What does nature mean? Is it a place of raw beauty? Is it the idea of an untouched civilization? I find that in environmental literature we either get romanticism or realism. We grow up reading and learning that nature is a spiritual place, as Thoreau would agree, and that we have to immerse ourselves in it otherwise we will have lost some key characteristic of our childhoods. I was told many times as a child to “Go outside!” and “Stop watching t.v. and go ride your bike!”. It’s been instilled in my mind that nature is grass, trees and maybe some birds now and again. If I have grown up with such a simple view on nature, despite all the grand stories we had to read about it in school, there must be others out there who share the same view. To me it’s simple; we need more realism in our environmental literature.
We do not live in the times of Emerson and Thoreau. We have the world at our fingertips every single minute of the day. Times have changed, so why have we not changed the way we talk about the environment? We need to switch the conversation. In middle school we read Emily Dickinson poems about the Earth’s fragile creatures and now we read Emerson and Thoreau who preach romanticism. The problem is that nature is not fragile. We like to talk about it’s delicate symbiosis and environmentalists yell about how ‘every action we make effects the Earth’. It’s bullshit. Obviously the way we communicate is NOT working because no one is doing anything.
It is time to tell people the truth and stop sugar coating the bad news. We all know we are killing the planet but no one seems to give a damn about that. Why do we focus on the beauty of nature in poems when the second we step outside we forget about it? There is a disconnect between paper and reality, especially in paper that was written hundreds of years ago. But we keep reading it because it’s nice. Because for a minute we’re taken to another world that hasn’t destroyed the Earth. We have to bring people back to reality.
One of the themes in “A Sand County Almanac” is conservation. Leopold writes about people’s attitudes towards conservation and I believe it is still very relevant to the attitudes people have today. There are few people who want the world to blow up. We all live on this planet so obviously we would like to be able to breathe clean air and not eat poisoned food. This is why everyone wants to save the planet, but no one follows through. Conservation takes action, not just sentiment.
I feel like we’ve grown up coddled on romantic stories, and when we see the world failing, we remember those stories and think things will be ok. They won’t. Are we scared to push current news onto the youth? When we grow up we’re all surprised about how bad the Earth is, and that’s because no one told us when we were young. So now they just expect us to care about it? No. And that’s the problem! They grow up and DON’T CARE ABOUT IT BECAUSE NO ONE TAUGHT THEM THEY NEED TO.
We will all grow up and watch the world burn, but at least we read Thoreau.