This month's APLS carnival asks:
What is "nature" in the first place? What makes nature so powerful or meaningful? How has your experience with the natural world shaped your own environmentalism?
Last weekend I traveled across the state into my old stomping ground, Western Mass. I was headed to visit my best friend from college. When I arrived Friday night we grabbed dinner and spent some time exploring the natural food stores. We found some really interesting bits of nature there, including emu eggs! They are huge and green and amazing. While our first interaction with nature occurred in the warmth and safety of a store, it transported us to thoughts of a distant environment. Seeing eggs isn't normally an exciting experience (although I do get a certain warm glow from buying my local and organic 6 packs) but seeing such an exotic variety prompts thoughts of why on earth eggs should be green and sparkle. Was Dr. Seuss familiar with emu eggs when he wrote his story Green Eggs and Ham?
Saturday brought a more typical experience with nature: a hike. Getting to take trek through the snow, where the tracks of animals who had passed that way were prevalent and visible, and seeing the different ways the vegetation was coping with the weather was a great experience. The view from the peak was awe inspiring; seeing the towns surrounding us, mixed in with all the trees and meadows had a wonderfully calming and peaceful effect. Getting some fresh air, exercising and spending time with great people added to the overall effect. Plus, since the trail was covered in packed down snow, it had created what we visualized to be a luge track. My friend and I had worn snow pants and so when we headed back down the mountain, we just sat down on all the slanted portions and let gravity do its thing. That was way more fun than it should have been. Sliding down a trail in the middle of the woods brings out the pure glee I associate with five year olds. The quiet of a snowy forest, combined with the giggles and shrieks of adults acting like kids: now that is an excellent way to experience nature.
On Sunday we went sledding, and actually used sleds. It was a lot of fun, but we were on a hill on campus, facing a parking lot and a building. It definitely didn't have the same feel as being in the middle of the woods, or of being able to slide without needing plastic. We tried to slide down the hill without the sleds to recreate the experience from the previous day, but couldn't because the snow was too wet by then. Even so, it wouldn't have been the same, without the canopy of trees over the narrow trail, packed down only by other hikers seeking the same peaceful journey and rewarding view we had accomplished.
My efforts to conserve are definitely motivated by my experiences with nature. Whether it be a distant creature I've never encountered or the forests that surround my neighborhood, I want nature to continue running its course uninterrupted. I want to buy materials harvested sustainably, so that those farms or forests will continue to be prosperous and the land won't lay barren. But also, I want to make sure that no one has to infringe on what land is left near me. I'm selfish, and I want my forests to stay forests, so I try to do what I can to keep everyone else from needing them for lumber, farming or building.