Why–and How–do we choose to nurture Nature?

There are some people who leave college knowing their chosen degrees will make them money, make them successful, and take them to fancy restaurants and big cities.  There are other people who leave college knowing that… Well… They love being outside.  And they’ll probably live in lots of places across the country before coming back to school for more credentials.  And then they’ll probably live in a few more places before they land a job in which they feel secure enough to stay.  That life sounds adventurous, to be sure, but it is often not secure, assured, easy, or lucrative.
Why bother?  Do these people have more drive, more lofty sense of destiny than those in the fancy careers with money and power?  No.  Not more drive, just different drive.  I do not believe that someone in one career could begin to assume that someone in another career has less drive or less of an eternal perspective.  Many people are here to do many different things.
So why willingly go into a career you know could mean never taking international vacations for lack of funds?  Why choose to go back to graduate school for more school and more school if you know that you will still walk into a salary at what some business people walk into at the age of 22?
We must.  Someone must.  It might as well be those that hear the cry.
That sounds pretty fatalist: as if I were resigning myself to a fate that is less than appealing.  You know, some days, it is just that.  That’s part of why I’m forcing myself to write this now.  There are reasons those of us in the natural resource field stick it out–reasons I, too, need to be reminded of this week.

. . .

The out of doors is the best classroom.  Sure, this isn’t true for all people, as we all come to understand new concepts differently.  But there are some of us that learn best while we are standing in the middle of cold rain, or among greenbriar vines, or in the warming spring sun.  Some of us learn best by experiencing firsthand why trees grow the way they do, or what exactly a “wetland” is, or why poison ivy’s scientific name is Toxicodendron radicans…  We need that kind of classroom.
The out of doors is the only place like it.  As far as we know, there’s only one Earth, and we’re on it.  We all have one outdoor classroom in which to learn.  Whether we immerse ourselves in it daily, or just on the weekends, we all need the out of doors, and we have one shot to keep it.
The out of doors needs help.  Most everyone knows this by now, with the news often riddled with stories of the newest animal-born disease, or climate change (yes, it’s happening, just accept it). or the impending “big one” in California and the other “big one” in Yellowstone.
Who better to help it than those that learn the best in it?  Those that need it to stay sane?  Those who stand on a mountain and hear its cry?  Those that would much rather spend days in muddy boots, holey pants, and beat up trucks than suits, ties, and fancy cars.  We love this land, we are who we are because of this land, so we will do our damnedest to protect it.

. . .

All this sounds very inspiring and logical, or to me it does, but…that doesn’t make the process easier.  That doesn’t particularly help me, now, when I’m feeling run down and discouraged at career outlooks, research outcomes, red tape ridiculousness, and budget shortcomings.

Maybe that’s why this post has been brewing for days, instead of getting churned out in an hour.

How do you write to inspire love for the very thing with which you are currently disenchanted?  How do you separate yourself from your insecurities surrounding your practical ability to be an agent of change?  

. . .

When I become disenchanted, I think of Aldo Leopold, John Muir, and UGA’s own Bob Warren. These men inspire others with their essays, their legacies, and their face-to-face communications.  They have all stood and listened to the call of the Earth, the call for respect, for awe, for fear, and for help.  They have all–at least briefly–understood the howl of the wolf, they have understood what it means to be in a landscape without wolves–or deer–or fire–or natural balance.  They have all seen the natural world during and through times of struggle.  It is a hard road.  Hard.  It would be easier to throw my hands up and say, “whatever, this world will make it until I’m dead, probably, or at least until I’m too old to care.”

I can’t.  We can’t.  I have stood on the mountain and listened.  I have heard and seen what a world without balance looks like.  I have seen hillsides scarred by our own work.  I cannot, no matter how frustrated I get, give up on that cry, that yearning to understand the howl of the wolf.  Those of us that hear it, is it not our duty to be human voices for it?  Those of us that hear the cry of the Earth asking us to nurture it, can we not turn deaf ears to it?  Those of us who need the out of doors to stay sane, can we not stifle that and lead lives of quiet desperation?

No.  Well, we could.  But.  That call is irresistible, even in the darkest of moods.  The call reaches there, in the deepest part of us, to remind us that we don’t know, we can’t fully know the objective cry of the wolf.  But we have to try.


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