I’ve been listening to this podcast called Generation Anthropocene. They do a really great job of discussing human impact on the planet. There’s a common theme on their podcast: what is nature?
It seems like such a simple question with such a simple answer. Most people probably picture the plains of Africa or the jungles of the Amazon or maybe the forests of Yellowstone. In Phoenix, maybe people would think of White Tanks or the Superstition Mountains. They’re not generally going to think of the park down the street or the vacant lot in their neighbor.
When asked to picture wildlife. maybe people would think of gorillas and wolves and pythons and tigers and lions and bears. I doubt people would think of pigeons or house sparrows or rats.
Yet those things belong to nature as well. That vacant lot that just sits between the grocery store and the dry cleaners – yep, that’s nature. That annoying pigeon that poops all over your patio – yep, that’s nature too. Those termites chewing into your house – nature. Those gophers digging holes in your backyard – nature.
In urban America, we are so consumed with our day-to-day lives that we fail to notice that nature is all around us. All we have to do is look up and observe. Maybe I’m a bit bias about this – I’m a wildlife teacher after all, but I think it’s important to notice that we are not above nature. We are not apart of nature. We are very much a part of nature. Just because we can manipulate our surroundings doesn’t mean that we aren’t affected by those surroundings. We need to look up from our iPhones or Androids and appreciate that bee that is flying from flower to flower in the small garden in front of our offices. We need to see the nests in the palo verde in the Fry’s parking lot. We need to watch for the Red-tailed Hawk resting on the electric poll. It’s important.
This semester, my goal is to give my students the tools to notice the wildlife around them. I think if we can appreciate the little bits of nature around us, maybe we will be more likely to try to save them. Which means maybe we’ll be better consumers and better voters.
Or maybe we’ll just appreciate the beauty of ants traveling in a line in search for food. Because for me, that’s enough.