Growing up in a rural setting surrounded by mountains, farmland and outdoorsmen, I developed a great love for nature and the serenity you find by simply stepping outside. Almost nothing could keep me indoors—not even the Atari gaming system with its cool square basketball. There’s something about kicking the dirt and smelling the dust, or tasting water as it bubbles up fresh from the ground at the head of a spring that instills conservatism.
As a kid, I knew all the local streams and could always find a trout. More than once, I had the distinct honor of helping friends catch their first fish and watching their excitement as their “big monster” flopped around on the shore. I’ve spent hundreds of hours hiking mountains where the only visible trails were made by deer and wandering cows. I’ve often found myself sitting high on a mountain ridge looking over a wide canyon shivering in anxious anticipation of the sunrise—waiting to see the sky turn from black to purple to blue just so I could catch a glimpse of nature in the morning, and maybe see a big Mule Deer with sunlight glinting off his antlers.
Earth Day is approaching. Like every holiday, it’s been commercialized. “Buy this to celebrate Earth Day,” they say. But it doesn’t have to be a one-day event. There are things we can do every day to improve the world around us. I like to take an empty trash bag when I hike so I can fill it on the way down. If more of us did that, it would be easier to enjoy nature. If everyone did it, we would only have our own trash to worry about. If we take our children hiking with us, they too can develop a love of nature and an appreciation for a well-groomed trail.
A lot of the trash I’ve found on mountain trails and along the sides of roads is recyclable—aluminum cans, plastic and glass bottles, paper. What if we took a greater interest in recycling and purchasing items made from recycled materials? What if we made sure our children understood why we were doing it? Maybe we can say no to paper or plastic bags and use our own reusable grocery sacks instead. Maybe we can do away the paper lunch sack and replace it with an insulated, washable, reusable lunch bag.
My love of nature stems from my parents’ desire to share their appreciation of nature with me. We can do the same for our kids. Next time you take your kids on a picnic or walk along the beach, point out the beauty around them as well as the things you can do to make it better. The message may grow old, but it never hurts to repeat it. Nothing upsets an outdoorsman more than seeing trash on the trail, spray paint on the boulders, and charred pieces of the picnic table in the campfire pit. Clearly, the message of Earth Day hasn’t yet been universally received. But if we keep at it, maybe our children will be the generation that turns things around.