood Academy, was literally referred to as “Cow Barn” by our rivals).  Many of the folks I graduated with would have said that they could not wait to get out of our woodsy town and state and live somewhere that had a grocery story closer than thirty five minutes away.  However, it was a fantastic place to grow up.  My parent’s house was built in the late 1700’s and is surrounded by plenty of yard and woods, perfect for young adventurers–which my brothers and I most certainly were.  Many of the connections I had with nature at a young age, and have today, come from that house.  

Where to begin?  My father is definitely the one who pushed us into connecting with nature and realizing how important and inviting the outdoor world can be.  I remember walking in the woods with my family when I was very young and him quizzing us on what name belonged to which tree.  In our yard grows just about every kind of fruit that can survive New England winters.  We have peach, pear, apple, plum, and cherry trees.  There are two large raspberry bushes–one red and one yellow–and the border of our yard consists of tangled blackberry bushes.  We have garden and a compost pile, a clothesline, a chicken coop, and solar panels.  My dad would always tell us that most things that don’t have to be wasted, are.  He used to and still uses everything that grows in our yard.  Every year in the Fall we collect all the apples from the ground and press them to cider, the pears too.  The peaches we eat, along with the vegetables from the garden, and the eggs from the chickens.  All the berries get turned into jam.  My father is a jamming fanatic.  Growing up, in the summertime my house always smelled like boiling raspberries–which is one of my all time favorite smells.  One of my favorite things about growing up how and where I did, is that we got to see nature being used everyday.  We saw raw materials that grew right outside our door, transformed into something delicious.  When my brother and I were very young we would stay outside for hours, seeing how long we could live off of the fruits and veggies from the yard.  The game always ended out of boredom rather than hunger, and with my father telling us to stop eating all the tomatoes.  

Although my dad is definitely the person who really loves the outdoors, my mother was also a huge influence growing up.  This class is very appealing to me because of the blend of literature and nature.  And, like my mother before me, I am an English major.  While my father taught us to value the outdoor world, my mother showed us the world of literature.  She specifically loves the theatre and I sat through more plays than any child should, not that I didn’t love them.  In class I keep thinking about a trip to New York City that I went on with my her last spring.  We went to Central Park and it was the first time I had ever been there.  We went to the Shakespeare Garden and as a nature loving English major, it was one of the coolest places I’ve ever been.  As you walk through the garden, there are plaques among the flowers which read nature related quotes from Shakespeare’s works.  It was such a beautiful, artistic balance of literature and nature.  I think that literature and nature have many similar qualities.  I, myself, get the same salubrious experience from reading a good book as I do from experiencing a truly beautiful moment in nature.  I think it is easy to lose yourself in either one.  

 

Dynamic Environmentalism

Environmentalism is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as: “advocacy of the preservation, restoration, or improvement of the natural environment; especiallythe movement to control pollution”

Environmentalism is a social movement, a lifestyle, an area of study, and much more. The overarching meaning of the word though is universal across all of its many forms and variations– the idea that the environment, and all of the living and nonliving things in it, must be protected and preserved from human activity. How then, do we, as humans, connect to the environment, the “more than human world”, in a way that makes environmentalism possible?

There are many different ways in which people feel connected to the more-than-human-world.The most prevalent connection I have to the natural world is through wildlife and animals in general—wildlife biology is my passion and its what I want to pursue after college. However, others have a variety of ways in which they feel connected to the natural world, many of which are very different from wildlife and biology.

Photo by Corentin Marzin on Unsplash

It is interesting to hear what kinds of outdoor activities others take part in, what places they travel to, and what causes they identify with, all of which define their relationships with the more-than-human-world. This variety of passions and interests makes me think about how, on a larger scale, the rest of the world views the environment, and therefore how they view environmental protection and environmentalism in general. Some people view the environment as something that provides us with clean air, water, and food, and will continue to do so, no matter what. These people view the environment as something that is there for our convenience as humans. While others view the environment as a dynamic, living entity, which is extremely sensitive to our actions. And even more so, many people view us–humans– as a part of this living, breathing, environment. Obviously, as a biology major, I fall into the last category—I feel as though the environment is a very delicate, yet powerful thing, and each and every one of our actions has an impact on it—either good or bad. The other views of the environment mentioned however, may still cause a person to be a proponent of environmentalism.

