The APLS carnival this month is about nature - my relationship to it and how it relates to sustainability. Nature has always played a large roll in my life in one way or another, but I've had a great deal of trouble writing this post. I'd start then erase it all and start again. So here we go again for one more try.
I grew up in the mountains of Colorado. My parents owned about six acres of land. The house was built into the side of a cliff and some of the walls inside were the actual cliff side. The surrounding landscape was not planted, but it was all natural woods. We didn't have the typical lawn, but instead we had natural meadows that had a profusion of wildflowers every spring. My backyard was a National Forest.
So I certainly grew up with nature. I loved being outside more than inside (except when Star Trek was on :>). In the afternoons I would take my dog and we would go running up the neighboring mountain. In the summer I would splash in the creek bed in the valley. As I grew older my outside time became more structured. I took up backpacking and helped start a backpacking club in my high school.
When I got married and moved to Boston suburbia, I was suffocated by all the houses around me (not to mention the trees here give you a closed in feeling, where Colorado's forests are very open). We finally moved to our current home that is half an acre and has a natural woods behind the house. We thought it would be a great place to bring up kids and it was. The kids were no longer stuck playing in little sandboxes, but got to dig earthen forts in the backyard. My garden switched from being a small 4'x12' raised bed to the 20'x20' plot I have now. There is a small little conservation area about a 1/3 of a mile from the house where I go for walks. The neighborhood is safe. It is not close to public transportation or major roads, so the only people that come here live here.
It was an idyllic place to bring up kids, but green it was not. Not being on public transportation has caused a lot of issues. I have biked to places from here, but its major flaw is that it is on the top of a large hill. It is OK if you are pedaling yourself up the hill, but as soon as you put a couple of gallons of milk and all the rest of the food for the week on the bike, it becomes really hard. It wasn't something I did for long. I still occasionally bike to Trader Joe's to buy things, but I can't do a real stocking up run without a car.
I think the love of nature often causes more problems to nature than it solves. Though I'm inside the 128 belt in Boston, many people that love nature like me choose to live farther out. This means longer car trips, tearing down more trees for homes in the wild, building more roads. So many people want that second home in the mountains, on the lake or in the woods. They put in lawns even in the wilderness then fertilize them and cause runoff pollution. People seem to love their nature, but then have an absurd desire to tame it.
I often see people that claim to love nature yet don't tread very lightly. Backpackers use up wood in the wilderness that is important to the ecosystem. I've seen people that blithely go off path and walk on desert soil crusts. I've seen people stand up on coral. Most of these people are not trying to be bad. They are there because they love the woods, the desert or the reef. They are merely uneducated about the harm they are doing.
Loving nature isn't always bad though. There are those who love nature and become protective of it, instead of just using it. These activists (like John Muir and Howard Zahniser) have protected many beautiful places so that our children and their children will still have real wilderness to see and explore.