From reading the book, a Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold taught me two main lessons this semester: First, is the inspiration to seek an understanding of nature and the second, is in order to live respectfully on this land community and on Earth in general is for people to develop an ecological conscience.
Through Leopold’s monthly essays, he encourages and urges us to look around, observe, and understand nature and our surroundings. Most people, including myself, do not have a clue about the different types of plants and animals we walk and drive past every single day. We cannot see changes in our moral and ethical understandings of nature because we do not open our eyes to what is constantly around us. The land we inhabit suffers from many insufficiencies caused by our moral capabilities, which Leopold saw in his time during the late 1940s. Although I am sure some people have made progress in developing an individual ecological conscience, countless of us (including me) have not. Today, nature and environmentalism is viewed mainly as a political concern rather than a moral and ethical concern. We cannot rely on the government to solve all of our environmental problems—look at the global warming issue for example. As people, and as individuals on this planet, we need to understand and love our land. Nature, landscapes, and Earth is not something that is infinitely viable; we can damage and lose it just as we are beginning to see. Once you experience nature, it becomes something that you become evangelical, passionate, about.
During the course of this semester, from observing various areas surrounding Lady Bird Lake to writing these graded blog entries, I have begun to see, view, and perceive nature in a different way than before this class. Now, I notice single details instead of one complete, entire, picture. This assignment has also taught me how important nature, land, and the environment as a whole is in our society today as well as in the future. We decide, as Aldo Leopold said in his book, if we create or destroy plants.
I have also grown to appreciate City of Austin laws that help preserve our resources, from enacting an ordinance eliminating plastic bags to laws protecting the Lady Bird Lake itself. Coming from a tourist community in Corpus Christi, Texas, I was aware of some regulations protecting the coastal areas, but did not fully appreciate them until now. For example, as a young teenager it was not important to me that our coastal grass areas were a concern for local environmentalists. Now, as a more “environmentally aware” young adult, I see and understand that dredging canals can hurt the environment and inhibit the lifecycle of sea life such as shrimp and fish. Because of this concern, the quality of life for various types of sea life has been preserved by individuals who care about the environment.
Other observations of which I have become more aware of are the simple, non-attention getting activities such as walking your dog. In my home town, while on breaks, I had noticed that more and more people walking their dogs were carrying waste bags, picking up their dog’s “mess,” and disposing of it properly rather than leaving for someone to step in or for it to disintegrate into the grass. Here is Austin; it is the norm with various disposal containers lining pathways for pet owners to dispose of their animals waste. My applause to Aldo Leopold and this class for making me more aware of these environmental issues and concerns in today’s society.
This new awareness, unaware to me, extended into my everyday student living life – outside of the running path. I became mildly aware of the availability of “organic,” chemical-free items that I use routinely to clean, wash, and groom myself. Several months ago I began switching from well-known cosmetics to those that are chemical-free. Additionally, I changed my laundry soap from one that is banded in Europe for it carcinogens to one that is chemical-free and environmentally friendly. At the time, I was aware of the need to use these types of items but as I became more aware this semester, I have switched more products from traditional, well branded types, to the more environmentally friendly and health friend counterparts.
Leopold was right in saying that we decide if we create or destroy plants, whether it’s on a large scale such as the Lady Bird Lake or in a more controlled environment such as my apartment. Because I have become more aware, I now seek out areas in my life where I can make a difference by a simple change. I am fortunate to live here in Austin where so much of the change has taken place. And as I review my overall experience in Austin, I have realized that I am blessed to be attending a university that holds environmental issues at as high standard and encourages the involvement of their students to become game changers in these concerns.
As I think back on my personal upbringing, I can now appreciate my grandmother’s ideals of a healthy living environment and preventing global warming. At the time, I just thought it was a leftover of her “hippie” days but now realize that that generation was looking at the tip of the iceberg of saving the environment for the future. Although they were years after Leopold wrote his essays, they were the true pioneers of “green” living and helped set the foundation for future generations. That generation brought awareness to the world which launched the need for educating the masses about conservation and preservation of our resources.
Leopold, I thank you for the jumpstart in this awareness process. Now, I see trees instead of a forest, grass instead of a lawn, water instead of a lake, and plants instead of landscaping. You have given me a new experience and it is that of… nature.
“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.” –Aldo Leopold