Earth Day… or Should I Say Weekend (excerpts from daybook)

For my Earth day experience I have decided to take the weekend to do a little more exploring of the natural places that Greeneville has to offer. My first stop was one that I had already visited but found to be beautiful, River Park North. It was a rough trip and not one that I wrote much about. I was stressed out so much… but not any less than I am now.

Day Book Entry River Park North April 19

“Today is lovely. I’m so incredibly stressed. I have a few tests this week and I don’t know what to do… But I am here and I am glad. I have been studying nonstop and have a knot worked up into my shoulder and need a minute to relax. I’ve walked around a little bit to try to burn off some extra energy but I have found a perfect little place to sit. Of course I am on the water as usual but this time I have found a little dock to sit at so that the bark of the tree that I found last time doesn’t hurt as much. It’s later in the day, so the sun is low and it is cool out. There are trees shading my little nook so I am getting a little chilly but I don’t mind. There are birds above me chirping and I can see where he has made his nest. He looks cozy and settled. I only wish that I felt that way right now. But I must keep going.. and studying… meh.”

After my trip to the park I felt much more relaxed than I did before I went. Looking back on it I can only attribute my new found energy to the calm of the nature around me and it’s effects on my mental state. I only wish that I had been able to enjoy it more than I did. The next day I revisited one of the places that I had the most fun at in Greenville, Greensprings Run. I brought Peter with me that time because he LOVES sharks… You might say he is a fanatic. After we played in the water a little bit we took a walk on the Greenway to relax a little more before going back to campus to study some more.

Day Book Entry Sharks Teeth and A Walk April 21

“So today I decided to come back to the Greenway. I have calmed down a little bit since yesterday so I hope that today will be slightly more enjoyable. I decided that the fossil hunting was probably one of my favorite times that I have had in Greenville and that I wanted to bring Peter here to try to find more teeth. He’s such a goofball… He keeps waving at me wanting me to see what he has found. But I told him that I had to write…. he’s a little frustrating sometimes when I’m trying to work. I can’t be mad at him though. He looks so excited haha. I guess I don’t blame him. It’s perfect today. The water drifting by, the warm weather, it’s all wonderful. We walked up a little further to a miniature dam of rocks. My knees are hurting a little bit from squatting but the sand is wet and I really don’t want to get too dirty. There are some teeny fish in a calm pool next to me. I don’t remember seeing any fish last time… but I guess I wasn’t really looking either and they kind of blend in. OK… my knees REALLY hurt now and I guess I should go see what he’s yelling about now…”

“Well I left off kind of suddenly. Turns out he found a really cool shark tooth! It’s a weird color. Its a reddish brown color. I like the opaque black ones better myself. The black has a special sheen to it. We decided to take a walk around the Greenway. It was nice but since I’m not athletically inclined I was ready to be done after we hit the one mile marker. I am still sweating and I’ve been sitting down for about 10 minutes now. It’s pretty warm out so I guess it’s not that weird but still… It’s pretty here but not my favorite. I like River Park North better.”

I really enjoyed my day spent at Greensprings Run and was glad that I was in a more amiable mood than I was at River Park North. All in all my weekend was a good one and I am glad that this assignment was one that actually helped me relax.

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Tooth he found.

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Just walking through the water

My Field Note Reflection (Revised…kind of)

Memo

Throughout this piece I hope to show what I have learned about field note taking and how they can be used. I have found that taking field notes has helped me notice things that I may not have otherwise noticed. I was asked to use my five senses in each of my field notes and record them along with responses that I had to these observations. I am glad to have this skill since it is one that I think can be useful in the future given my intended career path of medicine. Ir was an interesting experience for me and one that I hope comes in handy. I identified the two methods that we used in our class and explained them plainly so that somebody else might be able to learn how to take field notes from this piece. I also tried to convey the belief that anybody can take field notes and share them so that there is more evidence and information available for scientific use.

Reflection

Taking field notes is crucial to scientific research and discovery. It is important for all science related information to be recorded and shared whether the notes are taken by professionals or by community members. The more people that record their findings, then the more information and evidence scientists have to work with. Field note taking is also an important way to hone your attention to the nature around you instead of just sitting and day dreaming like I am prone to doing. It forces you to use each of the five senses to feel the things around you.
My Wilderness Writing class has helped me realized the importance of recording everything that I encounter in nature and that each piece of nature is intertwined with another. In each experience that I have had writing field notes I realize that the observations that I record are somehow related to all of the others. Without this class and being taught different styles or field note taking, I would never have known to sit and physically make myself feel what was around me. I would not have known to pay attention to the scents around me or to the weather and how it was affecting not only me but the life around me. On days like the one that we spent at a nearby park, River Park North, it was hard not to notice these affects because they were so prominent. The cold was affecting everything. My fingers were numb, there were small pieces of ice floating in the water, and there was very little animal life around me to take notes on. This was an important and helpful first experience in taking field notes because I was pushed to pay more attention to the elements instead of just taking notes on the creatures around me.
The description that is included in field notes is essential to research. It is important to be able to look at a set of field notes and be able to derive information from them and have an idea of the experience that was had at that particular place and time. A scientist would be able to look at a stranger’s set of field notes and if they were taken with care, he would have a good idea of the scene that surrounded the writer and take scientific information out of them. The best way that I have noticed to record the strictly scientific aspect of your experience is to use the Grinnell system of note taking which includes specific gps coordinates for where the observations were taken and the time that they were encountered. This is an easy and very formulated way to keep most emotion out of the notes and keep them very factual. This is effective when relaying information from one scientist to another.
Although the Grinnell system is very effective, it is not my favorite. The main reason that I am not fond of this system is because I have a very emotional and spiritual relationship with nature. I prefer to record the things around me and my response to them. Writing in this way allows me to record my innermost thoughts in response to my observation. My thoughts could be anything from how it made me feel physically to how it affected me emotionally. With my relationship with nature and my personality, most of my responses seemed to be emotionally connected. This method of observation and response field note taking helped put everything into perspective for me and how I relate to the nature around me.
Another thing that this method helped me with was noticing things that may not have normally caught my attention. This is important for each of us as individuals to take a step outside of our bubbles and take in what is around us. We as human beings do not always realize what is surrounding us and how crucial it is to our lives whether we notice and appreciate it or not. Taking notes and forcing myself to notice things made me look at the reality of what we call “nature” and how it is being destroyed. I saw things that would not have normally stuck out to me and I realized that I was angered by them. During each of our encounters with nature I found things that not only should not be in that environment but can have very harmful effects on its plant and animal life. Seeing this pollution first hand makes it hit home harder than it would if somebody was just telling me about them.
This summoning of emotion is not only true for shock or anger at the bad things in the nature around us but also for awe and a feeling of blissful peace that may encompass us by just soaking in the beauty that nature holds. There were many times that I was so grateful for the escape that nature provided me and the comfort that I was able to find in it that I struggle to find anywhere else. Everything from the snow falling or the water rushing by me to the birds chirping in the trees above me and even to the physically draining challenges that I was presented with, I felt a sense of power and rejuvenation within myself from just interacting with nature. Taking field notes is also a wonderful way of being able to reflect on what was surrounding us in great detail and reminds us of what we were feeling at the time based on our tone in the notes. I should be able to always look at my notes and recall that day and the emotion should come flooding back to me through my own words.
Notes can also be taken and used for things such as writing articles for different magazines and being able to reflect on a time in detail is imperative when taking another look at them. Being able to recall specifics will help you create a more accurate description of your personal experience. If you are writing a persuasive article or essay it helps when you have a strongly formed opinion of your experience and can use your field notes to defend your stance.
On my own I do not think that I can say that I would have found that taking field notes is an important part of experiencing nature. I would not have thought that they could prove to be any more than a way to record factual observations when in fact they have been able to do much more for me. They have been a way for me to connect nature with my thoughts and record them and reflect on them. Although I know that I will not take field notes every time I experience nature, it is a useful skill to have and one that I hope to be able to become more efficient with.