One may also think about how others thoughts on the environment—whether positive or negative— are spread. This is where environmental writing comes into play. Traditionally, I would think of environmental writing as books and journal or magazine articles—professionally published pieces of writing. However, it seems that with the amount of communication done online today, environmental writing can be in the form of blog posts (like this) or even other social media posts (like Facebook or Twitter). This means that, compared to one hundred years ago, the environment and environmentalism (along with other topics of concern) can be discussed much more often and broadly.

 

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

 

With that being said, I do believe that environmental writing in the form of books and journals, and even social media posts (when backed up with facts) can have an enormous impact on environmentalism as a social movement. And because of this diversity in communication, I believe that “environmentalism” is a rapidly changing social movement. For some, being an “environmentalist” is a lifestyle—they dedicate their entire lives to respecting the earth in every way possible, perhaps by living “off the grid”. For others, it’s simply a belief that the earth should be respected and protected—these are people like environmental studies professors and students, but can also people of other backgrounds and professions as well. This brings me back to the idea mentioned earlier, of how people connect themselves with the more-than-human world in a variety of ways. For one person it could be recycling, and for another it could be never buying a plastic bottle again.

Ramachandra Guha mentions the forms that “environmentalism” can take– it can be local, national, global, or even cultural. It seems, however, that in order for the environmentalism movement to make an impact on the way we, as humans, live, it must be present in all of these forms, and perhaps more. Take environmentalism on the local level– this could be, for example, Keene State College’s Eco Reps’ initiative to “ban the bottle.” This is a movement to ban the use of non-reusable plastic bottles on campus. Were this to become a reality, it may then spread, perhaps regionally at first, and then maybe even nationally (there are campuses across the country that have successfully “banned the bottle” already!) On the other hand, environmentalism in the form of culture could be the way in which Pueblo Indians lived, as described through poetry in Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island. Living in a way that respects the natural world is not a social movement to the Pueblo Indians like environmentalism is to us as Americans today– but it is a culture that we, as people living in the “modern world” can learn from and borrow ideas from in order to live more sustainably.

So, as can be seen through these two examples, the idea of the many “forms” of environmentalism mentioned by Guha has much merit and perhaps should be utilized more often in order to spread the ideas and goals of the environmental movement. As was mentioned earlier, the environment is viewed in a variety of ways, depending on the individual. It would be smart therefore, to communicate environmentalism in many forms– in campaigns, poetry, marches, scientific writing, art, etc.– in order to ensure this movement is not only reaching as many people as possible, but also resonating with as many people as possible.

Environmentalism is a dynamic concept in the year 2017, and I’m excited to explore the events and pieces of writing that made it what it is today throughout this course.

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Writing in an Endangered World: The Task we are Charged with

In a world where humanity and technology are seeping through the cracks of the natural landscape, writing about nature and what it means to be part of the essence that is ingrained deeply within our existence becomes infinitely more important. This change seems to be inevitable; passive yet constantly progressing. Like the dunes of a beach being slowly eroded by the lapping waves of an infinite ocean, the natural world is constantly in tension with the human world. We are unavoidably connected to nature through our own being. The only reason we as humans exist on earth is a result of a number of incredible natural circumstances working together in perfect harmony.

We write about nature because we are part of nature. To separate ourselves from nature is to separate ourselves from the wild spirit that lies within us. Naturalists like John Muir, Gifford Pinchot and Aldoe Leapold all believed that preserving the worlds forests and ecological world was direly important.  John Muir saw nature as a temple in which one would find solace and rest ones mind, body and soul.  He said in his 1912 book The Yosemite, that “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” When Yosemite and its National Parks were being threatened by a huge dam, Muir rallied to save this incredible landscape. He believed that taking away the parks would be taking away a piece of the human spirit. The brutish and impure shadow of civilization and industry would crush the light and purity of nature and the forests. These opposing forces, just like the waves eating at the sandy shore, will inevitably be in constant tension.

Just like in the time of Gifford Pinchot and his Forest Service, increased desires to find fuel of all types is increasing. Crude oil is obviously something that has dominated our economy and devastated our home. But other forms of more dependable energies are also destructive, just as in Yosemite. John Muir and Gifford Pinchot had differing viewpoints on nature. Pinchot was a conservationist, while Muir was a preservationist. These two terms are often seen as synonymous with each other when in actuality are quite different, Conservation is using the resources that nature has to provide, but using them wisely. Preservation, which Muir advocated for, is the desire to leave nature in its perfection–untouched.

