Every human being is a creation of the planet we inhabit, yet as we grow old many of us lose sight of this idea. We are not separate from but rather an intricate part of Earth’s biosphere. Whether we know it or not, nature surrounds our every action. This sentiment was one that filled my childhood. Afternoons were spent in the forest near the place I called home. Nights were filled with backyard adventures and the elusive insects that filled the sky. Out here in the stillness of the humid Maryland climate I became who am I today. The seeds of my deep appreciation and respect for the natural world were planted in those moments. As I grew older these seeds took root and cultivated. I now find myself working and striving to protect this nature that I came to love. Environmental degradation encroaches on niches of all kinds and my acute awareness of this has only served to deepen my will to defend the natural world.
During my sophomore year of college, I found that children were no longer playing outdoors as much as they once did. It has become apparent to me that kids now spend their afternoons inside, staring at screens on their tablets or televisions. Often, children are not developing a connection with the environment that surrounds them, resulting in a a dangerous slope . The way children spend their time nowadays is a stark contrast to how I spent my time as a young chap. Along with my sisters,Briana and Kenya , I would roam the outdoors of our outer Washington D.C. home. We were looking for new adventures that awaited our presence. My sisters and I would explore some unseen wilderness surrounding our abode. I remember one afternoon in particular My sisters and I were meandering around the hill near our backyard. It was midsummer, yet the heat and humidity did not seem to deter us from our unknown mission. At first we babbled back and forth about what sort of game we should play. The usual came to mind. Hide and seek, tag, the more exotic freeze tag, and cops and robbers. Not one of these games would suffice. We were seeking to do something different, something that had not been done before.After much deliberation we decided that we would each create a mud pie, the best looking and tasting being the winner. Our mom would be the judge. We each set out to make our best dirt based pie. Before we knew it, nature covered our hands and faces. We dug numerous holes in hope to get the best dirt possible. We all scurried around trying to find different grasses to garnish our creations. Sticks, weeds and flowers were a must. A patch of dandelions was not too far off, so we raced eager to grab the brightest and best for our pie. Along the way I found a wishbone-like stick. I would use this as a tower kind of structure, giving my pie more depth and dimension. Once we were again in the backyard, we topped our pie with these different plants, bringing color and variety to this nature pie. We were not done yet. At one point we decided to turn over stones and blocks to find bugs to incorporate into our concoction. After turning a few cinderblocks upside down without any luck I finally turned over one with a treasure trove full of fascinating insects. A multitude of ants crawled away, fearful that I, an innocent 7 year old, would destroy their home. Tiny, almost transparent spiders that outlined the edge of the block seemed to wither from the bright shining sun. I decided not to top my pie with these creepy creatures. Instead, I opted for my childhood favorite, the “rollie pollie ollie.” These little organisms grasped my attention. Scared that I would harm them, they ceased their crawling about and instead rolled into a little ball, hoping their hard exterior will save them from any outside danger . One by one I pick them up, careful to not crush them. I began placing them on my lifeless pie Suddenly, my rather bleak pie, only covered in mud, plants and sticks, comes to life. The pie started looking like Earth itself. A mix of dirt and plants placed together with living, breathing creatures, creating an ecosystem where different substances live on and around the environment. During the entire process my sisters and I were laughing and having the times of our lives. We were not staring into a screen or sitting inside a house. Instead, we were outside connecting with nature. While these pies were obviously inedible, and none of us were actually competing to make the best pie, it served as an activity that allowed us to expand our imaginations and incorporate the little ecosystem our backyard thrived on. In this same backyard, my love for nature would continue to take hold.
Summer nights in Landover, Maryland were always a pleasure. One summer in late July, right after the 4th I had an experience that will not escape my memory. Before the dark, crisp summer night rolled in, Thomas, Michele, Briana, Kenya and I prepared for the oncoming occasion. Out in the woods of Maryland, every late June and early July would usher in the most elegant bugs known to man, or at least to a younger version of myself. Fireflies are the name I know those creatures by. Some may know them as lighting bugs. These flying beetles illuminate the sky in hopes to find a mate. On this night however, in that backyard, my family and I brought our nets and jars ready to catch one. Before the event began, my sisters and I made sure that our jar lids had holes, ensuring that the captured fireflies would still be able to breathe. As the earth turned and the sun light disappeared, the fireflies began to light up the sky. Every which way I looked, yellow lights flooded my eyes. How absolutely wondrous this moment was. Catching the bugs was a challenge for my sisters and me as they would often not fly low enough for our extending nets to reach. After much effort we began to lose hope. But then a wave, a rush, of low flying fireflies came our way. We readied our nets and set off to catch the elusive light these beetles have. One after the other flew into our nets. Our faces, like the light from these beetles, lit up. We jumped up and down, elated by our capture. After catching the bugs and being satisfied, we called out for our parents help to make sure at least one entered each of our jars. Slowly but surely my parents managed to get a single firefly in each one of our jars. We proudly carried these jars inside, thinking we could use the light as a night-light and release the bugs in the morning. Much to my surprise, the light slowly dimmed a few hours later and the bug seemed to lose its life. Confused and scared, my sisters and I rushed to our parents eager to find out what was happening. They explained that the bugs do not always shine, and that, much like us, without proper care they will die. Shortly after, we set the bugs free in hopes that they would return to the world the way they were when we captured them. From that experience, I learned that nature is best as is. While admiration for nature is needed, and some adaptation of it is inevitable, nature shines at its brightest, much like the fireflies, when it is allowed to take its own path, without being jarred and contained.
I was not aware that my adolescent days out in the forests of the greater Washington D.C. area would play such a pivotal role in my life. I now know that my childhood interactions with nature shaped my staunch support of many environmental causes. During my senior year of high school, I took an advanced placement (AP) environmental science class which reinforced my foundational beliefs. This class aided my path towards becoming a true environmentalist. During this course I came across an abundance of information which I felt called me to action. One way I extended my support for the environment was by getting the people around me to ditch their attachment to plastic water bottles. Slowly but surely I convinced my family to stop purchasing these wasteful items. It was tough at first, even though my family cares about the environment. Initially I thought to myself, “If I can’t convince my own family, what hope do I have at convincing anyone else?!” This thought soon faded as plastic bottled water soon became a distant memory in my household. A few months later I was able to convince Marisa, my girlfriend, to also stop buying these bottles. I took action because my teacher in AP environmental science taught me that individuals matter . When it comes to generating a positive change for the environment, individuals do make a difference, and they must demand others to make a change as well. With this in my mind I have now set a goal to ban plastic bags at the University of New Mexico and then to extend that ban to the city of Albuquerque .
Humans are not just separate creatures living on Earth. We are instead, one of many organisms that come together to create the world we know. Making nature pies and catching fireflies connected me with nature in more ways than I can explain. Due to these experiences I now strive to protect this world I came to love, my home.