The Things Not Seen (Revised and Polished)

Memo

Throughout my life I have always been drawn to the water. During one of my recent experiences in my Wilderness Writing class, I was asked to find a place to sit and take notes on what I saw around me. I found a fallen tree at the bank of a small pond and sat. At first I watched for birds and other life forms. Because it was a cold day, there was not many creatures around me that I could take notes on. I sat a wondered what I should write about and watched the water while I wondered. My thoughts drifted as they always do and I began to contemplate how nature effects our lives and how we effect it. What I found is that I don’t believe that we have much to offer nature at all but that nature has an unbounded knowledge that it offers us. If we listen to it I believe that we will come to the conclusion that nature hold the ultimate truth to all of our dilemmas ranging from self-conflict to those that are spread world wide. This is my story on the things that I believe we have to learn and how we can begin to make steps towards the solutions.

The Things Not Seen

Nature is the place that we turn to for a beautiful refuge from the lives we lead and the people that we encounter. We go to the nearest park and find a secluded bench to sit on or the bank of a small pond as far away from the noise of the outside world as possible to contemplate our lives. We wonder how we might solve the problems we face personally or the ones that run rampant throughout our world. But why do we need to go out into nature to think? Nature offers us a wisdom that we cannot find anywhere else. It shows us how to solve each problem that we encounter with a quiet and peaceful resolve. We have this egotistical view of ourselves as a superior species and yet the truth of the matter is that we have so much more to learn from the nature around us than we have to offer it. If we stopped to contemplate and listen to the things that we take for granted, then we could learn so much more about not only ourselves but humanity as a whole.
The example of nature’s wisdom that resonates most with me would be that of the willful and determined water. The water is truly an amazing thing. It is one of the things that we rely on the most and yet one of the things that is so often taken for granted. Of course we need the water to live but it also offers us the knowledge that it has acquired over the eons that it has existed. I have learned through my own experiences in the wilderness that the water is something that has inexplicable power and meaning. It is an element that so many can relate to and even more can learn from. The water is strong, beautiful, and protecting and has many other qualities that people aspire to have themselves. Just looking at it most would see sunlight glittering on the water and the reflections that dance on its surfaces and become captivated. Many, including myself, can watch the water with its rippling serenity for hours and take comfort in its peaceful ways. When I watch it with its calm exterior, I think, as most do, about the reflections and often lean over to look at myself.
The difference in my most recent experience with water and every other experience that I have encountered is that while I watched myself in the ripples, it slowly began to dawn upon me that the water isn’t calm as calm as it appears. Perched on a log at the edge of the water, I was able to see the impact that it has on everything in its environment and I began to think about the strength that the water possesses. As an egotistical species, we often imagine ourselves with the amazing self-strength and confidence that the water displays. We also envision ourselves as having the same force on those in our immediate lives as the water has on its surroundings. We believe that given enough time we can overcome anything with sheer confidence and persistence. Although I agree that we can accomplish anything that we put our mind to, I often believe that we go about the accomplishments the wrong way. We try to power our way through things with brute force not caring about what or even who we may be hurting in the process. We must learn the art of gentle force that the water has perfected. Even though it can overcome any other element, the water does it calmly, through time and persistence which is what we must learn to do.
Contemplating this concept, I soon noticed a piece of ice floating nearby under a low hanging branch. I realized that through all of its strengths, the water makes extreme sacrifices to protect those that depend on it. The water selflessly gives itself to protect those that it cares about and those that need it. It freezes on the surface to keep the lower levels insulated so that all life is not lost due to the winter cold. It is interesting how many claim that they would do anything to ensure the security of their loved ones when very few would truly follow through with those promises. Although some do give themselves tirelessly for the good of others, most of our kind thinks of nothing more than their own advancements. If each person as an individual considered how they might be of service to the people around them instead of how the people can service them, the world would be a vastly different place. If we took on a more selfless attitude like the water displays and considered the needs and well-being of those surrounding us, there would be none left standing alone as so many feel that they do today. This rather simple process would change the lives of many and there would be less need in throughout our species.
Astounded by the thoughts that were running rampant through my head, I began to think about the life that exists just below the surface and I was even more taken aback by the idea that filled my mind next. I realize that the pond that stood in front of me is the one of the main sources of not only life but of protection as well. It harbors and passively protects all life that resides inside of and depends upon it. I looked at my reflection and instead of just seeing myself in the water, I saw a whole new line of defense that the water has. I realized that while many of us see the beauty in its reflections, the intentions of the water are far from trying to be pretty. It is in fact trying to reflect the life around it to keep from being too easily seen through. By reflecting its surroundings, the water protects the life within it. The outside forces and predators only see themselves in the water and struggle more to see the life that resides safely within the waters protective embrace. While this is not a fool proof defense, it is one that the water provides without fail. Although the water works tirelessly to provide and serve those that need it, the reflection is not only for the protection of the life it harbors but for the protection of itself as well.
Reflection as a defense mechanism shows that while the water works so hard to protect those that depend upon it, it does not neglect to take care of itself. We associate things are not seen through as something that is harder to penetrate or hurt. Is it possible that the waters main purpose for its reflective surface is to protect itself? Is this not why most people try to create a calm exterior no matter what their true emotions are? Although we use this defense against emotional and psychological harm as opposed to physical damage, we can see strong ties between our defense and the defense of the water. As I carefully observed the serene surface of the water, I began to think to myself that I hope to be able to mimic its graceful exterior no matter what storm I go through. No matter how hard the outside forces try to harm it the water resists with a modest grace. The wind blows with fierce intensity and the water just ripples in response as if to brush off any attempts of damage. Any break in its flawless surface is immediately repaired and it is left free of any scars. I saw this and wished that I had this uncanny ability. I believe that we all hope to be this strong. We hope that we can be strong enough to withstand the life and challenges that we are given and that we face on a daily basis. We long to not only withstand these tests but to brush them off without any scars physically, emotionally, or psychologically. We try to adapt to our surroundings, overcome them, and advance to the next stage of our lives as we see the water do with ease.
The unusual and stimulating way that the water adapts is that it is constantly changing, flowing, and expanding to mold against its surroundings. This is often a source of uneasiness for people. So many are afraid of the things that they cannot see or comprehend when in reality it should be a source of growth. We can learn from the waters unmatched ability to adapt to any and every situation and overcome it. We yearn to develop this ability that we fear so much in order to overcome our own weaknesses. We are constantly trying to grow and expand both physically and spiritually. As we learn about the person we can become and the person we want to be, we obtain a clear vision of who we are presently. We can then see the changes that we must make in order to become the person that we have the ability to be. Realizing the connections that we have with the water, or truly any part of nature, gives us a sense of true self-image and challenges us to become that person. It challenges us to give ourselves and our skills for the good of others. It also begs us to push ourselves, like the water pushes the earth, to pursue our dreams and do not stop until we obtain them.
The most important challenge that the water presents us with is possibly that of coexistence. This thought is something that most people hope for but also think will never be obtained. Sitting at the bank of the water, I wondered why we find this concept so hard to grasp. I saw the trees and the life that depend upon them and watched the water lapping playfully at the earth surrounding it. When I just sat and looked at them, these things are not in themselves amazing until I began to think and absorb. I began to truly feel them instead of just observe. I was able to think about the importance of each individual life and how they work and coexist in harmony to form the beautiful scene that surrounded me. Each life form no matter how small has a special importance and major influence on its immediate surroundings just like each of us. I saw all of the creatures that we think are insignificant living in a blissful harmony and wonder if we would all be willing to learn about each other and each culture in hopes that we might be able to understand. If we could understand each other then we could find a cycle of life where we could exist peacefully like nature has intended for all of its creations.
As I stared blankly into the reflection of my own eyes I began to see with a more intense clarity that the water has so much more to show us than just the material things. The vast majority sees the water as reflecting only the physical aspects of their life but if we just looked more closely we can see clearly and realize that the water can reflect upon every piece of our lives. The water can reflect upon the person we hope to be not just the person we are. There is so much that we may never understand because we never take the time to stop and listen to the world around us. We hear everything as a steady hum of life but never stop to truly listen to the individual. If we take a second to listen to the wisdom that the water has developed over the eons that it has lived and seen so many other species live (and die) then we may learn more than we could have ever imagined. As individuals we could potentially live to a happier and fuller extent than we might now. Humanity as a species might exist longer as a whole if we just learned from the nature around us. The water and all of its complexity is just one example of the many thing that we may never fully understand and yet something that so many of us, like myself, are drawn to. I wonder however, is it the water in itself that draws us to feel so close to it, or is it the things that we have in common with it, the things not seen?

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Manifesto (Revised and Polished)

Memo

My views and ethics of land use are a mix between anthropocentric preservation and biodiversity. I strongly believe that we are a selfish species and will only take steps towards saving nature for our own benefit. I do not mean this in a demeaning way since I want to save nature for my own use as well. I love being out in nature and think that it is a wonderful way to spend time with family or alone. Because my mind is scientifically driven, I appreciate and want to preserve nature for the advancements that we can make by studying it and the organisms that reside in it. These organisms have the ability of helping us create cures and treatments that can lead to a more comfortable life. Nature also has a rejuvenating power that is not found anywhere else. Being that I am not the athletic type, I personally love the healing power that the wilderness has on the soul. I feel that since we originated in nature, we will always have an irresistible pull towards nature. Throughout this piece I hope to persuade others to take a stance on nature and how it should be used. I hope to convey my thoughts and how I believe that we should go about using it in a sensible way so that we might also be able to preserve it.

