Many people no longer feel a connection to the natural world because they no longer feel themselves to be part of it.
Nature is all around us ... and I’m not talking about just the songbirds and the cottontail rabbits in any suburban neighborhood. I’m talking about the coyote holed up in a bathroom at Nashville’s downtown convention center; the red-tailed hawks nesting in Manhattan; the raccoon climbing a skyscraper in St. Paul, Minn.; the black bear lounging in a Gatlinburg, Tenn., hot tub; the eastern box turtle knocking on my friend Mary Laura Philpott’s front door.
These encounters remind us that we are surrounded by creatures as unique in their own ways as we are in ours. And our delight in their antics tells us something about ourselves, too. We may believe we are insulated from the natural world by our structures and our vehicles and our poisons, but we are animals all the same.
Thursday is Earth Day, and even if you can’t observe it by planting trees or pulling trash out of nearby streams, this week is a good time to remember that it’s never too late to become a naturalist. And the first step is simply waking up to our own need for the very world we have tried to shut out so completely.
For we belong to one another — to the house finches and the climbing raccoons and the door-knocking turtles and the bathing bears. Recognizing that kinship will do more than keep our fellow creatures safer. It will also keep us safer, and make us happier, too (emphasis added).