By Brad Walker March, 2005
Note: This essay was written while I was working on a graduate degree a decade ago. The assignment was to determine whether I thought we needed nature. I hope it will be an interesting change from the rather intense articles that I typically write and does break the “no travelogue rule” extensively. Also, there are a couple of papers referenced in the first paragraph (Pleninger & Goldstein) that are not pertinent, so just ignore them.
Do we need nature?
It seems it requires a good bit of arrogance to ask such a question. As is quite elegantly pointed out in the Pleninger paper, we should more likely be asking ourselves whether nature needs us? It is easy to be dismissive, or just say “Of Course”, but I must provide a response. While considering my response other questions crossed my mind, such as: What is nature? And then, Whose nature are we talking about? Finally, Am I really qualified to even answer the question? So, the best way I believe I can answer is to describe how I got where I am today, a 50+ year-old Geography graduate student at the University of Florida, inspired somewhat by the Goldstein paper.
The Early Years
My first true contact that I recall with the ‘wilds’ of nature was when I was about seven. I lived in a small rural town west of Chicago along the Fox River. We had moved to a new brick duplex on the town edge surrounded by acres of cropland. The neighborhood kids and myself had discovered a creek across the field behind our house that we trekked through nearly every summer day to pretend we were Indians. We built forts along the creek, fought imaginary wars, sifted through the creek for little animals and bugs, and enjoyed the quiet and pleasant smells of the little valley. It seemed miles from home though it was actually just about a block up the hill. We enjoyed our ‘Spear Valley’ for several years until we grew up at about 11 or 12. One of those summers I shot my first and only bird, never picking up a gun again.
After high school, during which I enjoyed several years of drafting widgets and houses in industrial arts class, I went to college and became an engineer. By that time I was obsessed with symmetry and technology. I worked summers in construction helping lay brick and place concrete, lots of right angles and flat surfaces, and everything in its place.… Read the rest