Manifesto

The uses and misuses of wilderness and its biodiversity has been a controversial topic for many years. It is something that many disagree on and even worse is something that some don’t even consider or have a position on. Most of these stances take an anthropocentric stance though the extremity of this view varies. Some believe that the wilderness is there to be taken and used not only for man’s needs but for their whimsical desires as well. This set of ethics is known as the “Frontier Ethic” and states that the land is there to be conquered. Another view that has become more popular in recent history is the “Preservation and Conservation Ethic”. The Preservation and Conservation Ethic is a set of values that advocates that we must preserve the land and resources that we already have and use these resources sparingly. While the values of preservation and conservation may seem like they are strictly for nature’s well-being, most of the people that take this stance are trying to save nature so that they may continue to enjoy it and its wonders. There is only one set of ethics that focuses on saving nature for nature and that is the “Biodiversity and Ecological Ethic”. This ethic states that we must save wilderness so that we may save the multitudes of organisms that it possesses and the ecosystems that these organisms inhabit. (Bergstrom, Bowker, Cordell) All views must be analyzed thoroughly before any steps can be taken towards a solution or compromise. My own views are found at a crossroads between the Preservation and Conservation Ethic and the Biodiversity and Ecological Ethic with an anthropocentric twist. I strongly believe that the wilderness and its organisms must be preserved for the advancements of science and the health of humanity both physically and spiritually.
Many good things can come out of preserving wilderness and all of its creatures. I firmly believe we must preserve biodiversity so that we may continue to discover new organisms and research them. This belief may stem from the fact that I am a biology major or that my intended career is in medicine but I am thoroughly convinced that without biodiversity in wilderness we would be scientifically lost. Our advancements in the natural sciences would be limited to discovering things that we had in the past and trying to expand on the little we had left. In E. O. Wilson’s “Biodiversity”, Wilson examines the current state of biodiversity and the loss of it. During his analysis of the diminishing biodiversity and its causes, Wilson brings to light that there are three major circumstances that we must deal with today that has never before been an issue. These circumstances include the explosive growth of the human race and the directly proportional depletion of nature and mass extinction of organisms due to the loss of their habitats. (Wilson, 3) Considering these conditions the question at hand is what do we do? To answer simply, we must take strides to preserve what we have not already ruined or killed by leaving as little of an impact as possible on the environment surrounding nature. We must identify the most destructive things that we do to nature and analyze them so that we can find a solution. The beauty of this mission is that it is possible to make big changes in this area by doing small things if everybody participates. An example of how this movement has already been put into effect on some levels is the use of reusable filtered water bottles and recycling instead of throwing away plastic bottles. This may not seem like a large contribution but in the grand scheme of things thousands of tons of plastic will be kept out of the environment every year just by making this simple change. In 2011 alone 2.6 billion pounds of plastic was kept out of landfills through recycling. (Plasticsrecycling.org) By keeping this plastic out of the environment there is less direct litter and pollution in the natural habitats of organisms which keeps them safer. By reusing the plastic that is recycled, we are also able to reduce the amount of energy and resources that we use when making completely new plastic items. Reducing the amount of energy and resources that go into making new items also leads to the reduction of waste that is produced. Recycling of plastic is only one example of how one small change can spark a domino effect and lead to something amazing if we all participate.
If larger steps were taken to keep the pollution out of the environment then we would have the possibility of saving thousands of organisms that we may not have even known existed from extinction. According to biologists there are still millions of organisms that have yet to be identified and described. It is speculated that thousands of these organisms will go extinct before they are discovered because of our recent extinction crisis. It has even been said that dozens of species go extinct daily. This crisis has been named by many as the Earth’s sixth mass extinction and is accredited to human influence on the environment. If we do not take action to preserve the wilderness and its biodiversity, we may lose some of the most biologically and medicinally important organisms that are found on this earth. Imagine if the cure to cancer was found within a plant that went extinct before we discovered it. What if the fungus found in antibiotics today had gone extinct before its uses had been discovered? We would have had to find another way to treat many bacterial infections that were proving to be fatal. It is true that we might have found an alternative method of curing but there also the disastrous possibility that we may not have. The concerns have been raised that if we try to discover and research organisms then we could cause their extinction. This concern is a valid one and one that has solid ground to stand on given our history with over harvesting. An example of this is the recent evidence of the endangerment of a medicinal tree found in the Himalayas that is used in chemotherapy treatment. (Gersmann, Aldred) While we all know that the research and use of these organisms are to help our species live more comfortably, we could unintentionally be destroying nature as well. The truth of the matter is that by overusing something, even if it is for research, we could cause a shift in the organisms cycle that it may not recover from, which could result in extinction. We can avoid this unfortunate turn of events however, by studying the organism as much as possible in its natural habitat. We must also limit the amount of the organism that we take from the environment to research so that we can preserve the organism and still do research on it. We may even find that it is possible to create an environment that the organism can live in and cultivate it like we have been able to do with the fungus used for antibiotics.
In my personal experience most people express thoughts of concern with the need to preserve an organism but I have also had some ask how we know that we are supposed to preserve organisms. How do we know that these organisms weren’t supposed to go extinct in order for the biological world to continue to evolve and progress? My response to this question is that if the extinction is meant to occur then it will eventually happen no matter what we do, just at a prolonged rate. If we are only prolonging the process then we are not offsetting the balance any more than if we were to speed up the process by continuing to pollute and destroy the organisms habitats. I believe that it is much more harmful to the organism and its environment to take it away before it is meant to go extinct than it is to prolong its life. If we make an organism go extinct before its time then the ecosystem may not be equipped to handle such a large and rapid change and could collapse. It is in the best interest of the organism, the ecosystem that it is a part of, and potentially for us as humans if we do our best to save all organisms from extinction.
