When I think back to my childhood, some of my favorite memories include wading through a local creek looking for crayfish, catching red efts at my Grandparent’s farm, and hiking through the mountains of Pennsylvania. I felt at home in nature and was constantly intrigued and amazed by the beauty surrounding me. Today, time spent in nature stills feels like coming home and conjures up feeling of gratefulness. I realize that these experiences are not shared among everyone.
I want you to consider what you are most grateful for in your life.
Let this sink in.
Perhaps, it is your family, a special person or group of people. Perhaps, it is your journey, the experiences, good and bad, that have shaped you into the unique person you are. Or, perhaps, it is your faith, a set of values that supports your belief in something greater than yourself.
Hold on to your thought.
In May 2013, I traveled to Cape Town, South Africa with Bucknell University students and faculty to study the lasting effects of apartheid. While there, I learned a valued term known as, “Ubuntu,” which means, “I am because you are.” One small word that suggests the interconnectivity of all things. The term moved me deeply and even today is incredibly powerful to me. Translated personally, I see that the people who come in and out of my life, those who stay for a brief moment or for many years, have all impacted me and contributed to the person I am today and will be tomorrow.
Let’s return to your original thought: what YOU are grateful for. Like Ubuntu describes, we (and all that we are thankful for) exist because of our connections to one another. Now, imagine if nature, your surrounding environment, was in poor health…
What if your family lacked access to clean drinking water or unpolluted air?
What if your journey was interrupted by a natural disaster: a hurricane, tornado, or drought?
What if there was no creation or planet Earth to worship?
As you can see, our connections to one another do not end with people we encounter, they are intimately woven into the environment in which we live. Charles Cook, author of “Awakening to Nature,” wrote, “Your deepest roots are in nature. No matter who you are, where you live, or what kind of life you lead, you remain irrevocably linked with the rest of creation.” Each and every one of us is affected by the environment, and we have an effect on the environment in return.
In November 2016, COP22 will occur in Morocco. Leaders from around the world will once again meet to implement plans of action to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. It is undeniably a powerful meeting of world leaders. But, positive change for the environment cannot be made solely by politicians and scientists. It will take action by all people.
My passion lies at the intersection of the environment and humanity. I love nature but recognize that climate change is also an issue of human rights. My dedication to protecting nature stems from a passion for the environment and an understanding of its threats. I envision a future where we all recognize our individual connections to the environment and actively contribute our strengths to making the world a better place.
We each have our own stories filled with people, places, and experiences that we are grateful for. Despite our differences, we are all united by the planet we live on. We have the power to create positive changes that can lead to global change for the environment. I challenge you to consider your connection to the environment, how it influences your loved ones, your journey, and your surroundings. Before positive change is possible, we need to care about the environment in need. In the end, I hope that nature is grateful for us. Ultimately, we are because nature is.