Rainey, December 2014

Well, the time has come to wrap up this semester-long project.  Throughout the course of the semester, I have had the opportunity to experience the natural beauty present on our very St. Edward’s campus from underneath the Sorin Oak.  At first I dreaded this project.  I thought it sounded pointless.  I thought, “I have to spend and HOUR each week just sitting around outside doing nothing?  I don’t have time for that! This is silly!”  However, now that this project has reached its completion I can truly appreciate it.

I know that the point of this assignment was to get us to observe nature and notice the changes going on in a particular area in order to better understand the negative impacts of human interference on the environment, but for me the assignment had more of an effect on me personally.  By being forced to take an hour out of each week to just sit, observe, and not worry about everything else going on in my life, I realized just how stressed out I really am.  With my long days of classwork and actual work, along with homework, PRIDE meetings, personal time with my friends or girlfriend, and everything else I try to cram into my days, I am always on the go.  It was nice to have the chance to be alone for a bit and breathe.  This project has made me realize that it is important for me to take some time out for myself sometimes to unwind, clear my mind, and just enjoy the beauty that is present naturally all around me.  I know most of the class used this opportunity to go hiking or exploring Blunn Creek or other, more exciting areas, but for me this was the best I could do with my busy schedule.  Which brings me to the Word Cloud:

word cloud

From this, I can see many similarities and differences between my own experiences and the experiences of my classmates.  Unsurprisingly, the most common word used seems to be nature, which was the basic premise of not only this project but the whole class in general.  I am a bit surprised by the size of the words creek and water.  I guess a lot of people went to Blunn Creek (or possibly another creek).  This does make sense since it is within walking distance from campus, but I am still surprised that these words showed up the most.  As I realized while doing my semester paper, water scarcity is becoming a major issue in Texas, so I would be curious to see what everyone discovered on the topic of water.  I also notice a few animals words such as rabbit, turtle, and tadpoles in the image.  I wish I could have seen more different types of animals.  Being on campus, all I got were squirrels and birds along with the occasional campus cat.  I am, however, thankful that I did not happen across any frogs or toads, as I have an irrational phobia of the creatures.

I noticed that beautiful is one of the medium-sized words on the list, along with peace which is one of the smallest but still there (although, I admit, this could be completely calculated from my many uses of the word).  These are sentiments that I can definitely share with my classmates.  Although we went to different places and saw different things, it would appear that we all found our surroundings to be aesthetically and emotionally pleasing.

As I review the word cloud for the class’s blog entries and reflect on my own experiences, I can’t help but wonder if this actually made any impact on the environment.  While I personally got a lot out of this assignment, it did not have much to do with environmental science.  If I am being completely honest, I wasn’t really thinking about science as I was making my observations.  I enjoyed my surroundings and allowed them to fill me with a sense of peace and relaxation, but that has nothing to do with saving the environment.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that, despite the instructions, I took this assignment in a much more philosophical direction than a scientific one.  As an English Literature major, I know that I will never fully understand the complexities of science, nor do I have a desire to.  While I came up with a few ways that I could help the environment in my professional life by publishing books on the issues, I know that those are not the type of books I am interested in publishing.  I have gained a better appreciation of nature and wish to spend more of my free time in it, but I still do not know haw to solve the problems plaguing our environment.  Can any of us really make a difference?  While there were a few people specifically interested in studying environmental science, I, like most of the class, took this course to fulfil the necessary science credit.  Will we be able to make any positive changes now that the course is complete?  All these thoughts came to me as I was searching for a quote to accompany this post and came across this one:

“It is, by common consent, a good thing for people to get back to nature.  But wherein lies the goodness…?  On these questions there is confusion of counsel, and only the most uncritical minds are free from doubt.”

This got me thinking.  Are we actually doing as much good as we think we are?  Or, by “getting back to nature,” are we in fact simply making ourselves feel better while the storm of environmental destruction rages on?  In the grand scheme of things, I sat under a tree and observed some squirrels.  How did I help that tree or those squirrels?  It is difficult to try to stay optimistic when you realize that the issues of environmental destruction are so widespread and large scale that there is no obvious or easy solution.  My main fear is that now that I am no longer in the class I will forget what I learned and will sit idly by as society destroys the planet.  Hopefully, in some small way, by making an effort to connect to nature more often and on a deeper level I will remember to do my best to protect it and encourage others to do the same.


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