Thoughts of Life, by Asif Chowdhury

I’ve been thinking a lot about what is the purpose of life. Why are we all here at this very moment? My parents told me as growing up that you will be a great engineer and be successful. So they sent me to college. After I get my degree, I am going to find a job in my field. Then I am going to get married and have kids. Then I am going to send my kids to college like I went and possibly retire when I am unable to function properly. Death will soon come and the cycle will continue with my kids and then their kids. Is this what we are meant to do from the very beginning of mankind?

The answer is absolutely no. As I sat in my spot today, I looked at the various plants around me. Although they were beautiful, I couldn’t tell what each plant was and their names. A couple weeks ago, I saw a big bird and didn’t know what it was, until recently I found out it was a Blue Heron. We have forgotten our ancestral skills. We don’t know how to hunt for food when we are hungry, use herbs as medicines, and how to survive. These skills were common in the old days because it was passed down from each generation. But now people work in a small region making money and pay someone to provide the food to us. Its like we are handicapped and cannot do things ourselves.

We claim that we are intelligent than ever before and our ancestors were brainless. But what good is the intelligence we have today when it’s destroying the world. There are far more natural disasters now than ever before. Weapons are being created for extinction of a whole country. Everything natural is being faded and its being replaced with scientifically modified objects.

Mary Oliver wrote in her poem, “I don’t know what death’s ultimate purpose is, but I think this: whoever dreams of holding his life in his fist year after year into the hundreds of years has never considered the owl–how he comes, exhausted, through the snow, through the icy trees, past snags and vines, wheeling out of barns and church steeples, turning this way and that way through the mesh of every obstacle–undeterred by anything –filling himself with a red and digestible joy sickled up from the lonely, white fields–“. Mary Oliver has a remarkable way of seeing at how life is. The owl goes through all the obstacles put forth without fearing death. But in the midst of all this snow, the owl is filled with happiness at the end of its journey.

We were meant to enjoy the nature like the way it was given to us. Instead of taking in Tylenol, which has side effects to relieve fever, using herbal medicine is a lot more effective because the body naturally recognizes the herb. Hunting for your own food is more satisfying than getting your meat from somewhere else since you know the animal you killed and the meat will be fresh. Though people might not like the wild because of the fear of death from wolves or other animals.

Life is like being on the edge of the waterfall. You try not to let the water take you down so you keep going the other direction. Although it is a battle to fight the current, in the end you will make it through.

The Leaves Within Us, by Amber Perlmutter

Witnessing the leaves change color as fall rounds the corner is one of my favorite parts of nature.  This week, the leaves on various trees have begun to change color in full swing.  What I once saw as a vast space of green just a few weeks ago has now turned into fiery colors of red, orange, and yellow.  I could stare at these vibrant leaves until they all begin to fall off and leave the trees naked for the winter to come.  The view is breathtaking and leaves me relaxed and relieved of all my stress.

Thinking about the different shades I see leaves a bigger impression and new realization on me: some things about these leaves are not much different than me or anyone else in the world.  When I think about how these leaves are connected to us, I think about the color of leaves versus the color of humans.  And no, I do not mean the color of our skin, but rather the color of our personalities and the color of who we are internally.  The color of green on the leaves in the summer can be compared to us by the peace, relaxation, and happiness we feel when something goes right in our lives; when we are accepting of whatever we are dealing with in that moment.

As the leaves begin to turn to a golden yellow, rich orange, and fierce red, this can represent a wide range of emotions that human face in their lives.  The yellow and orange that we see in the leaves can be represented by us by cheerful outcomes, such as a good grade or the sun shining down on us at the beach in the summer.  We can associate the deep shades of red with anger or frustration we are feeling in our lives, due to a fight with our best friend or the parking ticket we saw on our car as we are coming out of the store we only ran into for ten minutes.  By the same token, that red can represent the passion and love we feel for our significant others, the deep red in our beating hearts.