Strict Biodiversity and Ecological Ethic believers say that in order to truly preserve wilderness we must remove ourselves from it completely. They argue that we should not use the wilderness for such whimsical purposes as hiking a mountain trail but I would like to ask why not if we can control or ideally eliminate the pollution that accompanies these recreational uses. I do not believe that we need to go to the extremity of completely removing ourselves from the wilderness to keep it safe as long as we do our best to not leave a trace of our endeavors. The wilderness provides places that groups can gather and enjoy their time together and places where somebody can go to find solitude. It provides many choices for recreational uses such as hiking, camping, and swimming. No matter how selfish it may seem to want to preserve something for my own enjoyment, I believe that many can relate because they themselves have used and would like to continue using nature for recreation.
For each adventure I have taken into the wilderness I have been presented with challenges from the environment surrounding me. These challenges have been both physical and mental and have helped me grow as a person. After adventures of hiking on icy trails up a mountain and jumping from car sized rock to car sized rock I have grown to doubt myself and my abilities less with each challenge that I have conquered. I know that no matter what obstacle may be in front of me I can assess the situation, adapt to environment around me, strive to achieve my goal and ultimately overcome anything that I may face. This strategy is worded as adapt to the environment instead of destroy or manipulate the environment even though this would prove to be much easier and instantly gratifying. The concept of adapting to our environment is on that applies to all aspects of life whether it is problems with work, or taking precautions for being out in the wilderness.
Although many use nature and wilderness for its physically rejuvenating aspects, others use it for its healing effects on the psyche or soul. While some may only see this at face value, I believe that because we are natural organisms that originated in the wilderness, we feel an irresistible pull towards it. Wallace Stegnor explains the idea in his “Wilderness Letter” that nature is not meant to be used for recreation and is definitely not meant to be destroyed at our desire but should be used as an “intangible and spiritual resource”. (Stegnor) Even though I have already stated that I do not agree that wilderness should not be used for recreation, I do agree whole-heartedly with Stegnor’s view of nature as a spiritual resource. Many people, including myself, need the wilderness to help them identify with their spiritual self. I use my time and experiences in nature as a way to reach into myself and find peace. Without it I would drown in my own thoughts and emotions. No matter how small the piece of nature is, I find myself automatically feeling a sense of relief as soon as I enter it. I am able to let go of some of the stressors of everyday life for a short and glorious amount of time. Whether I am sitting on a bank of a small pond or on the peak of a mountain, I am enjoying each moment of blissful mental and emotional relaxation. Throughout my life up to this day, if I am ever conflicted about something, no matter how petty it may seem, I will go outside and let my mind settle from the rage of thoughts swirling in my head before I try to sort through them.
A reading that caught my attention when thinking about how nature helps shapes our mind and soul is Aldo Leopold’s “Thinking Like a Mountain”. He describes his experience watching a wolf die and realizing that the wolf has an important duty to fulfill in this world that seems to only be known to him and the mountain that has guarded his ancestors for so long. (Leopold, 130) This shows how we are all interconnected and must remain that way as peacefully as possible. The concept of coexistence is one that can only be truly accepted and lived if we are at peace with ourselves and with others. Wilderness holds the ultimate truth that we have tried to find since the beginning of our time. It shows us how to obtain this truth with everything that it does and sometimes with such exaggeration that we must be blind to miss it. Each experience that we have with nature gives us examples of a harmonic way of life if we take the time look and listen to it. If we watch and absorb what is surrounding us we can find the key to this bliss. It is not enough to see these examples though. We must learn from them and learn to think like a mountain so that we may then apply these values to our everyday lives and to how we interact with nature.
For many, the spiritual effects of the wilderness do not correlate with a religion but for others (again including myself) their spiritual self and their religious view coincide with one another. Many of these religious people need the wilderness to find refuge from the conflicts and temptations of everyday life. It is hard to say that we would not be lost within our human self without this safe haven. For me and my scientific mind, nature is the single thing that can challenge my beliefs and reinforce them at the same time. Research and studies make so many compelling arguments with facts that challenge my religious beliefs that it sometimes takes an awe inspiring site to shake my science driven brain back to my true convictions. These sites have often been so amazing that I just have to stop what I am doing and gaze at it. One of my newfound favorite examples of this is the Hebron Rock Colony in the mountains of North Carolina. It is a colony of rocks ranging from the size of a smart car to the size of a tractor trailer. They are arranged up a river bed so that water flows through them so beautifully that I had to sit and stare for a few minutes in wonder before I could begin making my trek up. It is sites like this one that reinforce my convictions so strongly and with such a bold statement that I am bewildered at how I could have ever questioned them. Ansel Adams eloquently describes a similar experience that he had in a letter to his friend saying “I saw a big thundercloud move down over Half Dome, and it was so big and clear and brilliant that it made me see many things that were drifting around inside of me…” He continues on down his letter about how nature has helped him find truth in areas that he may not have discovered otherwise. (Adams)
As you may see, I strongly believe that we have much to learn from the wilderness and that we must take action to preserve it so that we do not lose nature and all that it has to offer us. Even if we cannot find it within ourselves to preserve nature for its own well-being, selfish as it may be, we must find a way to save it for our own benefit. We need the wilderness and all of the biodiversity that it holds to advance in medicine and treat those in need. We need it to show us its wonders so that we may grow as individuals physically, mentally, and spiritually. Without nature we will surely be lost to a technologically centered world that would destroy us spiritually and would eventually result in our total down fall. In a letter about the wilderness idea Wallace Stegnor states, “We need wilderness preserved–as much of it as is still left, and as many kinds–because it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed.” (Stegnor) I cannot agree with him any more than if he said that the sky is blue. We, as the human species, have grown out of nature and have molded ourselves and our values from it. Nature has been so kind as to have taken care of us for so long that it is only fair and long overdue that we begin to return the favor.

