Ed. Note: We are happy to share this reader response, which is part of a series developed by environmental science students at Loyola University Chicago from the course Environmental Sustainability.
What happens when we see ourselves as separate from nature? Simply put, we are only humans without nature. But can we really say that we are not a part of nature just because we don’t put the effort in to going out and seeing the beauty of our world? Every day we go outside to get to work or school. Every day we pass grass, and flowers, and trees in order to arrive at our destinations. Unless you lock yourself inside your home and never come out. Nothing that we do will stop us from encountering nature. But in that case, you’d be putting your entire life on pause. Taking yourself away from nature is like taking yourself away from life. There is so much beauty and growth that comes from being a part of nature. Not only do we see what the world has to offer, but you also get to experience the beauty and the peace that nature has to offer.
During a brief nature walk, I was able to experience something that I haven’t felt in what feels like a lifetime. That is peace. Juggling between school and work it can become quite difficult to find time to just relax and enjoy some time for myself. During this nature walk, I had to be a part of nature, meaning no talking and no listening to music or being on my phone. At first, this seemed difficult for me because whenever I have time to relax I usually pick up my phone and go through my social media. During this walk, since I wasn’t allowed to use it, I was able to see the full extent of what nature can really do for you. Not only did I see so much beauty on my campus, but it was also so peaceful to just listen to all of the different sounds of the insects and of the birds. I think my favorite part of the nature walk was listening to the buzz of the cicadas all around me. I am so happy that I was able to take those twenty minutes and just walk around my campus without any distraction and to let go of any worries that I had (or at least for those twenty minutes), and just focus on how I felt.
In an essay written by Rachel Carson called “Silent Spring,” Carson writes how humans are the species that can alter or modify the environment. Although her essay shows a negative approach to this outcome, humans can have a positive effect on the environment. For example, for the past few weeks, I have been volunteering with the Friends of the Forest Preserves. During this time I have learned new and different ways as to how I can help the environment grow. A couple of ways that I help are to collect seeds, prepare seeds, and to clear out buckthorn. Being able to be there and physically see the change that I am making proves that people can have a positive outcome on the environment. Not only does it help heal the environment, but being in nature is a bit unreal. It feels like time passes so slow but at the same time so fast. You are no longer in the material world so after a while you start to realize that this is the real world. The one where you are surrounded in nature and on Earth.
Many people struggle to understand that nature is a part of who we are. It has proven time and time again that it is a healing factor in our lives. The small amount of time that I spent outside during my nature walk, with no distractions and just taking everything in, made me feel cleansed. That’s something that I needed during a time of stress. Not only did it calm me down, but it also made me feel like everything is where it should be. I think many people lose this sense of peace with nature because there might not be enough time. Being a part of nature doesn’t mean that you have to take hours out of your day to go on a hike or go to the beach. It can simply be sitting outside on the porch or balcony for a few minutes and just breathing in the fresh air and listening to the sounds around you. Not only will this bring a momentary sense of peace but it will feel as if the whole world is at peace with you.
Earth is a beautiful planet. It provides life to so many different and unique types of species. It also provides a place for everyone as well. Although each species has its own community we are all connected as one. Although we can’t be a part of every single one of these communities we can do something to support and help them. This means taking care of our environment and communities. We as a whole have to learn to do a better job at cleaning up after ourselves and doing what we can to preserve the natural beauty of our world.