As an Environmental Educator, my goal is to create an awareness of our Natural World – specifically to inform, teach and inspire a greater respect for the necessities of life we are all connected to… because all living things are connected. All things.
A great majority of the problems we face on our home planet as a species, are due to misinformation. I truly believe that if everyday people were kept informed of the Earth’s hardships, they would naturally be more inclined to live softer on our planet. I also believe that only through education and information can we incite lasting global change.
Our natural heritage is a gift. I don’t care what political or religious preferences you have, life is a gift – and all things in our universe are completely necessary to the smooth function of all other things. Life is a precious, beautiful blessing. And I’ve witnessed many cases where human-kind disrespects this gift to the point of damage to other human beings, other living creatures and the Earth as a whole.
I have traveled many places during my 30-something years on this planet. Right after graduating high school in Bay Minette, Alabama, I joined the U.S. Army and thus started my journey. Not only a physical journey, but a journey of information and discovery – you may even call it a spiritual journey.
I was lucky to spend more than a year in South Korea as a young adult. This especially pleased me because my unit patch on my Army uniform bore the same symbol as my grandfathers did when he fought in the Korean war so many years before I arrived there.
Though the military considers Korea a “hardship tour” due to the fact that there was a “cease fire” declared – not an official ending to the war – I consider myself blessed for having had the opportunity to work with such a reverent, life loving culture as the South Koreans. These people have known true hardship – yet the average, brown-eyed human on that peninsula has a deep understanding and respect for our life-giving world. They are an ancient culture steeped in Buddhism with a reverence I have rarely witnessed in our “land of the free”.
I have also lived in several different areas of our own country. After trading in the beautiful Gulf Coast of Alabama for the still war-torn spaces of Asia, I went to the rolling hills of North Carolina and witnessed mountain top removals in that once lush region. I then moved to the plains of Kansas – where Mother Nature’s once vast grasslands are now converted to chemically enhanced crop lands. From there I took a job as Clinic Manager for the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in the bustling concrete jungle of Orlando, Florida – where our Nation’s symbol, the Bald Eagle is still processing the effects of DDT and PCBs through its bloodstream – toxins we banned in this country nearly 40 years ago. Some of our garbage never goes away.
Then I came to Georgia. I pictured Long leaf pines and great, twisty oak trees in this land of rural Nature. I discovered that the red clay we are famous for here, is not a normal state of the environment. The reason the Southeast is covered in this slippery substrate of folk songs, is due to the intense clear-cutting practices of the region. No hardwood forests means no leaves falling and no new soil being created. I learned that the creeks I go canoeing on used to run clear. The sediment from erosion has made them murky and muddy now; and sod farms, automobile manufacturing plants and textile industries can, and do, allow their toxic runoff to drain into these streams where I like to go fishing. And they’re allowed, by the laws of our elected government, to do this.
I’ve seen with my own eyes some of the damage we have done to our living world. And I wonder – would we treat our Mother’s home as disrespectfully as we treat our Earth home? Would we eat everything in Mama’s refrigerator and leave her with nothing in her pantry? Would we allow the garbage to pile up in her kitchen indefinitely – or would we be considerate enough to take it away for her? Would we track mud on her carpet or leave the toilet un-flushed in her bathroom? Of course not. Because we respect our Mother and her home, and we like knowing she has what she needs to survive comfortably and healthfully.
Why then is it so hard for us to see the damage being done to our planet? Why then do we keep ourselves in the dark about issues of great concern that our planet faces today – that our children and grandchildren will have no choice but to contend with? Don’t WE appreciate when someone flushes the toilet before our arrival to the bathroom? Why then are we leaving the Earth’s toilet un-flushed for the next generation who may need to use it?
Unless we in this region inform ourselves of what goes on outside the Southeastern United States – and how it affects our own lives – we will never truly understand how our own actions (or inactions) can impact the rest of our planet.
I encourage you all to become informed of the issues we face as a group of living humans on a shared planet. And I will do my best to use this venue to provide information that concerns us all. In our very quickly changing world, there are issues that I am convinced we CAN tend to, if only we are informed. Unfortunately, in the beautiful South – the land of my people, the land that is in my heart and soul – often times environmental issues become suppressed. Now is the time that we change this. We MUST stay informed of the state of our global environment – for the sake of our health, our spirit and the sake of the sweet Southland herself.
(This article has been adapted from the originally published version at Examiner March 10, 2011 )