Thinking Like a Mountain: Aldo Leopold and the Evolution of an Ecological Attitude toward Deer, Wolves, and Forests. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.

Adams, Ansel. “Ansel Adams on Love, Friendship, and Art.” Letter to Cedric Wright. 10 June 1937. MS. N.p.

Stegnor, Wallace. “The Wilderness Letter.” The Wilderness Society. N.p., 11 Apr. 2008. Web. 4 May 2013. .

Wilson, E. O. “Biodiversity.” National Academy of Sciences. The National Academic Press, 1988. Web. 16 Apr. 2013.

“THE EXTINCTION CRISIS.” The Extinction Crisis. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2013. .

Aldo Leopold “Wilderness”

“2011 National Post-Consumer Plastics Bottle Recycling Report Released.” 2011 National Post-Consumer Plastics Bottle Recycling Report Released. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2013. .

Gersmann, Hanna, and Jessica Aldred. “Medicinal Tree Used in Chemotherapy Drug Faces Extinction.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 11 Sept. 2011. Web. 05 May 2013. .

Rome, Adam. “Conservation, Preservation, and Environmental Activism: A Survey of the Historical Literature.” Nps.gov. N.p., 16 Jan. 2003. Web. 3 May 2013. .

Cordell, H. Ken., John C. Bergstrom, and James M. Bowker. “Chapter 4-An Organizing Framework for Wilderness Values.” The Multiple Values of Wilderness. State College, PA: Venture Pub., 2005. N. pag. Print.