When the air gets colder and we get deeper into the months, we realize that winter is quickly approaching.  The trees will no longer be able to hold the leaves, and the leaves will be forced to break apart and fall to the ground.  In more ways than one, I am seeing that this too is an accurate representation for what we go through.  We all go through rough patches and face the ups and downs on the rollercoaster called Life.  But what would happiness and contentment be without some pain and suffering to get there?  The leaves falling from the tree can be thought of as the helplessness we sometimes face when things do not seem to be going right in our lives.  There have been many times in my life where I have been faced with one hardship after another, and I felt as though my life was spiraling down like a leaf falling from the sky high branches of their tree to the cold, hard ground.  On the other side, every hardship that I have faced throughout my life eventually came to an end.  Everything that I have gone through has made me a better, stronger person.  It has grounded me and brought me back to reality, like the falling leaf finally hitting the soil.

Everything about the leaves of a tree can be a strong representation of who we are.  Like the colors of a leaf and the changes of the season, we too, go through different changes throughout our lives.  We would not be who we are without the ups and downs we face day in and day out.  Just remember that although the leaves will eventually fall and hit the ground, they will always come back, colorful and alive, next season.

Religion and Ecology, by Nichole Schneider

The first changes of Fall are visible this week in the woods. Most notable? Leaves all over the ground and in the stream! The ones still in the trees are turning yellow little by little, preparing to make the descent to the earth below. It is a time of anticipation here – I can only wonder if the creatures of the woods feel sullen about or accepting of the fact that Winter is approaching. As I ponder the leaves, I reflect upon how I too am in a time of anticipation. Soon enough, I will be graduating college and moving forward to a new stage of life, scared yet excited. Will God care for me as He does the leaves? How great is my faith?

What I have found wonderfully refreshing about this class thus far is that it causes me to re-examine all parts of my life. I originally thought it would make me more conscious of my consumption practices, but I had no idea that ecology is the root of and inevitably connects such topics as health, hunger, violence/war, livelihood, family, social problems, depression, and religion. This week, due to reading the last few essays in The Art of the Commonplace, the relation of religion to ecology was at the forefront of my mind. I have always considered myself to be both a spiritual and a religious person. Spiritual in the sense that I have desired and maintained a relationship with my God and have sought divine guidance while searching for purpose in life; religious meaning that I have been a full and participating member of the Catholic Church since Baptism at age zero. Though I have stumbled upon some roadblocks recently and have been exploring other denominations of Christianity, I have no doubt that faith will always remain fundamentally important to me.

Having said this, lately, I have found myself unenthusiastic about my prayer life and slightly disillusioned with family members who consider themselves Christians. When I try to talk to them about what I have been learning and how I think they would really enjoy Berry’s essays, they seem amused by my zest but remain predominantly apathetic. I am by no means perfect, but it has been discouraging to have family be more concerned about small differences in doctrine/denomination and less interested in putting Biblical roots into practice. This is directly related to what Berry writes about in “The Gift of Good Land.” He states, “I wish to deal directly at last with my own long held belief that Christianity, as usually presented by its organizations, is not earthly enough – that a valid spiritual life, in this world, must have a practice and a practicality – it must have a material result” (Berry, 2002, p. 293). It is a wonder to me that prior to this class, I hadn’t truly thought about the environment in relation to my faith. I hadn’t made the connection that preserving God’s creation is in fact essential to having faith at all. As Berry notes, connection to the earth is so deeply spiritual: “How we take our lives from this world, how we work, what work we do, how well we use the materials we use, and what we do with them after we have used them – all these are questions of the highest and gravest religious significance” (Berry, 2002, p. 315). We can study the Bible all we want, we can pray unceasingly, but for me and other Christians, this has little value if we’re not considering it our mission to fulfill our responsibilities (Berry, 2002, p. 293).

The time at my spot this week and the experience at the Bentleys’ farm have given me new insight into how I can reinvigorate my spiritual life. The life and work of Nancy Bentley is a testament to how beautifully whole one can become through connection to the earth and compliance with nature. Nancy is content to let what will be, be. I don’t even know if she is a Christian, but she lives more like one than I do. What I found most moving about the time spent at the farm and my time in the woods this week was that being out there seemed more like prayer to me than what I have done for so many years inside a church. Maybe I don’t need to change my denomination or force myself to pray at certain times or align myself according to the beliefs of family and friends. Maybe I simply need to let God come to me naturally, through a new perspective on life and through experiences that remind me how amazing it is to actually be alive on this earth. Great faith is not made by a perfect life. It is made by acceptance of the natural ways of the world. Alas, perhaps I have answered my own question: the falling leaves from my spot are content to prepare to leave this world. They have fully lived the life they were given.

