field, sea, sustainable living
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we have a gift, and it’s everywhere

There is nothing else in our galaxy like our earth. Nothing that sustains life like our planet. We are blessed. But we don’t all know it.

How can you teach someone to love the earth? If you can teach them, will they care about what they do to it? Will they love it like they love a friend, a husband, a mother? Will they teach others to love it too?

I was at home recently in Texas and as I rode with my family on the interstate, my father pointed out some adjacent land. He asked “see all of that land and how it’s cleared?” I noticed it looked freshly sculpted, like someone came through with a rolling pin and created a hilly landscape and removed all the trees. I asked what was going on and he said “they are extracting oil” and he commented on how nice the land will look after all the grass grows back. Those rolling hills will be so beautiful, he said. The land that was once covered with the piney woods so characteristic of the northeast region of the state are no longer there. Instead, there are bulldozers and oil companies – something well known all over Texas. Black gold, Texas tea. And we continued driving, but that image remained with me because I now understand what those extractive processes do to the environment. And since I am now informed, I have a duty to inform others.

When we alter our habitat, we alter our climate forever. But we don’t often care because the repercussions are “out of sight, out of mind” since most climatic impacts are not felt for hundreds of years after they were initiated.  We are feeling the effects of the Industrial Revolution, now imagine what our world will be like in hundreds of more years based on the emissions and changes we are sculpting now? When I look out at the palm trees and the ocean in Puerto Rico, it’s hard to imagine this place any different than right now at this moment. And I want to always see this natural beauty.

What about the life that exists outside of what we can create for ourselves? What if we stopped trying to form nature to our own circles and squares and started trying to live in harmony with the world around us? Tough questions, and there are no easy answers.

If you haven’t read this book, then I would encourage you to do so. If you are blissfully unaware how our society shapes and molds our climate (without asking you if it’s okay, and without caring either), then it’s time to become informed.

This earth is a gift. It’s time we start treating it as such. We cannot continue to pollute, to throw our garbage into the ocean, to consume single use plastics without caring where they end up, to buy products made overseas just because they’re cheap. There is a cycle to everything we do, and we are only one step in that cycle. We have to consider the entire process to fully comprehend how our seemingly simple decisions impact society. We are told we need this house, drive that car, shop at these stores. But what if we say “Enough!” and start shopping local, spending a few more dollars to buy a well made product once than cheap ones several times, saving money for a solar panel water heater instead of a new BMW. OR what if step away from consumerism altogether and begin cultivating our own gardens, sustaining our own needs, caring for land that gives back, doing away with “things” and our need to have more of them. It’s about changing our priorities, and our priority is our gift. We have a gift, and it’s all around us. This is not an easy transition, and it takes perseverance. But we can do it together.

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Chelsea is a marine scientist in Puerto Rico. Her interests include invasive species ecology, fish biology and ecology and marine protected area management. She is a co-founder of the only field course coordination company in Puerto Rico - Isla Mar Research Expeditions.

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