Discover your own connection to natural world
A bit of wisdom I read in school, and came across again recently, is that a person won’t protect what they don’t love, and they can’t love what they don’t know. I’ve found this to be true of the forests, mountains and lakes of our Monadnock, and even more true in certain built-up cities I’ve visited.
Many people can identify a mountain or two in their local geography, and many can identify at least a handful of species of birds, trees, or rocks. Some people experience a much more intimate knowledge of nature, like our neighbors who are hunters, farmers, and foresters, whose very livelihood depends on their ability to anticipate her cycles, to sense the difference between the calls of predator and prey, to know the chemistry of the soil. A few people take the study of ecosystems so far as to become students or teachers of ecology, and their love and protection of nature is a benefit to us all.
Most people, however, are not vitally dependent on knowing how the natural world works for their survival. Most can take for granted access to clean water, the reliable warmth of a modern heating system, and a secure food supply. So it is difficult for most to conceive of why ecology and ecological threats should be taken so seriously. What does it matter if I know where my food comes from, or who grew it? Why should I question who has shaped the laws that govern the protection of rivers, salamanders, or farmland? What difference does it make whether I buy my electricity, clothing, or vegetable seeds from one company or the other?
Every place has its story: the story of its geology, its weather and seasons; the story of its indigenous people, its waters and wildlife. I have seen how it can affect a person to know the story of a place, how it evokes awareness, a sense of connection, and even — a term I used at the beginning — love. It may be love for the memory of a tree house built with friends on the back edge of a yard, love for the experience of fishing for trout with an elder relative, love for the bread you swap with your neighbor for eggs.
With Valentine’s Day coming, might I suggest a few ways to kindle that love? Whether you already feel grounded in the natural world or are “not a nature lover,” there is always room for surprise. You might be astonished at how walking out on a frozen lake and gazing up at the stars can spark a new perspective on the most difficult problems. Take a younger friend with you — school-age kids are expert explorers — and see a new discovery unfold through their eyes. Plant an heirloom variety of melon or bean this year (see if you can get seeds locally!) and taste something truly special.
Share your story of place with others, and see the connections unfold.
Jess Gerrior is the Sustainability Coordinator and educator at Franklin Pierce University. She lives in Antrim, where she pores over seed catalogs and climbs trees with her three rowdy children.