In the final essay of The Art of the Commonplace, “The Pleasures of Eating,” Berry writes, “In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend” (Berry, 2002, p. 326).            We don’t know or have everything, nor should we. This is the splendor, this is the magnificence of being human. There is a raw vulnerability in this that is so enticing to me. Can we accept this? As a Christian, I must, for in so doing, I will extend my faith to aspects of my life (such as care for the earth) that have been lacking.

God’s Temple, by Katie Owings

Glancing around my spot, at the small piece of the woods that had become dear to me over the past few weeks, I spotted evidence of Fall’s arrival. The woods seemed more still this week. I wondered if the animals had already begun to abandon the area in favor of warmer climates and I yearned to join them on their mission to outrun winter. I laid back on my rock and stared up at the canopy of red, orange, yellow, and green above my head. The calmness I had grown used to feeling while visiting my spot in the woods each week began to seep into my bones. I began to think about Dr. Jenkins’ closing question from last class. He had asked us to consider what had happened when we put God into a house.

I believe that building churches to contain God created a disconnect between God’s people and his creation. We lost sight of our calling to be stewards that watch over all of the land and the creatures of the earth and sky. When describing the recent behaviors of Christians, since we put God into a building, Wendell Berry says “the evangelist has walked beside the conqueror and the merchant, too often blandly assuming that their causes were the same” since the time of Columbus. There has been such an emphasis on separating church and state that we have forgotten to consider our faith when addressing everyday issues, such as our current environmental crisis.

I was raised to be Catholic but there were many times throughout my life that I have struggled with my faith in God and in the church. Wendell Berry eloquently described the role religion has played in my life when he said “we were born to it; we began to learn about it before we became conscious; it is, whatever we think of it, an intimate belonging of our being.” There were many times throughout my life when I have struggled to feel close to God within a church and failed. I learned at an early age that I did not feel close to God within the four walls of my stuffy, dim church.

I have always felt closest to God when I am outdoors. I can feel the presence of God as I sit on the beach in the evening and I stare out at the ocean that seems infinite. I am filled with awe at God’s creation as I lay on the picnic table at my shore house (away from communities that produce light pollution) and stare up at millions of stars. Although I did not always have faith in the church, in these moments I realized my belief in God was still an integral part of my being. Wendell Berry explains this phenomena of experiencing God in nature by saying “this is because outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonders.” Learning about the complexity of all of these wonders in my chemistry and biology courses reinforced my belief in God.

I also believe that God is present in each of us. I was raised to believe that God resides in all of us and therefore we have to treat our bodies as God’s temples. Each week in church the priest blesses the Eucharist, which is holy wine and bread that symbolize the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Then each member comes up to eat the bread, drink the wine, and be blessed. This ritual of literally welcoming God to reside within each member of the church always brought me comfort, even when I was younger and struggled to understand the tradition and what it meant to me. Sitting in the woods, I was struck by the contrast between the holy Eucharist I welcome into my body and the toxins I have been passively allowing to enter the body I was supposed to be treating as God’s dwelling place.

Finding Yourself, by Lauren Desimone

I woke up at nine on sunday morning. My room was bright, I looked through my squinty, tired eyes to see the trees violently swaying. If there was a sound for cold I heard it. The wind was strong and made me curl even deeper into my big, white comforter. I hit snooze and slept a little longer. When finally gathering the strength, I woke up got dressed in a fleece and left for white clay creek. Despite my initial fear of the cold, the weather was perfect. Chilly, but the gleaming sun made my skin feel warm.

I sat in my spot like ever other time. I watched the red, orange and yellow leaves fall so rapidly from the trees and land in the water. They would flow away. Another would drop. The pattern continued. When something heavy enough fell into the reservoir it would make a circle wave. The reservoir is in continual motion. Waves are the result of  a disturbance on the water surface and will eventually lose their momentum and disperse their energy so that the pond returns to calm.