As writers in a teetering world, we are charged with reflecting on our feelings about our tenuous existence on earth.

 

 

Thoughts on Writing and Nature in my Life

In the interest of total transparency, I must admit that before entering the class on day one I had no idea what “Writing in an Endangered World” meant, in fact, I originally signed up for the class since I’ve had a class with Professor Long before and knew his teaching style. I figured that the class most likely had to do with the reading of Thoreau and other authors of his time and did not really extend that thought into current times or include novels that went outside of America. That’s not to say that my only idea of Environmental Writing has totally eluded me nor has the idea of Environmentalism, both have been prevalent in my life and have shown up in different classes that I have taken here at Keene such as English 215. I’m looking forward to learning more about what Writing in an Endangered World actually is instead of my first impressions from the title of the class. After the first couple of classes as well as reading the descriptions of the books as I bought them I was able to get a better understanding of what this course will entail and am pretty excited about what I can learn from the class

While making my new blog I ended up finding my previous blog that I had set up my freshman year of college. It was interesting to take a look back at my previous writings that I did in 215 and see how much my writing has changed since I began my college career. I’m often embarrassed to look back at my previous work, to read what I wrote in the past. I often question my previous self both in how I wrote and what I wrote about. Looking back at my previous work I also see how much of my previous work was half assed and how little effort I would put into it, not for every piece but for those that I did it’s pretty apparent.

I’ve always been close to nature, I often joke that I live in the middle of the woods which if one saw where I lived they would say that that joke is not that far off from the truth. I was fortunate enough to grow up in an area that I could look outside my window and have a glimpse into a world away from the human world. I was able to look outside and see birds, deer, moose, rabbits, and many other animals that are native to New Hampshire. From my living room window, I can see Mt Monadnock and a beautiful sight of sunsets at night. I often find it difficult to comprehend that in some areas people don’t have the same access to nature that my family and I does, that some people’s only interactions with nature are small parks and decorative trees lining the streets. It astounds me when I go into Boston and look up at the night sky and see just darkness looking back at me, all the stars that I see at home blocked out by the light pollution of the city, it feels lonely in a way. Some kids don’t get the same experiences that I had as a child and continue to have as an adult. For me field trips in school meant going to butterfly sanctuaries, exploring the trails in the parks that were around us, and going on hikes up mountains. In elementary school, we had conservation classes where we would learn about how to treat our world better and how to enjoy what we have. These classes were my first introduction to Environmentalism and Conservation and served as a great way for me and the other students in my class to get interested in nature. I was also fortunate enough to be able to take part in cub scouts and then boy scouts, both of which have a strong connection to camping and “The Great Outdoors” which allowed me to foster my love of nature even further. Through Boy Scouts, I learned about the flora and fauna of New England as well as how peaceful nature can be. The one downside of our camping trips is that it would often rain the entire time we were there and then normally let up the day that we were supposed to leave, though on the Brightside nothing is more relaxing than the sound of rain hitting the top of a tent. Looking back a lot of my early childhood connected me to nature, though as I grew up and moved onto middle and high school I lost a lot of those connections due to the clubs and activities I moved onto. I still saw nature around me but no longer went camping or hiking like I once did. I would often be working on homework for so long after I got home from clubs that by the time I finished there was no time for anything else. I look forward to venturing once again into exploring nature through this class and hopefully leaving the campus to experience what Keene has to offer.

 

 

 

Society vs. Nature

My car lifts me lightly off my seat as I turn the wheels off of the smooth pavement and onto a dirt road. I roll down my window, letting the wind rush in and stir my hair until I disappear behind a curtain of forest. Behind the curtain, a chorus of crickets sing, only quieting when the soft crackle of rocks beneath my tires comes closer. After passing a vacant pond, the road narrows, and I begin climbing up a steep incline. Winding up the hill in a sort of zigzag formation, I am now deep in a tunnel of green. Tree branches lean over and shake hands above my head. Streams flow past me on either side, beer cans embedded in the soft mud. Moving up the hill with ease, I stop for a moment to let a family of turkeys cross the road, and watch as they settle into a field of ferns beneath a canopy of tall maples. I start driving again, moving up the final stretch of road that’s bordered by sap lines and rock walls, and then I see it in the distance:  a log house, nestled in the woods of Vermont.

