Friday, February 20, 2009

Nature and the environment

I have had the opportunity to experience nature at its finest since before I can even remember. From the time I was an infant, my parents took me camping in national parks. We would spend weeks during the summer traveling – to the Olympias and Mt. Rainier in Washington, the Rockies in Colorado, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, Canyonlands in Utah, Grand Canyon in Arizona, Glacier in Montana, the Canadian Rockies, the list goes on, but those are some of the highlights.

Closer to home, we would go to Yosemite at least twice a year, sometimes more. In the summer we camped at Tuolomne Meadows and in autumn we would drive to the Valley Floor to see the leaves turning color. Sometimes we’d visit in the winter or springtime as well. I grew up floating on an air mattress in the Merced River, scrambling up the rocks of Lambert Dome, scooping up water from the Soda Springs (and adding Kool-aid to it to make it drinkable), and shivering in my sleeping bag in the chilly temperatures at 8000'.

When I grew up and moved to Oregon, I found a good hiking book and explored the Cascades – the trails in the Three Sisters Wilderness and the Jefferson Wilderness are my favorites. I got the opportunity of a lifetime to go to Kenya on a safari. Scott and I traveled to Mount Rainier, Crater Lake and Yosemite the first year we were dating, and we didn’t slow our pace much until Munchkin was born. Now, we’re returning to our favorite places hoping Munchkin will absorb some of the wonder even as he digs in the dirt at the campsites. :)

All this to say, I love beautiful places. There is nothing man can create that can possibly compare with what I see in the natural world. As a Christian, I wonder if God is giving us just a little taste of heaven. My environmentalism began both from my parents’ influence and also John Muir’s influence. John Muir’s fingerprints and philosophy are all over Yosemite, and the tragedy of Hetch Hetchy probably did more to promote his cause than anything else. It’s a tragedy that is still going on – they could decide to drain Hetch Hetchy tomorrow and let the land begin to recover. OK, this isn’t a post on Hetch Hetchy, sorry.

Long story short, that’s how I started out caring about the environment. That was before I knew about global warming, melting glaciers, smog clouds over China, mountaintop removal and the great pacific garbage patch. It turns out that there’s a lot more reasons to care than just preserving the natural beauty. This is much bigger than "I want to take Munchkin to see the glaciers before they’re all gone." People are suffering because of our failure to live sustainably. Deserts are growing, the sea level is rising, the coral reefs are dying, animal species are going extinct. The entire globe is sick.

The saddest part is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Even now, we could make changes that would allow the land to start to heal, allow threatened species to begin to recover, and improve the quality of life for the undeveloped world. There are a ton of good ideas out there that would make a positive difference.

I don’t have a neat and tidy way to wrap up this post. I’ll tell you one thing I find encouraging, though. My 4-year-old son asked me the other day if I would take him somewhere where he could watch solar panels being installed on a roof. And if we could put solar panels on our own roof when we get a new one. I think the youngest generation gets it.

This is my better-late-than-never contribution to the APLS "Nature and the Environment" Carnival. For more entries, click here.


Green Bean said...

Wonderful, Donna! You are so right. It doesn't have to be this way and we all can and should take steps, like Munchkin, to ensure that it won't always be this way.

Donna said...

Thanks, gb!