This continuous patter seemed soothing at the time but when it was time to leave white clay park and I began to walk towards campus I felt a lump in my throat and before I knew it tears began to flow down my cheeks. Before I left for the reservoir I had caught my roommate in a white lie. Nothing serious but just proved a little bit of dishonesty, which we all have inside us at some points. This one incident was not what brought on the tears but was just proof to me that maybe I am not living out the life that I hoped I would at college. I have been feeling so much pressure and been so anxious lately.

“College is the time in your life when you will truly find yourself” my Mom and Dad always told me this growing up. I believed them. I hoped when I finally made it to college I would find friends that were pure and who shared similar interests to me on another level then my home friends, take classes that are interesting and promote self growth, and to further my passion for environment and self improvement. I hoped to find out who I really am. All throughout high school I hid behind my friends, my last name, and my jersey. I was my own person to a certain extent. I was happy, friendly, likable, athletic, spunky and I was always sure of that. I proved my confidence in school, with friends and sports. But I always knew that there was more to me then that. I wanted to break free of who I should be or what others expected me to be and be sure that I was the person I wanted to be.

I go to college and I meet friends that I trust and are who I want to be friends with and can relate to. I join environmental clubs and take the classes in everything I am interested in. I join the best sorority on campus that promised me “Because you chose sigma kappa you will have the best four years of your life”.  But again I now find myself identifying myself through them. Hiding behind my greek letter so everyone can know “who I am” without even meeting me. I feel like I have lost control but this time around I am not confident in the person that I am. I struggle to always look perfect, say the right things, and be who everyone expects me to. I have so many obligations that I have not been going on outing trips like I promised myself I would. I have the constant stress of my dads illness and feeling so un knowledgable and helpless in the situation. Looking from the outside no one would see this and sometimes I don’t even.

Life just continues to go by rapidly like the leaves falling from the tree and the circle waves. They seems so intense in the begging and then mellow out with time. Just like my anxiety and worries.

Everything I look at in white clay creek is connected. It is so complex but simple at the same time. The intricate tree roots so complicated but form such a strong foundation for the tree. No matter how heavy the winds the tree stands tall and sturdy. I wonder if while the tree was maturing there was a faze when it wasn’t confident it could stand strong in the heavy winds.

As Haskell embraces the violent storm, he focusses on the trees. He is startled by the cracking sounds and fallen branches. “At the storm’s peak, there is strange comfort in my powerlessness. Nothing I do can influence the lashing world that I’m caught in, so surrender follows, and with it comes a curious state: mental clarity wrapped in an electrified body.” (219)Haskell realizes his helplessness in the situation, yet curiously he also seems to find a deeper meaning. Although this state of feeling out of control is frightening he also understands that this storm needs to happen. Branches need to fall so light can enter the mandala and help other vegetation grow. The specific tree itself may be weaker at the moment but the ultimate sustainability of the forest relies on these gaps that allow light to come through.  Everything in nature happens for a reason. It may seem horrible and scary at the time but ultimately makes the system as whole stronger.

Beauty: In Delaware. By Carly Krajewski

Recently, I have been in awe of the complexity and beauty of the nature I have been witnessing, something I never really thought I would be able to say, especially in Delaware. Having lived in Newark my entire life and then deciding to come to this school, which is only twenty minutes from my house, I always felt that I simply just settled. Because school and home were practically one in the same, I never developed a true appreciation for either.

Instead, I developed a lot of “what ifs.” What if I went to Colorado, where I would always have a view of the beautiful mountains. Or what if I decided on South Carolina, where I would never have to deal with freezing temperatures (and the horrible snow) ever again. Reflecting in my spot, I found the answer to the questions of what if I went somewhere else: then I wouldn’t have what I have now. With mountains surrounding me, I would not have the view of the sunset on the water that I currently had. Without cold temperatures, I would not have the transitional intricacy that nature slowly but surely presented.

