Throughout much of human history, the natural world inspired both fear (as the source of lion attacks and frostbite) and reverence (as the provider of fruit and brooks and shade).
With the Industrial Revolution, that started to change. Nature became something to explore, explain, and exploit. We plumbed the jungles, scaled the mountains, dissected bird and beast. Nature was a resource to be used, and use it we did.
We all know where that got us. Now we’re destroying whole ecosystems, poisoning the skies, altering the seas. The vastness of the environmental problems we face confounds the mind.
But the solution depends on something much simpler. Nature is not an abstraction—we can touch it, and it touches us. We go to tide pools, stick our fingers into the gentle grasp of an anemone, watch the hermit crabs clambering over the rocks. We feel joy when we glimpse a deer on a hiking path, and fear when we make a wrong turn and have to pick our way through the forest in the dark. Even in the city, we are still sustained by sun and soil, animal and grain; we can still admire the snow falling in the glow of the streetlamps.
This affection and awe, fear and desire defines our relationship with nature. And it is this relationship—more than any economic or political or ethical argument—that informs our reckoning of the value of wild places, and hence the sacrifices we will make to preserve them.
In this issue, we stick our noses into the relationship between alumnae/i and the great outdoors. Read on, and let’s explore.