I grew up on Wildlife Road — a sanctuary — where the closest sign of commercial life is 20 minutes away. I grew up in the woods, with dirt between my toes, burdock on my clothes, and flowers in my hair. I remember running through the woods at my brothers’ heels, collecting all the wildflowers my small arms could handle. I remember snowshoeing alongside deer tracks with my mom, a thermos of hot chocolate in my hands.

I often wonder who I would be if I had been brought up anywhere but here. How would I have turned out if my childhood memories were composed of concrete and suburbia? If I wasn’t immersed in nature my whole adolescence, would I be as in love with nature as I am today?

In class this past week, Professor Long mentioned the term biophilia, coined by E.O Wilson, it means that humans have an inherent need to connect to the natural world along with other forms of life as well. This struck me as profound and reminded me of our assignment to bring in an artifact that represented our connection to the more than human world. This assignment got me thinking. All of us have something that ties us to nature, but what about the people who deny the existence of climate change and reject the need to protect and conserve ecosystems around the world? Do these people have a happy place where the sun hits their face just right? Do they have a childhood memory of hiking with the biggest smile planted across their face? Do they remember a time when they were just as in touch with nature as E.O. Wilson claimed all humans to be? I’m sure they do, so how can they be so close-minded when it comes to the conservation of our planet?

If we agree with Wilson’s assertion of biophilia, then it seems unlikely that any human could be indifferent to the destruction of nature and all it has to offer, and yet there are powerful people in this world who openly say climate change is nothing more than a myth, and pollution does not, in fact, have a negative effect on our environment at all. Something has shifted within society. People seem to care less and less about the effect we are having on the world and more about material things that satisfy them in the moment. Take, for example, plastic bags. Sure they are convenient in the moment but in the long run, plastic isn’t biodegradable and it is made up of nothing more than nasty chemicals which take a toll on wildlife and their habitats. As Professor Long pointed out in class, humans used to live as a part of nature, but now, we live apart from it. There are still nature lovers and protectors out there of course, but now there is just so much to distract us from the fact that we, the human race, are killing what we were meant to live in harmony with.

In elementary school, we would go for a lot of hikes around the Upper Valley, and I remember one particular teacher who used to say to us, “Experience nature, don’t let nature experience you”. This has stuck with me ever since I first heard it, and to this day, I think it is one of the most useful pieces of advice I have ever received. I won’t be the first person to say it, but humans are destructive as hell, and sadly, it seems to only get worse as time goes on. My road –naturally beautiful, and named rightly so– is not even safe from the destruction. When my parents bought the land our house now rests on, they had to clear cut trees, in other words, they had to disrupt beauty to live among it. To a certain extent I think this is okay because if we never made a spot for ourselves in the natural world, it would eat us alive, but what I do have an issue with is people destroying nature simply because it serves their own selfish interests. For example, on my road, and on basically any road I have ever traveled on, there is trash. Cans, cigarette butts, plastic, and broken glass litter nature for no good reason other than because someone was too lazy to throw their trash away in the proper place. This is the kind of thing that biophilia doesn’t explain. If the relationship between humans and nature is so innate then why is it that we seem to only be able to exist in opposition? I almost feel like the definition of biophilia should be something more like: humans have the inherent desire to affiliate with other forms of life, unfortunately hurting the natural world in the process.

People’s connection to nature is powerful, but I can’t help but also think about how we unintentionally, and sometimes intentionally, harm it. Cars pump toxic gasses into the atmosphere. Eating meat creates harmful greenhouse gasses, and causes deforestation at major rates. People run their water as if we have an infinite supply when there are people in Flint, Michigan who already don’t have safe drinking water. Plastic and oil infest the ocean, killing marine life, and destroying underwater habitats such as coral reefs. It’s overwhelming just to write about, and I didn’t even list a fraction of the problems environments and animals face today.

On one hand, people have a strong desire to experience and be a part of nature, but on the other, people abuse and take advantage of all that the natural world gives to us. It’s much like a vicious cycle that is constantly being fed until it eventually will just spin out of control. So lately I’ve been finding myself wondering, can humans and mother Earth truly live in harmony together, or is it inevitable that we exist at odds with one another until the end of time?