The Ways We Connect

By Hannah Gartner

The modern environmental movement is filled with calls to connect with the natural world. Over half of the world’s population now live in cities, and having gown up in a city myself I understand how easy being in the concrete jungle makes it forget that one is part of nature. Danger arises from this because human beings value and take care of what is seen as like them, and without any connection to the natural world there is no motivation to behave more sustainably. The environmentalist are therefore on the right path by encouraging connection with the natural world.

My own connection really began as a child, when I spent my Summers going to Maine and my afternoons walking the woods near my home in Philadelphia. Then, in my early twenties I began hiking, snowboarding, and rock climbing. Throughout all this I also grew an understanding of how the world interacts within me through what I take in and put out. For example, the food I eat and excrete can be turned into compost, which has nutrients that feed the plants who then go on to provide me with oxygen and more food. This rapport, along with many others, is no accident but rather a symbiotic relationship developed over millennia.

I have found no better way to connect with nature then to adventure in it, sometimes in exposing and scary ways. Each of the athletic hobbies that I pursue also connect me differently. Snowboarding is a fast rush, while climbing is slow, calculating, and far more exposing. Hiking does not possess the same thrills, but allows more intimacy with the most peaceful aspects of nature. The connection is further enhanced as I learn more about the native flora in my home.

A few weekends ago I took a three day backpacking trip. Passing into wilderness areas with nothing but my feet to move me and what was on my back to sustain me, I found a nature that is rarely seen. The first night was spent by a mountaintop lake between two high passes. The next day, after getting water from the lake, we continued over one of the passes. It was a beautiful day until an afternoon thunderstorm came and refused to leave. We arrived at the campsite that afternoon sopping wet with the rain still pouring down. The tent was erected as quickly as possible, and the remainder of the evening was spent huddled from the rain under that nylon barrier.

Experiencing the natural world is not always confortable. This lesson is clear in the above story, and is one I learn almost every time I adventure in nature. Another lesson I learn is that it is through vulnerability that a deeper connection is able to arise. To foster these types of experiences in one’s own life therefore spontaneously creates the kind of links to the natural world that our culture so desperately needs. Furthermore, allowing oneself the discomfort of being in the outdoors better prepares them for the uncomfortable task of mitigating climate change. So go out there, get your hands dirty, and get close to nature!

Forget Political Parties, Vote for the Natural World!

By Hannah Gartner

The vast number of countries in the modern world vote for who will head their government. Where I live in the United States we are currently undergoing a presidential election, without doubt the most important election that takes place here. This one is particularly important given that the candidates on the right are all anthropogenic climate change deniers. This has gotten me thinking a lot about how we can vote for the natural environment and help bring sound climate policy into politics.

Presidential Candidate Profiles 52Source: Conservative Review

The first step in determining the right candidate to vote for is to find their political platform for climate change. For the US presidential election this was relatively simple, since none of the Republican candidates have anything to say on this particular issue. As an environmentalist it is therefore clear to me that I can not vote for anyone in the Republican party. I believe that environmental issues are the most important issues we face, and feel that my vote must therefore be for someone who represents and believes the same.

The next step in voting for the natural world is to evaluate each platform. Hillary Clinton’s platform sets clear goals, but does not dive into details on how to accomplish these goals. It also completely ignores the international components of climate change. Bernie Sanders has a much more complete climate platform, although again the international components are lacking. Furthermore, it is important to look at each candidates history on these issues. Sanders has been talking about climate change for years, while Clinton has remained relatively silent.

3d rendering of a badge for the 2008 presidential election

The final step is to vote! Collecting this information and forming opinions means nothing if one does not act of them. So, wherever you live and whoever your candidates are, make sure you cast your vote for the natural world.

Amendment, 5/9/2016: Since writing this Clinton has released an environmental justice plan which can be found here.