After talking to college students at Earth Day celebrations this week, environmental artist and organic farmer Bill Duesing takes a walk through the woods to a very special place.
I head down the hill behind our house toward Eight Mile Brook. Although the stream is nearby, just a thousand feet away and 200 feet downhill, this walk takes me into another world - wonderful and awe-inspiring.
The path winds through a forest of oak, maple, hickory, tulip, birch, and hemlock trees, becoming steeper as it approaches the brook. The spring-full stream tumbles over rocks, filling the ravine with its soothing sound as it flows toward the Housatonic River. The air is deliciously fragrant, moist and satisfying. Prolific lichens attest to its purity. Deep green moss with the lighter and bluish-green lichens create an incredibly sensuous texture all over trees, boulders and the stone wall across the brook.
Trilliums, dog tooth violets, and ferns blanket the ground. Mountain laurel grows near the water. A hawk cries loudly and flies away to take my attention from her nest high in an oak tree. A red fox trots upstream along the top of the opposite bank.
Rusting barbed wire hanging from trees near the brook reminds me that most of this forest has grown up since the cows left, probably about fifty years ago. Except for a few mighty oaks, this magnificent forest is younger than I am. This inspiring ecosystem was created by nature after humans and livestock had deforested it. I greatly appreciate this place's beauty and peace.
Ecosystems provides essential services for all of us. This young forest produces clean air, stores and purifies water as it builds topsoil. It evolves all on its own toward greater diversity, more stored organic matter, increased structural complexity and greater metabolic stability. Not only is it beautiful, it is also necessary in order for us to live. Yet, because ecosystems are not part of our everyday experiences, we forget their importance, our connection to and dependence upon them.
The great beauty and value of this place come from just leaving the Earth alone. Yet humans are clearly not leaving ecosystems alone. Besides omnipresent development pressure, ecosystems everywhere are threatened by the sharp rises in population, species extinctions, concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and global consumption. The Earth's population increases by the equivalent of another New York City, over seven million people every month, and each new person needs services only ecosystems can provide.
This Earth Day, we should acknowledge the efforts and successes of Land Trusts, other citizen's groups, and governments in preserving open space and ecosystems. We can show our appreciation by simplifying our lives in order to lessen their destructive effects on the environment.
Visit a special, natural place this weekend! Happy Earth Day.
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
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