I studied an American Beech standing unwavering about 200 feet to the right of me. The top two thirds of the tree were already a golden bronze, while the bottom, underside, and even the very inside leaves still retained a their green color, even though some were a more pale shade – well on their way in the transition. Sunlight must play a critical role, I reasoned, because the changing leaves were the ones that obviously had faced more exposure. A similar leaf to the ones from the birch lay a little past my feet at the edge of the bank. The lapping water pushed it slightly forward then would draw it back, repeating infinitely. The light green leaf looked water logged and limp, and I almost felt bad for the pitiful leaf, stuck in this position. David George Haskell summarized a similar event. “For all the whirling drama of their flight from the canopy, the ultimate fate of the maple seeds is determined by the particularities of where they land … But the maple seed’s helplessness about the choice of its final destination does not mean that the seed has no power.”

Can this be related to real life? Where we end up, where we land, is determined by fate but does not determine our power. We have the power to change our situations through our attitudes and actions, rather than just settling. I need to realize this when I think about school: while I feel that I just settled and ended up here, I have the power to make the most of it, to appreciate it and take advantage of the school and the beauty of the area.

In talking about the effect of a slug’s presence on a rock, Haskell writes, “Color and form melt into the variegated surface; beauty remains, but it is the camouflaged beauty of belonging.” Slugs, animals, humans; all make their mark on places they know they belong. I cannot be stuck like the leaf in the endless cycle of being controlled by the water. I should make my mark and establish that I d

Isle After Isle, by Laura Thron

In a last minute decision I headed home for the weekend to visit my father. I associate home with a warm savory meal, something I have been waiting for these past few weeks. After you eat the dinning hall food for so long you start to really appreciate a simple home cooked meal. One main thing that scares me is I have no clue what half the food is or what is in it (but I think it’s for the best).

When I was younger my father and I would make a huge Italian dinner every other Sunday and we did this for a couple years. He thought it would be special if he surprised me with a trip to the grocery store. I always enjoy walking down every single isle filled with forty seven thousand different products. My inner child came out when I stepped foot in ShopRite, it was like a toy store to me. All of the different colors and options intrigued me. One thing I would never understand is why every grocery store had so many options. Isle four was my favorite isle to walk down, the cereal isle. As I entered the isle all I could see for miles was a variety of different cereals: Lucky Charms, Cheerios and even the “healthy” Bran Flakes.

As I continued to venture off, I kept getting flashbacks from the film we watched in class. Each product on the shelves went through a whole process to get here and most of us have no clue exactly how. Whether it is because we don’t care or we choose to block it out, it is important to make it known to the public. It is easier to look at a hamburger and completely disassociate it with the cow it came from than to realize what you are actually eating. I personally have struggled with this idea. I have always loved animals, going to zoos, and farms. For a while I tricked myself into thinking that no animal was harmed in the process. It is so much easier to believe that the burger somehow came together and appeared perfectly rounded beneath a bun than the truth. I have been eating these foods not knowing where they were coming for almost twenty years. Although I partially blame myself, they are being deliberately hidden from the public. As people who are purchasing these goods we are entitled to know exactly where these product are coming from.

I used to believe that grocery stores such as ShopRite were filled with thousands of different companies. This idea however is an illusion! Many of the same companies own different products.  For example Nestle owns L’Oreal and many other hair and makeup companies. You might think you are buying one companies product and supporting them, but it could be a completely different one. The same is for many other big brands such as PepsiCo and Kellogg’s.

Although I do feel for the animals being affected in the process, many forget about the workers slaving away so you can eat that burger. The men and woman who work at these processing factories are treated like a human machine. If they get hurt they are so easily replaced by another illegal immigrant.  While watching the film called Food Inc. I was able to see the poor unsafe conditions. In fact the meat packing industry is one of the most dangerous jobs. The big business companies could care less about the individual workers, there only goal is to increase profit.

Suddenly I looked up; with wings spread I saw a hawk circling the area. At first I was thrilled to see such a beautiful animal. This is a type of bird that I have only seen on television.  Although it was too far away to see any details I could visualize its long talons stretched out ready to catch a fish, or something else for that matter. As it circled above me I wondered if this was it, was he going for me? Soon after he relieved my anxiety by swooping into the water to catch his prey. Never in my life have I seen something so natural and so beautiful. The courageous hawk was able to catch his own food and know exactly where it came from. Such a simple, but graceful act was something humans should look for as inspiration in our own lives.

