Why I care about wildlife habitat protection
“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are thousands of ways, to kneel and kiss the ground.”
Hearts break. We are human. Hearts break so tragically and in that break there is the opportunity to stay open; to not close ourselves to the pain but move through it in love. My heart aches from experiencing the overwhelming beauty and tragedy of what it is to be human within this incredible Earth. And my heart breaks witnessing what we humans do to one another and the planet. But I do not steel myself against the pain. I would rather feel it than become numb to it. Because if one becomes numb, one loses the ability to feel all the pleasure that comes with life too. It is not futile to love the Earth, to be in love and feel such passion for this amazing world. To want to embrace the waters we swim in, the air we breathe, the sunlight streaming into our windows, the flowers we walk by.
If we could only allow the heartbreak. Be willing to stand on the precipice and know that our hearts will be shattered as we bear witness to loss of life in habitat destruction and still have the strength and courage to take action anyway. And there are so many ways we can take action. First and foremost is to gather, maintain, and deepen a sense of place and belonging. This is the anchor and the guide. Having a sense of belonging in place informs us and replenishes us. Centering ourselves in our love for our cherished nature places reminds us of the part we can play in this grand symphony called Earth. The part we play is both individual and communal. We can serve as models for the human behavior we want to see. We can serve as activists, charged with a mission of protecting environmental integrity.
For me, protecting our wild neighbors, their homes, the habitats we share with them, and the spaces we humans have little access to – is a spiritual calling. Because we – humans and culture – are part of Nature. We do not and cannot exist without Nature.
Life is a tapestry and I want this exquisite tapestry to be here, not just for me, but for all beings. We each take part in the weaving our whole lives through, and in our passing, we feed the next generation of beings with our words, our deeds, and our bodies. This world is not just for humans – there is so much more life here and no one specie has the right to determine the fate of so many others. With our big brains we have gotten ourselves into quite a bit of an ecological mess. With our big brains and curiosity, we also possess the capability to reconnect with the rest of our Earthen community, recognizing our responsibility to serve as healers for the wounded places of Earth. And as we heal these wounded places – the outer body, we heal ourselves – the inner body.
I feel that the Nature-culture dichotomy has done disservice to humans and non-humans alike. But to tell people how they should live or do things has proven to either shut them out or shut them down; setting up a crazy power dynamic that has led to so many people acting like petulant adolescents resisting healthier choices. Attempting to appeal to people’s sense of reason with facts and figures and the direness of the situation has not been working well for the environmental movement. And I have been in it for over 30 years. So I have watched the ways people either disengage or engage.
It is the personal connection with wildlife and wild spaces that has the profound power to inspire the “aha” moment, when the individual understands on a deeper level how we are connected to one another and the environment. So for me, community engagement is the bridge – for connection, and to support and nurture a sense of place and belonging. And this is what I believe will lead to habitat protection. Not because people tell one another how and when and where to do so, but because people hold moments for each other where inspiration can happen. In that magical moment of the “aha” a person can choose to live, coming from a place of love and awe, a life in balance and harmony with our environment upon which we depend.
The thread that runs through all the work I do is in service to Nature and my chosen access point with other humans is community building. Nurturing a sense of community is more than just connecting with other humans (though this is vastly important too); it is also nourishing a sense of place and belonging in the world. And to do this we each need to connect with the environment and find ourselves in it. Therefore, community building is more than just doing activities with other humans; it is also spending time outside and observing Nature’s cycles and processes and the activities of our wild neighbors. Whether that be locating a cricket in a patch of grass growing at the side of a building or blowing dandelion seeds and watching them be carried by the wind or walking along a creek to see where it flows or watching a garter snake slither across the trail or looking up just in time to see a bald eagle soar overhead. By spending time in the outdoors and getting to know the plants and animals around us, we can start to recognize where we fit into the landscape – how we are a part of Nature. And when we learn how we fit in and we derive meaning from that sense of belonging, we strive to ensure its continuance, not just for ourselves, but for its intrinsic value.
In blessings and gratitude,
Arianna Alexsandra Collins, naturalist, poet, writer, wild edible enthusiast, and Wiccan High Priestess lives in Ashfield, MA.
This post was inspired by a question posed by Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT): Why do you care about wildlife habitat protection? Responses to this question are welcome in the comments.
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Update: A version of this article appears in the January 2023 edition of The Ashfield News.