Wilderness Manifesto

The uses and misuses of wilderness and its biodiversity has been a controversial topic for many years. It is something that many disagree on and something that some don’t even consider or have a position on which is worse. Most of these stances take an anthropocentric stance though the extremity of this view varies. Some believe that the wilderness is there to be taken and used not only for man’s needs but for their whimsical desires as well. This set of ethics is known as the “Frontier Ethic”. Another view that has become more popular in recent history is the “Preservation and Conservation Ethic”. The Preservation and Conservation Ethic is a set of values that states that we must preserve the land and resources that we already have and use these resources sparingly. While the values of preservation and conservation may seem like they are strictly for nature’s well-being, most of the people that take this stance are trying to safe nature so that they may continue to enjoy it and its wonders. There is only one set of ethics that focuses on saving nature for nature and that is the “Biodiversity and Ecological Ethic”. This ethic states that we must save wilderness so that we may save the multitudes of organisms that it possesses and the ecosystems that these organisms inhabit. All views must be analyzed thoroughly before any steps can be taken towards a solution or compromise. My own views are found at a crossroads between the Preservation and Conservation Ethic and the Biodiversity and Ecological Ethic with an anthropocentric twist. I strongly believe that the wilderness and its organisms must be preserved for the advancements of science and the health of humanity both physically and spiritually.
Many good things can come out of preserving wilderness and all that it includes. Because I am a biology major and my intended career path is medicine I find that I firmly believe we must preserve the biodiversity so that we may continue to discover new organisms and research them. Without the biodiversity that the wilderness obtains we would be very limited as to how many more advancements we would be able to make in biological science or medicine. In E. O. Wilson’s “Biodiversity”, Wilson examines the current state of biodiversity and the loss of it. During his analysis of the diminishing biodiversity and its causes, Wilson brings to light that there are three major circumstances that we must deal with today that has never before been an issue. These circumstances include the explosive growth of the human race and the inversely proportional depletion of nature and mass extinction of organisms due to the loss of their habitats. (Wilson, 3) Considering these three conditions the question at hand is what do we do? To answer simply we must take strides to preserve what we have not already ruined or killed but how? It is crucial for us to leave as little of an impact as possible on the environment surrounding nature. This being said we must analyze the things that we do that have the most devastating effects on nature and limit if not eradicate them completely. The beauty of this mission is that it is possible to make big changes in this area by doing small things if everybody participates. An example of how this movement has already been put into effect on some levels is using reusable filtered water bottles instead of throwing away plastic bottles. This may not seem like a large contribution but on the grand scheme of things thousands of tons of plastic is being kept out of the environment every year just by making this simple change. By keeping this plastic out of the environment there is less direct litter and pollution in the natural habitats of organisms keeping them safer, if only slightly so.
If larger steps were taken to keep the pollution out of the environment and to stop directly destroying it the then we would have the possibility of saving thousands of organisms that we may not have even known existed from extinction. There are still millions of organisms that have yet to be described and identified. It is speculated that thousands of these organisms will go extinct before they are discovered because of our recent extinction crisis that has been identified as the Earths sixth mass extinction. It has even been said that dozens of species go extinct daily. If we do not take action to preserve the wilderness and its biodiversity, we may lose some of possibly the most important advancements that we could make. Imagine if the cure to cancer was found within a plant that went extinct before we discovered it. What if bacteria found in antibiotics today had gone extinct before its uses had been discovered? We would have had to find another way to treat infections and although many of them we would most likely survive, there is the possibility that we may not have. Many say that they are concerned with the possibility that by trying to discover new organisms and researching the uses that they may have to help our species live more comfortably we could unintentionally be destroying nature as well. While it is true that by overusing something even if it is for research we could cause a shift in the organisms cycle that it may not recover from which it could eventually go extinct. This is something that can be easily avoided. By studying the organism as much as possible in its natural habitat and limiting the amount of the organism that we take from the environment to research we can preserve the organism and still do research on it. We may even find that it is possible to create an environment that the organism can live in and cultivate it like we have been able to do with antibiotics.
Although in my personal experience most express thoughts of concern with the need to preserve an organism I have also had some ask how we know that we are supposed to preserve organisms. How do we know that these organisms weren’t supposed to go extinct in order for the biological world to continue to evolve and progress? I believe that if this is the case then the extinction is meant to occur then it will eventually happen just at a prolonged rate. If we are only prolonging the process then we are not offsetting the balance any more than if we were to speed up the process by continuing to pollute and destroy the organisms habitats. In fact, we would be doing less damage than if we were to make an organism go extinct before the environment was equipped to handle such a large and rapid change in the ecosystem. Making any slight change can throw off the ecosystem and could ultimately result in its destruction and the extinction of organisms that are found it so it is in the best interest of the organism, the ecosystem that it is a part of, and potentially for us as humans if we do our best to save all organisms from extinction not just the ones that we think are cute and cuddly.
