“Can you believe this?” I had said. “Are you seeing all of these flowers, these beautiful cacti? Look at the stars, they are absolutely spectacular!” I couldn’t help but make this proclamation as I walked along the mountain path. It was a warm desert night; the moon shown brightly upon myself, my friend, and the grand sea of Sonoran plants. That night, I had felt so connected to nature; one with the stars, one with the moon, and one with the earth. But my excitement was ultimately short lived. “Yeah, yeah plants are cool and it’s nice to have a full moon,” my friend had told me. “But c’mon. Look out there. We built that, people created that.”
The “that” he was talking about was the city of Tucson. From our path on the hill, we could clearly look out and see the lights of the city, close enough to make out the buildings and streets but still far enough to feel detached. I couldn’t deny that I saw the appeal of the bright city portrait but I didn’t feel that same excitement he did. An aspiring architect, he saw the world beauty in walls, streets, and buildings. An aspiring environmentalist, I found solace in the natural world, which was magnificent on its own and which didn’t include flashy city lights.
Growing up in the Sonoran Desert, with two environmentalist parents, I’ve always found a close friend in nature. Whether conservation activism, backpacking, hiking, gardening, or even just choosing to do homework in my backyard, I’ve always felt a deep connection to the natural world. In the time I spend outdoors, I can feel the air shift and my own tenor lighten. My love of nature, and deep concern for its future, is reflected in my career aspirations in conservation. With the specter of climate change, the accelerating loss of our natural areas, and with recent shifting political priorities, I feel that now more than ever is the time to dedicate ourselves to environmental action.
We now live in a world where nature is no longer easily accessible. Those who live in cities, can miss it for days, weeks, months, or even lifetimes. As a society, we have found comfort in our comfy, air conditioned houses and offices. I once heard a classmate say that she “hated dirt.” Dirt is all around us and she just couldn’t stand it. Having lost our greater emotional connection to nature will be detrimental not only to the survival of nature, but to the survival of our human race. We rely on our natural worlds’ resources. Without them we will literally cease to exist.
My friend should grow up to be an architect but he should also grow up seeing the beauty in the natural world. He should build LEED-certified buildings and take his children hiking. We must all connect to nature and learn to treat it more kindly. We can no longer afford not to.