August 25, 2017
Two years ago, when I first started writing for the Rackham blog, I wrote a post about beach towns on Lake Michigan. That summer, I got engaged on a Lake Michigan beach. And, last month, I got married on that beach. For the wedding, we rented Camp Blodgett in the small town of West Olive, which, during the week, is home to a summer camp for kids. Camp Blodgett was the gorgeous, outdoor location that my wife and I love. We could look out at the vast beauty of Lake Michigan, feel the fine sand between our toes as we walked down to the beach, and have a bonfire with our family and friends. After the wedding, we went to Alaska for the honeymoon, and spent much of our time outdoors experiencing nature. We had a wonderful time and made lots of great memories.
When we got home, we both went back to work. It took a few days, but we got back into “work mode.” But then, a few days ago, I was scrolling through a recent publication of Science, and I noticed an article titled “Saying goodbye to glaciers.” Ironically, I had a picture of a glacier from our trip to Alaska as my desktop background. The trip was actually the first time in my life that I had seen a glacier, and it was a breathtaking sight. Made of ice thousands of years old that was almost as blue as the sky, spanning a massive valley in the mountains that it had created, and towering 300 feet above the water below it. Glaciers truly are one of the most majestic, natural wonders of the world. And, as I sat there, I realized, I’m not ready to say goodbye to them!
Glacier in Alaska.
Nature is a part of my identity (my wife and I did base our wedding around an outdoor location). I feel the most complete when I am outdoors. Which is why, when I read about saying goodbye to glaciers, it is personally devastating. And I’m sure that many of you feel the same way, but it’s okay if you don’t. If reading about glaciers that are melting thousands of miles away doesn’t affect you on a personal level, that’s normal. But, my challenge to you is to go out and experience nature on a personal level. And you don’t have to go to Alaska to do so. Michigan is an outdoor bounty. If you’ve never experienced one of the Great Lakes, go out and see one! They were actually formed by glaciers themselves. For some ideas on what to do in Michigan, check out some of my past Explore Michigan posts.
You are probably still wondering what I mean by experiencing nature on a personal level. Think about this analogy: you can see wildlife from the side of the road in your environment, or you can go out there into the wilderness and see wildlife in their environment. You also don’t need to spend two weeks in a remote wilderness to experience nature. Instead of walking downtown for some exercise, make your path go through the woods. Or, if you don’t go on walks on a regular basis, start doing so! A 10-minute walk in the middle of the day is a great way to experience nature and to give your mind a nice break, which will help you refocus on your work when you return to it.
And then, carry that experience with you. Use it to motivate your work, to design new experiments, to remember where you came from, and to better understand your impact on the world. You might feel motivated to recycle, to use the water refill station on campus, or even to use your platform as a scientist to educate the public and affect policy. Or, you might just feel relaxed and more motivated to get back to work. Either way, I believe that experiencing nature on a personal level is a truly rewarding endeavor for everyone. I know that one day we as humans will have to say goodbye to glaciers, but that day doesn’t have to be today.