I wiggle my toes to loosen the grip of my new boots. We had been walking for a while and I started to lose my sense of time. All I could focus on was the peace that surrounded me.
The crunch of walking on fallen branches, the mysterious noises from above the trees, and the streams that seemed to be flowing in all directions, as if the sounds were going in and out of my ears every time I turned my head.
To my right was a forest enriched with emerald. Trees of all types towered above me and filled the right side of the sky. I avoided eye contact with the dark parts of the forest because it unsettled me, but when I did look, I clenched tightly to my bear spray.
To the left of me was a canyon like a bowl of rocky road icecream. A deep valley of rock and ridge everywhere you looked. At its bottom rushed a stream, which volatile sounds made me curious of the life down below. The randomness of it all was like trying to solve a 1000 piece puzzle.
It all seemed unreal as we walked on this bridge of dirt between these two tremendous worlds.
We finally reach the lookout point to learn that it was all too worth it. I get swallowed up by this canyon of rock, green and stream. Swallowed up by what is known as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park.
Over this past summer, I had the chance to visit several national parks in Montana, Idaho and Utah. I was amazed by how diverse every park is with its wildlife, greenery, and rock formations. It made me have a deeper love for nature.
I felt blessed to have seen all of those beautiful valleys and towers of green and grateful for the conservation of wildlife. It worries me that one day these beautiful pockets of our Earth will be destroyed.
According to the strategic plan from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, “There is no longer any doubt that the Earth’s climate is changing at an accelerating rate and that the changes are largely the result of human-generated greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere caused by increasing human development and population growth. Climate change has manifested itself in rising sea levels, melting sea ice and glaciers, changing precipitation patterns, growing frequency and severity of storms, and increasing ocean acidification.”
We have come to learn that humans have left a mark on the environment with deforestation, pollution, overpopulation and the burning of fossil fuels. These actions have lead to extreme conclusions, such as climate change and worsening air quality.
Even the wildlife that we strive to conserve is under attack. These parks can face air and noise pollution, littering, depletion of resources and the trampling of ecosystems, according to a study by Lauren Finnessey.
To some, these problems might appear/seem too complex or even irreversible.
NASA shared that, “Even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, global warming would continue to happen for at least several more decades, if not centuries.”
Climate change is a global issue that needs a globally-coordinated response. With moral, economic and social influences, an actual plan shared amongst the globe seems out of reach.
That isn’t to say that we can’t individually make a difference. Our planet is suffering because we shove these issues under the stack of our global priorities. We chose to not deal with them like they are the dark parts of the forest, but now we need to choose to care.
Many don’t see how the trampling of an ecosystem in Yellowstone National Park or the fracking in the Great Lakes region is harming our Earth because it doesn’t affect what is happening in their lives now.
It is clear what the consequences of our actions will lead to, so why do we continue to shove these issues under the stack? Is it the drive for money or lack of jobs? If we keep going in the path we’re taking there will be nothing to work for.
If we don’t see the effects of our environmental footprints, our children will. Researchers predict that we will see an even larger increase in climate change, more intense heat waves and droughts, stronger natural disasters, rising sea levels and an Arctic Ocean that will become “ice free in summer before mid-century,” to only name a few from NASA studies.
This is something we all need to take responsibility for. It isn’t too late to care. It may not be an immediate effect but we can instill environmental steward habits for future generations. It isn’t a political matter, it’s a matter of life and death for the natural beauties of our world.
Right now, you can choose to start developing a greener way of life. These are just a few things that students can start doing now to become environmental stewards:
These are only a few. It’s our responsibility to take care of our home, do our research, and conserve the environment. It is hard to determine what might exactly happen to our Earth, but imagine the change we could make if we start implementing these green ways of living.
If you still don’t believe your daily actions affect our planet, calculate your ecological footprint to see exactly what you are doing to harm the environment. How many planets would we need if everyone lived like you?