Since becoming a Master Naturalist, hardly a day goes by when I don't think of how my life affects the environment around me.
These thoughts were recently brought to my attention when I stumbled upon a picture of the home I lived in when I was a child growing up in rural DuPage County. My family moved from the big city of Chicago to what was very rural Naperville in the early 60's. As a child it was paradise to me to live in a house surrounded by farms and open land and even a creek to splash in after living in an apartment in the city. What caught my attention however was that the current picture showed how much the house and land had changed. Over time the trees grew and became a forest surrounding the house. I remember planting these trees with my dad. The land was previously farm land when we started and now is completely forested. I did not realize it at the time but I had a direct impact on that environment.
After seeing that, my curiosity was sparked and I investigated another residence I had later. My husband and I bought a small farm early in our marriage in rural Kane County. Recent pictures of it reveal it's trees have grown and covered what once was farm field. We planted most of them over the 20 years we lived there and also planted native grasses and gardens. Another direct impact on that environment. Hopefully, these are changes for the better but only time will tell. Another person may come along and change it to their liking. This has really impacted my thinking about what we as humans do that affect the earth. To believe it is of no consequence is foolish. If I made such an impact as one person in a short lifetime then think of the entire world and it's population and that thought is beyond belief! Collectively, humans have created the world we have today. I realize there is no escape from the modern world we live in and I am glad to be alive in the 21st century but I do believe we could make smarter choices about our use of energy, growing our food and natural resources.
The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970. I was in high school and still living in Naperville but then that community was changing. Those changes prompted questions about the environmental impacts in our town. The discussions of the day made us all think about what we do that affects the world around us. We learned of the good and bad things humans have done to our earth and it's creatures. I remember making a pact with myself that day to try to be a good steward of the earth wherever my life would take me.
It is sometimes not easy to make changes to our lifestyles to help benefit the earth. I believe though that even the smallest efforts reap rewards so I continue to do so. The full impact
that the planting of trees in my youth had on that local environment may never fully be known however I will continue to plant and preserve on the land I have had the good fortune to occupy now.