As hard as we all work, as hard as we all try to make money, we all leave empty handed. So why not try to leave something meaningful behind?
– Mahrukh Stazyak (CUE Haven Restoration Project, Glorit, New Zealand)
Since I first stepped foot in the rainforest, I have been in awe of the beauty of this ecosystem. It feels like a dream to walk through these ancient forests full of giant trees, curling vines, lush tree ferns, and swaying palms. When you stand still, you hear hundreds of birds singing and flitting about in the canopy, you see the rustling of ground cover and glimpse small mammals darting about, and you feel your lungs filling with the cleanest and most refreshing air you will ever breathe. I am grateful to be able to have this experience and live in such an amazing place for an entire summer.
Temperate Rainforest in New Zealand.
But many people don’t get the chance to experience this. Not only are rainforests few and far between in the world due to the conditions they require, but they are a constant target of logging and development as the world expands. Volunteers all over New Zealand and Australia are working to preserve and restore the rainforests. Species endemic to these forests are at the risk of extinction if the forest becomes so fragmented that there is not enough room for them to thrive. Not only are these forests necessary to preserving biodiversity, but they are simply beautiful.
View of the Gilles Mountains and the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area rainforest from the top of Mt. Bartle-Frere.
View of the Atherton Tablelands and WTWHA from Mt. Bartle-Frere.
Being in nature gives people a sense of peace and connectedness, and has been shown to lift moods and reduce stress. If it is not enough to preserve nature for its economic and ecological benefits, shouldn’t it be enough to selfishly preserve it for ourselves? School, work, and life can be so stressful. Chasing money and gathering material things is draining. And while it’s nice to be surrounded by comfort and civilization, it creates a false magnitude of the importance of our jobs and creates a disconnect that makes the natural world seem insignificant when it really is the basis of our comfort (food, clothes, building materials, etc.). Taking a break to take a hike, or go to a park, or explore the outdoors brings us back to reality: we are part of a beautiful and interconnected web of amazing plants and animals.
View of the Gilles Ranges and WTWHA from Mamu Skywalk.
Being great at a job may bring meaning to your day or your life, but most times your contribution there ends when you leave. As is often quoted among ambitious people, “If your goals can be completed in your lifetime, you’re dreaming too small”. Helping efforts to restore natural beauty in your region can make you feel better mentally and physically, and it can enhance the lives of those around you AND those coming after you. As buildings age, they deteriorate into run-down heaps of wood and metal. As forests age, they grow into stunning self-sustaining landscapes that are enjoyed by both people and animals alike. I want to encourage you to leave something meaningful behind. Volunteer with an organization that plants native trees and flowers to restore local landscapes, help out with conservation efforts for your favorite animal, go abroad and help restore your favorite ecosystem, plant a community garden… do something to help make the world a little bit better for those who will come after you. Or at the very least, make a point to get outside. Conservation starts with appreciation. So take a hike, bike a trail, have a picnic in a park, walk along a river, visit state and national nature preserves.
Take time to take care of yourself by spending time in nature. Then make an effort to ensure the next generation can do the same.