The Role of Nature

March 14, 2013
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Nature can mean so many things. It can be the sound of the wind blowing the leaves around in autumn or the birds chirping on an early spring morning. It can also be the beautiful flowers that grow around us or the fish swimming in the brook in the backyard. Nature can be the sun setting on a sandy beach or the animals and plants we see as we hike through the woods. In Jonathon Franzen’s memoir, My Bird Problem, the author refers to nature as “the fresh air, the smell of firs, the torrents of snowmelt, the columbines and lupine, the glimpses of slender-ankled moose”(57). To Jonathan Franzen almost everything he does from his bird watching to his experiences with women, including his own marriage, has some relationship to nature.

As Rick Bass states in his memoir, A Texas Childhood, “We need it all, and our children deserve the possibility of it all: the wild and the pastoral both, the swamps and mountains and forests, all the different types of forests, and all the different types of deserts, and coastlines, and grasslands” (17). Nature is something that should be preserved and cherished. Too many people disrespect nature and do not realize its importance to the way we live and to future generations. After reading the essay, Plastic Ocean, by Susan Casey, I clearly realized that we must take good care of nature or we risk losing parts of it that will have long-term ramifications for us and other living things that depend so much on the natural world. We must reduce all forms of pollution like throwing trash on the side of the road and allowing emissions from cars, trucks, large factories, and power plants. Focusing on alternative energy vehicles, recycling, and wind and solar power or other sustainable energy technologies will be required to preserve nature the way we know it today.

In order to reduce the damage that automobiles and trucks have on nature, we need to continue to develop new energy sources for vehicles. Electric cars or cars that run on bio fuels that include recycled vegetable oil do not cause as much harm to our environment compared to gasoline powered vehicles. While these new types of vehicles are more readily available every day, you still have to pay a premium to purchase them. According to Cheryl Jensen, “…unless automakers can make a better economic case to consumers…these alternative-fuel vehicles will remain a very small part of the market in the United States” (1). This premium, for most people, is the difference between buying these cars or buying the less expensive gasoline powered vehicles. Until the technology has matured and has been accepted as a viable alternative, thus bringing the costs down, most people will stay with the gasoline-powered option. Everyone hopes this will change soon!

To further protect our environment, we must continue to recycle plastics, cans, and paper. Reusing these materials versus sending them to the landfill has major long-term benefits for nature. While most communities in the Northeast have very good recycling programs, other parts of the United States have no recycling programs at all. For example, when traveling in the south with my family I have seen that recyclable waste goes into the same containers that other trash goes into. It is frustrating to me because I know how harmful plastic bottles can be to nature.

In Skunk Dreams the author Louise Erdrich, states, “The obstacles that we overcome define us” (6). This statement tells me that when we face obstacles, we need to address them and try to change things to overcome them instead of just turning away and accepting the problematic situation as it is. Communities that don’t recycle should not just accept that it costs too much or requires additional resources to implement. They should look for ways to break through their old thinking and find the solutions that will make life better for them.
The U.S. currently depends a lot on natural gas, oil, and coal as energy sources for creating electricity. The power plants using these fuel sources also create lots of harmful emissions, in the form of carbon dioxide, which is released into the air. These emissions are big contributors to pollution in the air and eventually fall back to earth in the form of acid rain or create the greenhouse effect. While progress has been made over the years to reduce these emissions, they are still happening and at levels that are still damaging to nature. Alternative energy sources like wind power need to be seriously considered in order to reduce or ultimately eliminate these harmful gases. However, the cost of these new energy sources is still high, so many use this as an excuse not to consider them. This is another example of how an obstacle, in this case cost, can stop efforts to make positive changes to help preserve nature. However, David Biello in Scientific American reminds us that while, “burning natural gas to generate electricity remains cheaper than harvesting the wind, as abundant as it is—a cost will be paid in terms of adding to climate change in future” (2). These climate changes that Biello mentions are not good changes and no one really knows how they will affect nature.

Nature instills creativity in people and gives clarity to one’s thoughts. It is both our real home and a symbolic home that holds deeper meaning about who we are and what path we are taking in life. Something so meaningful and powerful as nature should not be taken for granted. We must ensure that we put in whatever effort is needed to preserve nature for future generations. Nature is so complex and beautiful that it should never be abused. People always have the desire to acquire material things and experiences to maximize short-term comfort and gratification, and as a result they don’t appreciate nature. If one would only think of spending more time in nature, he or she would realize that it brings happiness, causing many human anxieties and supposed needs to subside. The beauty of nature is so powerful and inspiring that it can truly fill a person with amazement and awe and bring great balance to a person’s life.

Bass, Rick. “A Texas Childhood.” The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004. Philip Zaleski, ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
Biello, David. “The Sky Is the Limit for Wind Power.” Scientific American. September 11, 2012.
Retrieved from:
Erdrich, Louise. “Skunk Dreams.” The Best American Essays of the Century. Joyce Carol Oates and Robert Atwan, eds. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Franzen, Jonathan. “My Bird Problem.” The New Yorker. August 8 & 15, 2005.
Jensen, Cheryl. “Price Is Major Factor for Electric Vehicles, Study Says.” The New York Times. November 9, 2012. Retrieved from:

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