One of my favorite places in the world is the island of Chiloe. It is off the coast of Chile and is known for its seafood, friendly inhabitants, and its largely untamed nature. One particularly fond memory I have of the island is a day-long family hiking trip that I took there one summer. We spent the entire day trekking along long and winding paths, climbing over rocky terrain, singing, and laughing as we bonded with both each other and the wildlife surrounding us.
Being in nature is such a rejuvenating experience for me. Whether I’m swimming in a lake, skiing in the mountains, or sunbathing in the grass on the quad, I always take the time to appreciate the bounty and loveliness around me. This past week for Earth Day, I celebrated by going on a trail run around campus. It was a wondrous outing; the trees were in bloom, the birds were singing in the trees, Sunset Lake looked beautiful filled with water once again, and I could feel the planet’s energy and thrumming life nourishing my spirit as I ran through the woods.
Then, I came across an appalling sight. Strewn across an otherwise picturesque patch of forest were beer bottles, cigarette butt,s and food wrappers, left from a group of inconsiderate partiers the weekend before. I was so incredibly saddened and frustrated by the sight of such thoughtless littering. Here at Vassar we have a gorgeous campus with so many sights and experiences to offer, and there are so many people who do not respect or appreciate the wonder of the land. People say that there is a “Vassar bubble,” but people also get caught up in their own personal bubble and don’t seem to notice the impact that they have on the ecosystem in which we live. It is important to evaluate the way we treat the planet and to live a lifestyle that is healthy for both ourselves as well as for Earth.
Living in an eco-conscious and wholesome way does not necessarily mean wearing only hemp clothing and living in a commune. It can mean something as simple as picking up trash as you go about your business on campus, participating in Meatless Monday, or shutting off the faucet when you brush your teeth. Small changes in our daily lives can make a huge impact on the wellbeing of our community, and these lifestyle alterations can spread and be applied to the world as a whole.
I encourage you to take a walk through the woods or the farm one day this week. Turn off your iPod, let go of your finals stress, and take an hour or so to merely walk in the amazing environment that we are so privileged to have, both here at Vassar and in the world in general.
Connecting to the environment is something that is innate within us and that everyone can do with a little effort. And who knows—perhaps during your walks through the woods you will reconnect with a part of yourself that you hadn’t realized was missing, and feel more connected with the energy and potential of the world. Perhaps will provide just the boost you need to make it through these last few crazy weeks of school before we are let loose for the summer and make our ways home, wherever in the world that may be.
The resources and energy with which the world provides us are not things that we should take for granted. The world and its diverse ecosystems have so much to offer and have done so much for us that we owe it to the planet to care for it and treat it with the respect it deserves. Respect is such an easy and incredibly important thing to have, and makes a world of difference.