The World Taking Care of Us This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Before I went to Nature High Summer Camp, I didn’t have many opinions about the environment except that I liked to go hiking and national parks were nice. I figured environmentalism was for other people to worry about.

That opinion did not last long at camp. I didn’t become a tree-hugger or a die-hard environmentalist, but I learned about land use and land management and started to care about the world around me.

The person who influenced me most was Diane. She had worked in forestry for 20 years and was by far the most interesting professional there. When she started talking, I hung on every word.

Throughout my stay, we did a land-use scenario that dealt with logging an area, then role-played the different companies and organizations involved. I was in the group proposing the logging operation, and Diane told us about the scenario.

“Don’t believe everything I say,” she began. “Don’t believe my opinion, learn and get your own,” but everything she said made sense.

The spruce beetle had attacked the forest that was the subject of our scenario, so many of the spruces had died. Diane shocked me by suggesting that putting out forest fires isn’t always a good thing - in fact, the cycle of nature makes it essential that fires take place because they clear out dead material and enrich the soil. Because the Forest Service had put out all the fires in the past, the accumulation of dead material meant that a forest fire would grow too big and consume too much. Suddenly Smokey the Bear wasn’t quite as cool as I’d thought.

Diane said that the dead spruce trees were perfect for making log homes. The wood had dried naturally and upright, and wouldn’t decay. The beetle was an endemic bug, and the fact that it had killed all the trees wasn’t a horrible thing because it basically took the place of the fires that used to kill the spruce trees and allow aspen to grow (and when the aspen would die, the spruce would grow again - I had no idea there could be such wonderful cycles).

And then there was this piece of information, which most influenced my opinions: selective logging would actually help the area because it would clear out the dead trees and allow more vegetation to grow in its place, more aspens to grow, and through good management, the environment could be helped and a profit made.

Diane added that she had heard an environmentalist friend say that logging had gone down in the United States, while paper consumption had increased. The friend was excited that logging had decreased, but Diane explained that increased paper consumption meant that the necessary lumber was taken from other areas like the rainforest - one place where logging could never help the environment. If more logging took place in the U.S., the rainforests could be better preserved.

I had assumed that environmentalists are always the good guys, and though they are not bad, preservation is not necessarily always the best path. Human involvement doesn’t always hurt the beauty of nature, and it can actually help make it better. Proper grazing, logging and other practices aren’t damaging as long as good management practices are in place.

I believe that humans will not ruin the environment in most cases, and it isn’t about us taking care of the world, it is more about the world taking care of us. We cannot destroy our beautiful globe of life, we can only destroy ourselves.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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