For the Conservation Curious

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Why is the Environment Important? March 19, 2010

As someone who spends roughly 75 percent of her waking moments thinking about and acting on environmentally-related topics, I get asked with regular frequency why I care so much about the environment.  Many of my friends lovingly call me a tree-hugger and granola lover, and that’s ok.  I have literally hugged some trees in my day and I am a fan of the whole grain treat, but there is so much more to appreciating the natural world around us.  It shouldn’t be a fringe thing that only liberal lefties and right-wing hunters enjoy; it is something that everyone, from the high-rise apartment city-dweller to the rural dude rancher, can come to treasure. 

So why is the environment important?  I should qualify that by asking why is a clean, well-preserved environment important?  Sure, we could appreciate any old environment – one that is polluted, one that is dominated by only 1-2 plants, one that is a concrete moonscape – but that’s not the environment I want to appreciate, and I hope it’s not the one you want either.  A clean, well-preserved environment is important for so many reasons: it gives us clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, an abundance of food to choose from, pretty flowers to look at, shade from trees to keep us cool, birds to watch, and so many more reasons.  The possibilities are nearly endless.  But on a more personal level, my next few blog posts will go into some reasons why I have dedicated my life towards environmental conservation.  I hope that you can relate to one or more of these reasons and see why everyone should be an environmentalist.

Where will we be if 100 years from now no one can tell the difference between an oak and a maple tree?  That might not seem like such a big deal but it hints at a much more serious issue – if no one knows about the environment and what it takes to keep it in good shape then who will stop the polluters? Who will come up with innovative ways to mitigate climate change?  Who will protect the last few individuals of an endangered species?  Those are questions that I think about a lot.

I don’t have any children of my own but I am involved in environmental education and outreach through my job.  I see this as one of the most important aspects of what I do because if I can build an appreciation for the natural world in youths, then hopefully they will take what they’ve learned back to their parents, spreading the message even further.  And the message I share with them, as I share with you right now, is that the environment is important because it is here.  If every last person were gone from the planet, the environment would still be just as important.  It doesn’t take human appreciate to give it it’s worth; the environment is worthy in and of itself.  But that being said, because there are still billions and billions of people on this blue and green orb the environment is valuable because we need it to survive.  There isn’t a space station large enough to house us all indefinitely, and the moon’s atmosphere is non-existant, so we must take care of this, the only world we have. 

For those people out there that think we can continue to live as large as we want, taking and using and disposing without a thought to the consequences, I have to wonder what their thought process is.  Do they really have no regard for future generations or even their own well-being, for that matter?  Are the blinders on so well that they cannot see past tomorrow?  I don’t want to sound too preachy or too tree-huggerly but when you’re passionate about something, it’s difficult to control! But ponder with me for a moment about what the world could look like if our children’s children can’t tell the difference between a squirrel and a skunk.  If they are so used to the rivers being unswimmable and the air unbreathable that they cannot imagine a world that is beautiful and worth saving.  That, to me, is utterly horrifying to think of. 

I don’t want to end this on a down note, however.  I wouldn’t be doing the job that I do if I thought that all was lost.  It is true many are out for profit and short-term gains rather than the long-term stability of our economy and environment, but there are many that buck those ideas and strive for better.  People are realizing that being “green” can bring them green, in the form of money savings and increased profit.  They are realizing that being environmentally-friendly can be friendly to their pocket books and year-end profits too.  So as the newest generations age, I have faith that they will see the importance of the environment (a clean and well preserved one at that).

 

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