Fighting the Current, by Ellie Trommer

On Friday, I sat in class and listened to a fellow classmate beautifully compare her experience white water rafting to a storm David George Haskell described in the November segment of The Forest Unseen. Her story resonated with me; in the summer before the 5th grade, I traveled to New Mexico with my family. I became acquainted with the so-called “dry heat” people just love to talk about and spent a day on the Zia Pueblo with Native Americans deeply rooted in their traditional lifestyle.

It was in Taos, New Mexico that we decided to go white water rafting; it was one of the strangest experiences of my life.


My parents, two siblings, an instructor, and I all piled into the six person raft. It was an absolutely gorgeous day; the cerulean sky was clear, the songs of various birds became melodically intertwined, and the sounds of the rushing waters roused my inner adrenaline junkie.

At one point, the instructor told my siblings and me to jump out and let the rapids carry us; he made it very clear to not try and swim against the rapids, but let them guide us instead. My brother, known for his feigned machismo, refused. My sister, at the tender age of six, also refused to. But me, 10-years-old with a reputation on the line decided to jump out of the raft, before my parents could protest.

I could hear the screams.

I unintentionally landed on my belly, my face buried in the rushing waters. I remember flailing and struggling until I finally ended up upright, floating lifelessly down the coursing waters. My family shouted for me to get back in the raft. I ignored them. I felt weightless, careless, amazing. I achieved that state of mind so coveted in meditation; I was hyper sensitive of the sensations that surrounded me. I heard the sounds of the waters, which soon turned to white noise. Suddenly, all I could hear was my inner metronome… it was deafening… the pulsing continued deep within my veins…

“Rock!!!” the instructor shouted out.



Abruptly, I was halted during my course downstream as a rock jutted into my thigh and the sharp pain slowly moved from where I was struck to my entire leg. I cried out as I watched the raft continue downstream… the vessel began to look more and more like a small beetle flipped on its back with its legs writhing wildly. I began to paddle feebly, my leg still throbbing with excruciating pain. It was no use. These rapids were quite literally a force of nature.

“El… EL!!!!” I could hear from a distance as I continued forward. The pain in my leg had somehow morphed into a numbness throughout my body. This was it. I was going to pass out.

It was then that I realized that my family had pulled the raft up against another large rock, nearly identical to the one that had almost ripped my leg off. As I approached closer and closer, the looks on my parents’ faces slowly turned from sheer terror to that of embarrassment and disapproval, glancing apologetically at the instructor and shaking their heads. I remember being hoisted into the raft, and playing off the huge bruise developing on my thigh like it was nothing, because nearly being amputated by giant rock was apparently not enough to shake the pride of a rebellious ten-year-old.

“You’re grounded,” said my mother through gritted teeth while clenching the sides of the boat with a white-knuckled death grip.

“We’re on a raft,” I retorted, while trying to not wince in pain.

The instructor, his face drained quite literally of all color, looked like he was about to either quit his job on the spot or pass out.


I stood at my spot today at White Clay, and chose to solely focus on the water. Ever since I was little, I’ve been fascinated by the continuous motion of bodies of water and staring at this creek in the present evoked a similar sense of childlike wonder. I remember being told in elementary school that the Earth is 70% water and I am still fascinated by this statistic to this day. On trips to Point Pleasant, I used to stand knee deep in the water and hold my fathers hand and try and look out as far as possible.


“That’s where the water ends,” I would naively tell him as I pointed to the horizon.  He would nod acceptingly, a subtle smile on his face, as he would try to conceal his amusement regarding my 4-year-old grasp on the world.


We can build dams and try to alter the path of the water, but it will continue to move regardless. Life is the current and whether we choose to flail or accept its path is our ultimate choice.


Regardless of which we choose, the current will persist.