Strict Biodiversity and Ecological Ethic believers say that in order to truly preserve wilderness we must remove ourselves from it completely and argue that we should not use the wilderness for such whimsical purposes as hiking a mountain trail on a cool fall day for our own enjoyment but I would like to ask why not if we can control or ideally eliminate the pollution that accompanies these recreational uses. I do not believe that we need to go to the extremity of completely removing ourselves from the wilderness to keep it safe as long as we do our best to not leave our trace. The wilderness provides a place that groups can gather and enjoy their time together or somebody can go to find solitude. It provides many choices for recreational uses such as hiking, camping, and swimming. No matter how selfish it may seem to want to preserve something so that I may enjoy it in my free time, I believe that many can relate because they themselves have used and would like to continue using nature for recreation. For each adventure I have taken into the wilderness I have been presented with challenges from the environment surrounding me. These challenges have been both physical and mental and have helped me grow as a person. After adventures of hiking on icy trails up a mountain and jumping from car sized rock to car sized rock I have grown to doubt my abilities less with each challenge that I have overcome. I know that no matter what obstacle may be in front of me I can assess the situation, adapt to environment around me, strive to achieve my goal and ultimately overcome anything that I may face. Notice how this strategy is worded as adapt to the environment instead of destroy or manipulate the environment even though this would prove to be much easier and more quickly gratifying. This applies to all aspects of life whether it is problems with work, or just taking precautions for being out in the wilderness. While some may only see this at face value, I believe that because we are natural organisms that originated in the wilderness, we feel an irresistible pull towards it.
Although many use it for its physically rejuvenating aspects, others use it for its healing effects on the psyche or soul. Wallace Stegnor explains the idea in his “Wilderness Letter” that nature is not meant to be used for recreation and is definitely not meant to be destroyed at our desire but should be used as an “intangible and spiritual resource”. (Stegnor) Many people, including myself, need the wilderness to help them identify with their spiritual self. I use my time and experiences as a way to reach into myself and find peace. Without it I would drown in my own thoughts and emotions. No matter how small the piece of nature is, I find myself automatically feeling a sense of relief as soon as I enter it. I am able to let go of some of the stressors of everyday life for a short and glorious amount of time. Whether I am sitting on a bank of a small pond or on the peak of a mountain I am enjoying each moment of blissful mental and emotional relaxation. Throughout my life up to this day, if I am ever conflicted about something, no matter how petty it may seem to be, I will go outside and let my mind settle from the rage of thoughts swirling in my head before I try to sort through them. A reading that caught my attention when thinking about how nature helps shapes our mind and soul is Aldo Leopold’s “Thinking Like a Mountain”. He describes his experience watching a wolf die and realizing that it has an important duty to fulfill in this world that seems to only be known to him and the mountain that has guarded him and his kin for so long. (Leopold, 130) What this is giving an example of is how we are all interconnected and must remain that way as peacefully as possible. The concept of coexistence is one that can only be truly accepted and lived if we are at peace with ourselves and with others. Wilderness holds the ultimate truth that we have tried to find since the beginning of our time. It shows us how to obtain this truth with everything that it does and sometimes with such exaggeration that we must be blind to miss its meaning. Each experience that we have with nature gives us examples of a harmonic way of life. If we take the time to watch and absorb what is surrounding us we can find the key to this bliss. It is not enough to see these examples though. We must learn from them and learn to think like a mountain so that we may then apply these values to our everyday lives and to how we interact with nature.
For many the spiritual effects of the wilderness do not correlate with a religion but for others (again including myself) their spiritual self and their religious view coincide with one another. Many of these religious people need the wilderness to find refuge from the conflicts and temptations of everyday life. It is hard to say that we would not be lost within our human self without this safe haven. For myself and my scientific mind, nature is the single thing that can challenge my beliefs and reinforce them at the same time. Research and studies make so many compelling arguments with facts that challenge my religious beliefs that it sometimes takes an awe inspiring site to shake my science driven brain back to my true convictions. These sites have often been so amazing that I just have to stop what I am doing and gaze at it. One of my newfound favorite examples of this is the Hebron Rock Colony in the mountains of North Carolina. It is a colony of rocks ranging from the size of a smart car to the size of a tractor trailer. They are arranged up a river bed so that water flows through them so beautifully and the sun gleams perfectly off of the wet rocks that I had to sit and stare for a few minutes in wonder before I could begin making my trek up. It is sites like this one that reinforce my convictions so strongly and with such a bold statement that I am bewildered at how I could have ever questioned them. In a letter he wrote to a friend Ansel Adams eloquently describes a similar experience saying “I saw a big thundercloud move down over Half Dome, and it was so big and clear and brilliant that it made me see many things that were drifting around inside of me…” He continues on down his letter about how nature has helped him find truth in areas that he may not have discovered otherwise. (Adams)
As you may see, I strongly believe that we have much to learn from the wilderness. We must take action to preserve it so that we do not lose it and all that it has to offer us. Even if we cannot find it within ourselves to preserve nature for its own well-being, selfish as it may be, we can find a way to save it to learn from. We need it and all the biodiversity that it holds to advance in medicine and treat those in need. We need it to show us its wonders so that we may grow as individuals physically, mentally, and spiritually. Without nature we will surely be lost to a technologically centered world that would destroy us spiritually and would eventually result in our total down fall. In a letter about the wilderness idea Wallace Stegnor states, “We need wilderness preserved–as much of it as is still left, and as many kinds–because it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed.” (Stegnor) I cannot agree with him any more than if he said that the sky is blue. We as the human species have grown out of nature and have molded ourselves and formed our values from it. Nature has been so kind as to have taken care of us for so long that it is only fair and long overdue that we begin to return the favor.
“Thinking Like a Mountain” Aldo Leopold
Thinking Like a Mountain: Aldo Leopold and the Evolution of an Ecological Attitude toward Deer, Wolves, and Forests. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.
Letter from Ansel Adams to Cedric Wright
Wallace Stegnor’s “Wilderness Letter” http://www.colorado.edu/AmStudies/lewis/west/wilderletter.pdf
Wilson, E. O. “Biodiversity.” National Academy of Sciences. The National Academic Press, 1988. Web. 16 Apr. 2013.
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/

Prospectus

The uses and misuses of wilderness and its biodiversity has been a controversial topic for many years. It is something that many disagree on and something that some don’t even consider or have a position on which is worse. Before any steps can be taken towards a solution or compromise all of the views must be analyzed meaning that everybody must take a stance. I believe strongly that the wilderness must be preserved for the advancements of science and the health of humanity both physically and spiritually.

