Nature Walk

Death and Other Dark Thoughts

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Photo by Ardit Marku (view of the ocean and the forest at its edges)

I grew up with nature all around me and have always had a love for it. The twelve years I spent in an apartment building in Brooklyn were torture. If I ever had to live in a city for the rest of my life with no access to some kind of form of Nature (Central Park barely counts), I would probably go insane.

This week, I was asked to go on a “Nature Walk” for an hour with no technology for my English class. Now that I live in the suburbs of Staten Island, I usually have these walks daily. This past Wednesday, in the wake of the election, I decided to have a particularly long walk in order to clear my head. Before I took my walk, I had been browsing the internet and came across a quote: “Death is only the end if you assume the story is about you.” I dismissed it as one of those weird overly-dramatic tumblr quotes but the words stayed with me during my walk.

Near my house, there is this gated military veterans community which,despite having gates, is open to everyone. Past the rows of houses, there is a road to the side that leads to Fort Wadworth, a gigantic structure that was used to defend Manhattan and the Upper Bay area. Past that, you pass underneath the Verrazano bridge and onto a road that leads to the ocean nearby.

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Photo by Ardit Marku (Fort Wadsworth)

As I walked along that road, the noise of the cars above on the bridge nag on the edge of my mind like the buzzing of a fly. The marathon was on Sunday and there were still tents and trucks set up nearby and I am hit with this feeling of sadness. As I continue on my way towards the ocean, I can’t help but think of how much trash and garbage is strewn all over the place so that a bunch of people could run across the five boroughs. I saw literally tons of plastic water bottles that were brought in for the racers and I just felt a sense of defeat to see all that plastic brought in for a stupid race (literally it’s the most annoying thing, they close up the entire Verrazano bridge which makes it really hard to get out of Staten unless you take the ferry all the way to Manhattan and I know it’s a Sunday but why is it ok to close one of the only two exits for an ISLAND? The amount of police and noise that was all over the place, and I live right near the bridge so everytime I stepped out of my house I had to hear it all so a bunch of people can run and a bunch of companies could advertise).

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Photo by Ardit Marku (view of the forest area)

What really saddens me is not the inconvenience on my expense but rather the idea of it. The marathon is not the only event that is extremely wasteful. Go to any party anywhere, restaurant, or any venue with food and you will see a majority of it end up in the trash. I used to work in a retail store and saw so much food go to waste because people didn’t like what they bought. As I make it closer to the ocean, my heartbeat begins to slow down as the sounds of the waves come to the forefront of my mind and the sounds of the bridge blur behind me. Along the edges of the sand that come close to the road I am walking on, there are trees and shrubs that hide my view of the ocean but I could hear it and I could smell it.

As I think about the quote further, I start to see it differently. Many nature preservation efforts are centered towards showing nature as this beautiful sanctuary that must be protected at all costs. Whenever you see commercials about saving animals, you hear that woman singing about the arms of an angel and you always see animals that look like they’re crying. The idea is to show nature as calm and beautiful and animals as having human emotions. But the truth is, Nature is messed up and crazy. Nature is just as much the tornado that tears entire homes off of their foundations as it is the gentle autumn breeze in the middle of September. It is the lion that could tear your head off and the small, furry domestic kitty that will bite your finger when you pet her in the wrong place. Nature is everything: goodness and evil, horror and beauty, life and death.

It’s a sad but unfortunately true fact of humanity that we are incapable of feeling empathy for something we cannot understand. It is why we kill one another and wage wars. It is why we built things like Fort Wadsworth, or the nuclear bombs and the drones we use to arm ourselves with and terrify our enemies. It is why our ancestors committed genocides and enslaved one another because they saw no similarities within one another to deserve any kind of sympathy.

It is why some people don’t see Global Warming as a problem. Who cares if the tigers go extinct? Who cares if entire rainforests are destroyed? What do they have to do with us? Does it matter if we destroy nature if it is helping further ourselves as the human race?

What terrifies me about Trump, among many other things which I cannot possibly get into right now, is the fact that he doesn’t believe Global Warming exists. Personally, I don’t care if I have nothing in common with tigers, they still deserve to live. I don’t care if I never set foot on a rainforest, I don’t care if its inconvenient for humanity, I don’t care if our technology would become better as a result of it, I can never be okay with letting this planet be destroyed for our sake.

Going back to the quote, death is only the end if we believe the story is about us. We as humans think that this world belongs to us. Many religions explicitly state that God made the world and its animals for human use. For most of history, we believed that our planet, and even our own nations were the center of the world and everything revolved around us. But the truth is, nature doesn’t need us at all. We could all die tomorrow and nature will continue without even blinking. The fort that I see everyday when I walk by the ocean is a remnant of wars from America’s first conception as a nation but now it is just a hollow structure upon which vines and trees have begun to grow, as if nature wanted  to claim it back for itself.

I’d like to think that one day, we as human beings can learn to become capable of caring about things simply because we have no right to abuse them. We have no right to kill all the animals we share the planet with. We have no right to kill all of the trees. Even if we could find a way to live without this planet and create our own resources, why would we ever want to and why should we? What gives us that right? This planet has existed for millions of years before us and will continue to exist for millions more (hopefully) and we have absolutely no right to destroy it and affect it as we have.

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2 thoughts on “Death and Other Dark Thoughts

  1. Starting off mentioning that dark Tumblr quote was a very fascinating introduction, especially when you read the post in its entirety. I thought it was funny to mention your short rant about the Verrazano bridge being closed in the parenthesis. I bet we all can relate to the feeling. It was interesting to notice your style of writing where you continue with your passionate rant about waste and how that slowly transitioned into the “sounds of the waves” in the same paragraph. It was nice reading your thought process regarding during your nature walk, and I think it’s safe to say you’re not the only one who’s tired of Sarah Lachlan’s sad “Angel” song. I will admit, I was definitely taken aback when you describe nature as a lion tearing someone’s head off, but it is a reasonable claim to make. It’s true. Nature is a complex amalgamation of both good and bad. Regarding your conclusion, great idea ending with a call to action. It’s befitting considering this topic of nature.

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  2. Hey, this is a really nice post. I loved your development of that quote you found. It is completely contrary to Thoreau’s understanding of nature existing solely for humans to use as they wish. He says, “the universe constantly and obediently answers to our conceptions” and you offer the counter-argument that nature and this earth was not made to be used up for our small-minded desires. Your stance that we are more of an infestation set upon the Earth and that after our end, nature will cover all that we leave with vines just like they are doing with the fort you visited. Would you say that Thoreau’s experiment is his way of saying that humans can live at peace with the earth or would you say that even then, he is viewing nature as a tool for us to transcend our lives? I don’t think there is ever a moment where he discusses the conservation of the natural habitats on the earth and your mention of the noise you deal with in Staten Island reminded me of Thoreau’s description of the railroad and the trains. Except of course, you are angry at the noise not just because of how it effects your day but also how the noise means that there are people nearby who are negatively effecting the earth. Would you say that reading Walden reinforced your concerns that are more centered on the environment than on the individual?

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