Shoes, Fisher Cats, and Land Occupation, by Amanda Bonnette-Kim

I am not a materialistic person.  That being said I do own 14 pairs of shoes, here at school.  I probably own 5 or 6 other pairs at home is Massachusetts.  This is an impressive feet, even for a girl.  To defend myself I tell my guy friends “it’s a girl thing,” while I tell my girl friends “well, I only a few purses,” and I tell both parties “but I wear all of them.”  To make this point I try to wear at least 3 different pairs each week.  Now I am going to be honest, I do own a ridiculous amount of shoes and it is very trivial of me to have to defend myself in such a way.  But have not humans been doing just that throughout all of history?  Have we not fought and defended our rights to own something that is essential to everyday life, yet the true meaning is because we are materialistic.

Aldo Leopold realized this, and is a topic that he often touched upon in his writing.  He was constantly stating that we, as humans, had no right to claim the earth for ourselves.  Leopold knew that you could mark as many boundaries as you like on a map, but that those lines held no meaning to the true inhabitants of the earth, the animals.  They come and go as they wish, such as the migrating birds, and state their claim to the earth as much as the humans do.  Because we have invaded into their home so much, birds now angrily complain to us about this, and to let us know that the branch they are occupying is their branch.  I hear many of these proclamations of territory outside my window in late winter/early spring back home.  Usually at 5 in the morning, or earlier.  Overtime I have grown immune to these birdcalls and ignore them, which is not a good thing.  We have all become what Leopold feared, ignorant to nature.  We believe that we are the master of the earth, not a fellow occupant.

Now, I may own a lot of shoes but one thing my family has never really owned is a house and the land it occupies.  Both of my parents are United Methodist pastors and we live in a parsonage.  A parsonage is a house that is provided to the pastor and their family, but it is owned by the church.  If we ever want to make a big change to our yard or house we have to have it approved by the church.  My friends find it weird that we cannot even put in a fence, but I am use to it.  I have lived in several parsonages growing up and I am use to these regulations.  To me they are normal.  I think because of this I can understand easily where Leopold is coming from about us not truly owning the land because I never have.  I actually find it weird when people talk about “their” land.  An example of this is a conversation I had over the summer with one of my best friends.  She was telling me a story about how her cousin did not believe that a fisher cat was a real animal and how that the very next day in her woods.  I remember thinking, “how can you own the woods?”  I know that she did not literally mean that she owned the whole woods behind her house, but that she was referring to the section of woods that was on her land.  But the idea is still funny to me.  Leopold is not the only one that has tried to spread the message that we do not own the earth; Disney has spread this message as well.

As we sat in my little nature room, my friend Teresa and I began to serenade each other with songs from Pocahontas.   We mainly sung “River bend” and “Colors of the Wind” but it suited the situation and location.  As we sang I realized how the themes of the movie and the songs applied to what we have been learning in class.  The whole point of “Colors of the Wind” is Pocahontas trying to convince John Smith that the English were being foolish and that you could not own the earth; that it belonged to every living being as well.  “River Bend” is about exploring your options and looking at what is around you, I feel like these journal entries can be associated with this song.

As humans, we tend to ruin what we touch or try to control.  Well, ruin is sometimes too harsh of a word.  It is more like we make it less pure.  Let us take water as an example.  In front of me the water is flowing slowly and rushing swiftly down a small waterfall that is created by the dam.  Even in nature water is never constant, it is always changing and adapting to the environment.  It flows freely pure and clean.  Gazing out over the creek has a calming effect.  Then I look to my right and see a pool of water that looks like the color of rust.  Not as calming. But humans have changed water is other ways as well.  We have taken a force that does not like to be contained, and bottled it.  This now bottled water takes on the chemicals from it plastic container and uses the toxins against us as we ingest it as a form of payback.  Even if you leave bottled water on the shelf for a long time it develops a funny taste, water is not supposed to have a flavor other than clean.  I am going to leave you with one question to reflect on. What are we doing to the earth that we are even making water less pure?

