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.
Cars flying by with horns blaring, gates of apartment complexes banging, and the occasional gunshots here and there. I have yet to master sleeping peacefully at night in the city and think of my times back home. The south suburbs of Chicago has always had its benefits and its downfalls, but having the chance of living on three acres in an unincorporated part of my hometown has been one of the richest parts of my life. I resided in a part where I couldn’t simply walk to my friend's house, walk to the park or school. It was rural with no sidewalks, houses on acres of land, patches of woods in between. I was forcibly immersed into nature and loved every second of it.
I’d wake up and check on my ‘pet’ toads under plants and rocks, playhouse in the woods, and pretended that I knew every deer I saw. When it rained heavily, a small stream would develop on our driveway and worms tended to get stuck on the pavement, far from the safety of the grass. When the sun came out I always made an effort to move them all back into the dirt. I would also pick out little minnows out of the gravel at the end of our street, where an overflow drain from a local pond dumped into a sewer system. During one of these times, my neighbor came out of her house and asked me, “what on Earth are you doing?!”, and I think that question in itself was more of the answer.
What are we doing on Earth? Are we thinking about the small lives being affected by ours? There seems to be no true answer that we can collectively come together on. When I was younger I did not consider my life more important than a small minnow. Why do we forget that other lives are important? How did we get to this point? I believe we are so egotistical and influenced to live in such a capitalistic life that we will make any costs necessary, even at the expense of others. We deny the fact that our food choices are the main cause of global warming, always want more, and never stop and take a minute to actually look at the bigger picture or the picture that created us. Disassociating ourselves from nature I believe is the main cause of this. We are meant to be in nature and to allow nature to occur. When we do not allow this to happen, so many things are thrown off. We become imbalanced in life.
We need to continue with sustainability projects and spreading knowledge of the environment. Reconnecting with nature is key to the success of our species, and reminding our inner child of the extraordinary world we come from. We have been so closed off from natural ways of living that we have almost forgotten unless one has grown into such a mindset. I’ve realized the importance of nature now living in a large city where clean air, animals, and peace is very selective. I find myself more stressed, anxious, and being so busy with coming into adulthood that I am not given the opportunity to appreciate nature or immerse myself in it. When we start asking ourselves, what on earth are we doing? Only then we will come together finding more solutions and peace that dissociation from our true natural selves has caused.
As I have gotten older, I have had to make more conscious decisions in my own actions and my future. When it came to deciding on my career, I knew I had to do something bigger than myself. As a political science major and environmental science minor, I plan to help communities bring nature back into their daily lives, and make it sustainable as possible. With using clean energy, energy efficient buildings, and preserving land for future generations, I think we can solve many issues. Not only must we come together with ideas, but we truly have to realize why. We can find peace among one another on a clean planet. Imagine the possibilities if countries simply focused on protecting our Earth. What would be worth fighting over, when we can collectively be progressive and passionate for something as pure as nature?
Purity is such a delicate thing. When we are children, we are amazed by the world and love all animals or creatures. As we get older and busier, we are forced to dissociate ourselves with nature. This is no way for us to continue, as beings on this planet. We are not the most important species living and need to reconnect with Earth. We need to allow ourselves to realize we are brothers and sisters working together for a bigger being. We need to find a way to incorporate recess in our adult lives. Taking that one moment of stepping outside, breathing fresh air, and just being is clearly important to our youth. It is no different when continue to grow as individuals.
Of course easier said than done, individuals must truly put the effort into this thought process. It is much easier to ignore these issues than to acknowledge our faults. Being passionate about nature is so important in this world. So many people are quick to conclude that we have doomed ourselves with a selfish world. In my mind that is just not the case. We have made so many progressions such as the Paris Agreement, to electric cars, to gardening in schools. Imagine if people went into communities struck by poverty and violence, and helped reinforce them through nature preservation and sustainable practices. How can we be segregated in such a beautiful world? We can solve our issues collectively and come together in nature is such an amazing way to do it. I hope one day my children can breathe cleaner air than I did twenty years ago, and find natural beauty even in cities. I hope that one day my friends are not afraid to go outside with the worries of gun violence, and can walk the beautiful streets of their communities. I hope one day we can immerse ourselves back into nature, and live the lives we were so preciously given, as we are only given it once.