Preserving Wilderness and Biodiversity for Science

                Many good things can come out of preserving wilderness and all that it includes.  I would like to focus on the advancements in science and medicine using E’.O. Wilson’s “Biodiversity” and a website that I found researching this information. Wilson has many examples of things that we have already discovered and examples of medical advancements we have made thanks to biodiversity. There are still millions of organisms that have yet to be described and identified. Thousands of these organisms will go extinct before they are discovered because of our recent extinction crisis that has been identified as the Earths sixth mass extinction. It is speculated that dozens of species go extinct daily. If we do not take action to preserve the wilderness and its biodiversity, we may lose some of the possibly most important advancements that we could make.

Wilson, E. O. “Biodiversity.” National Academy of Sciences. The National Academic Press, 1988. Web. 16 Apr. 2013.

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/

Preserving Wilderness Recreation

The most common use for wilderness among people is recreation. I do not have to explain this to many. The wilderness provides a place that groups can gather and enjoy their time together or somebody can go to find solitude. It provides many choices for recreational uses such as hiking, camping, and swimming. Many argue that we should not use the wilderness for such purposes but I would like to ask why not if we can control or ideally eliminate the pollution that accompanies the recreational uses. I do not believe that we need to completely remove ourselves from the wilderness to keep it safe as long as we do our best to not leave our trace.

Preserving Wilderness for Spirituality

Another important reason to preserve wilderness is for the spirituality aspect of it. Many people including myself need the wilderness to identify with their spiritual self. It is used as a way to reach into ourselves and find peace. Without it we would drown in our own thoughts and emotions. Some (also including myself) use it to identify with their religion as well. Without the wilderness to find refuge from the conflicts of everyday life it is hard to say that we would not be lost within our human self.

“Thinking Like a Mountain” Aldo Leopold

Thinking Like a Mountain: Aldo Leopold and the Evolution of an Ecological Attitude toward Deer, Wolves, and Forests. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.

Letter from Ansel Adams to Cedric Wright

Wallace Stegnor’s “Wilderness Letter” http://www.colorado.edu/AmStudies/lewis/west/wilderletter.pdf

Field Note Reflection

Field Note Reflection
Taking field notes is crucial to scientific research and discovery. It is important for all science related information to be recorded and shared whether the notes are taken by professionals or by community members. The more people that record their findings, then the more information and evidence scientists have to work with. It is also an important way of honing your attention to the nature around you instead of just sitting and day dreaming like I myself am prone to doing. It forces you to use each sense to feel the things around you.
This class has helped me realized the importance of recording everything around you and that each thing is intertwined. In each experience that I have had writing field notes I realize that each observation that I record is somehow related to all of the others. I would never have known to sit and physically make myself smell the scents around my or to pay acute attention to the weather and how it was affecting not only me but the life around me. On days like the one we had at River Park North it was hard not to notice these affects because they were so prominent. The cold was affecting everything. My fingers were numb, there were small pieces of ice floating in the water, and there was very little animal life to note around me.
The description that is included in field notes is essential to research. It is important to be able to look at a set of field notes and be able to derive information from them and have a vague idea of the experience that was had at that particular place and time. The best way that I have noticed to record the strictly scientific aspect of your experience is to use the Grinnell system of note taking which includes specific gps coordinates for where the observations were taken and the time that they were observed. This is an easy and very formulated way to keep most emotion out of the notes and keep them very factual. This is effective when relaying information from one scientist to another.
Although the Grinnell system is very effective, it is not my favorite. The main reason that I am not fond of this system is because I have a very emotional and spiritual relationship with nature. I prefer to record the things around me and my response to them that way I am able to record my thoughts in response to my observation. My thoughts could be anything from how it made me feel physically to how it affected me emotionally. With my relationship with nature and my personality, most of my responses seemed to be emotionally connected. This method of observation and response field note taking helped put everything into perspective for me and how I relate to the nature around me.
Another thing that this method helped me with was noticing things that may not have normally caught my attention. This is important for each of us as individuals to take a step outside of our bubbles and take in what is around us. We as human beings do not always realize what is surrounding us and how crucial it is to our lives whether we notice and appreciate it or not. Taking notes and forcing myself to notice things made me look at the reality of what we call “nature” and how it is being destroyed. I saw things that would not have normally stuck out to me and I realized that I was angered by them. During each of our encounters with nature I found things that not only should not be in that environment but can have very harmful effects on its plant and animal life. Seeing this pollution first hand makes it hit home harder than it would if somebody was just telling me about them.
This summoning of emotion is not only true for shock or anger at the bad things in the nature around us but also for awe and a feeling of blissful peace that may encompass us by just soaking in the beauty that nature holds. There were many times that I was so grateful for the escape that nature provided me and the comfort that I was able to find in it that I struggle to find anywhere else. Everything from the snow falling or the water rushing by me to the birds chirping in the trees above me and even to the physically draining challenges that I was presented with, I felt a sense of power and rejuvenation within myself from just interacting with nature. Taking field notes is also a wonderful way of being able to reflect on what was surrounding us in great detail and reminds us of what we were feeling at the time based on our tone in the notes. I should be able to always look at my notes and recall that day and the emotion should come flooding back to me through my own words.
Notes can also be taken and used for things such as writing articles for different magazines and being able to reflect on a time in detail is imperative when taking another look at them. Being able to recall specifics will help you create a more accurate description of your personal experience. If you are writing a persuasive article or essay it will also help when you have a strongly formed opinion of your experience and can use your field notes to defend your stance.
On my own I do not think that I can say that I would have found that taking field notes is an important part of experiencing nature. I would not have thought that they could prove to be any more than a way to record factual observations when in fact they have been able to do much more for me. They have been a way for me to connect nature with my thoughts and record them and reflect on them. Although I know that I will not take field notes every time I experience nature, it is a useful skill to have and one that I hope to be able to become more efficient with.

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