The People’s Climate March, by Kristen Taylor

Gathered in front of me was a sea of people corralled behind barricades, brandishing signs with slogans both catchy and cynical. “There is no Planet B,” read one sign. “Cook organic, not the planet,” boasted another. I stood in the back of the pack on 85th Street lost in the wave. Among the sea were 400,000 hands outstretched, fingers proffered to the clouds overhead or linked in solidarity. Everyone was silent in remembrance of those affected by climate change. And then, suddenly, it hit me. One by one, each voice joined together, until a massive wave of noise barreled down Eighth Avenue hitting me square in the gut. My breath hitched in my throat, and I inhaled sharply as tiny goose bumps trickled down my arms. I was engulfed in this all at once desperate and enthusiastic battle cry. And then one by one, members of the sea began to march.

Sitting in my remote, sheltered spot in White Clay Creek three days later, it is easy to reflect on the noise in the comfort of this silence. I realize that while I was deeply affected by that moment, The People’s Climate March—as with other demonstrations—left me slightly unsettled.

In Wendell Berry’s “Think Little,” Berry argues popular social movements of the past “have partaken far too much of the nature of fads. Not for all certainly, but for too many they have been fashionable politics of the moment.” The environmental movement should not be fashionable or “of the moment.” Yet, even a cursory glance around the rally would depict hundreds of issues reduced to catchy slogans and technicolor buttons. Berry continues, “As causes they have been undertaken by too much in ignorance; they have been too much simplified; they have been powered too much by impatience and guilt of conscience and short-term enthusiasm, and too little by an authentic social vision and long-term conviction and deliberation.” It is easy to gather for a day and advocate a sustainable lifestyle. It is harder to live by these principles each day.

Time and time again show that short-term enthusiasm ignites the spark that is eventually snuffed out by a new and passing trend. The fire never catches–Just ask anyone with a Kony 2012 bracelet in the bottom of his or her drawer, left forgotten shortly after the hashtag stopped trending. While these movements proved trendy, the issues behind them were often reduced to slogans and empty promises. Berry maintains, “while a crowd whose discontent has risen no higher than the level of slogans is only a crowd. But a crowd that understands the reasons for its discontent and knows the remedies is a vital community, and it will have to be reckoned with.” While the noise is attention-grabbing, comprehensive information is key.

The People’s Climate March is different than other social movements of the past, which have had a clear divide between the blameless and those responsible. Berry reminds us that we are all guilty of indulging in the “wastefulness of our economy—and our economy’s first principle is waste—we are causing the crisis. Nearly every one of us, nearly every day of his life, is contributing directly to the ruin of his planet.” Unlike social movements in the past, the climate rally was “not a convocation of accusers,” but rather a “convocation of the guilty.” He argues this fact “ought to clear the smog of self-righteousness that has hovered over these occasions,” but as I witnessed the crowd erupt into a chant of “Hey Obama, you talk the talk, now walk the walk,” I’m not so sure. Rather than claim responsibility, protesters shifted the blame to inefficient bureaucracy and profit-hungry industry. We continued to be engulfed by the smog.

I do believe some of this “blame game” is warranted. Corporations should be held accountable for their actions, especially actions that cause destruction to our planet. Protesting can be an effective way to demand this accountability; however, scare tactics and polemical signs can also hinder debate and solidify the schism between climate change activists and naysayers. Berry argues, “How superficial and foolish would it be to think that we could correct what is wrong by merely tinkering with this institutional machinery. The changes that are required are fundamental changes in the way we are living.” He illustrates this with the discussion of public and private causes.

While the public cause gains media attention and hashtags on social media, the private cause can be a simple, yet powerful tool for change. Berry suggests a cure could lie in gardening. By forging a deeper connection to the earth, “We will see that beauty and utility are alike and dependent upon the health of the world. But we will also see through the fads and fashions of protest.” He suggests we look inward saying, a man “willing to undertake the discipline and the difficulty of mending his own ways is worth more to the conservation movement than a hundred who are insisting merely that the government and the industry mend their ways.” Or rather, we must also begin to walk the walk.

Sitting in my secluded spot along the creek, I think about the sonic wave that crashed down Central Park West, and I am happy to have been a part of something so big. However, I recognize this moment as a part of a larger public cause, which despite its success may dissolve to reductive slogans and short-term fervor. It is time I focus on the private cause, and in the comfort of the shadowed creek, begin to “think little.”