Nature and Us: A Complicated Relationship

“There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.”

~ Mohandas K. Gandhi

Mankind’s survival depends on nature’s generosity. Our basic needs for survival all come from the environment: water, food, air, and shelter.

We need pure, clean air 14 to 50 times a minute. Our lives begin with air, and it ends with the absence of it. We receive life-giving oxygen through the process of photosynthesis in which plants transform carbon dioxide into the basic molecules of life’s architecture.

We need water. Everyone, regardless of political or religious stance, ethnic values, or social standing, can agree on this timeless truth: no one can go more than a week without fresh water. Without it, we will die.

We get our shelter from nature’s bounty. Timber is derived from trees; even the origins of concrete, steel and glass are found in the natural environment.

Beyond the basic needs of survival, we receive personal rejuvenation. Who isn’t soothed by the enduring wave-return-wave of rhythmic ocean tide, humbled while sojourning soft, fresh trail among ancient Douglas Fir giants, inspired by the backdrop of towering mountains against twilight tangerine sun hanging over pristine lake, or mystified by the unfathomable strength of a single seed bursting forth life, nutrition, and beauty? Nature has a way of not only keeping us alive, but its aesthetic values furthermore inspire us creatively and artistically, instill intrigue and wonder, as well connection to other co-habitants of our earth, and brings to mind reminisces of our history and culture— respect and reverence ensues. Nature also calms our anxiety, clarifies our mind, and blesses us with a sweet escape from the loudness and ‘busy-ness’ of living in a technology and entertainment-crazed society.

Over time we have distanced ourselves from our environment, viewing it as a commodity, evaluating only its economic value, particularly in the past 150 years of industrialization, where technology, innovation, and consequently, over-consumption boomed. But we are destroying our life-source. 40% of photosynthetic plants in the world have been decimated. Less than 3% of fresh water on earth is drinkable. The majority of which has been ravaged by disgusting pollution. It is now a major transporter of disease. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.5 billion people worldwide do not have access to clean, safe drinking water. 5 million people die each year from diseases attributed to consuming unsafe water. Anthropogenic (human influenced) climatic change ensues erratic weather patterns, leaving severe drought and water shortages in one region, and excessive flooding in another. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, each year about 13 million hectares of the world’s forests are lost due to deforestation. The timber coming from trees is used in the construction of many of our homes. What will we use as the amount of trees dwindle, as we must balance the need for shelter and for oxygen to breathe, water to be transpired to continue the hydrologic cycle, and carbon sinks to clean our air?

Air quality is, simply put, not adequate to sufficient human health. Human-generated pollutants have perpetrated acidic rain, ozone depletion, and set free a cocktail of hazardous waste into our fragile atmosphere.

Patterns of industrialization and over-consumption of non-renewable natural resources that result in pollution have complicated our ancient relationship with nature.

Society is penchant on profit, enjoyment, and comfortability. But is it right just to measure such satisfying attributes with the environment that ensures our, and the people around us, survival?

What can I do, as an Island-bound teenager when faced with the reality of the detrimental state of the earth’s natural environment? I’ve asked myself that a lot lately. Yet, I do not know what to do when oil, and other fossil fuels, runs out. I do not know how to clean-up an oil spill, re-introduce dwindling species, or depend on some other energy source that will get me to where I want to go, keep me the right temperature, clothe me, and power the global industries, without fueling global warming, ozone depletion, acid rain, and adverse pollution. I do not know how to convince my elder generation that the patterns of the world are unsustainable for future generations. I do not know how to re-distribute the wealth of water. I cannot change the world. But I can change myself.

I have come to a conclusion to have as a little of an environmental impact on the earth as possible– hence the moniker Small Impact Teen. Having a small impact means living as simply as possible, without the technological externalities that the majority of the North American society depends upon.

Through my blog, Small Impact Teen, I journal my commitment to live simpler and create less of an environmental impact, as well as establish awareness of the dire state of our Earth. My goals are simple and direct. Buy less—consider what is truly important. Use less. Drive less— walk and bike more. Go outdoors. Appreciate nature. Eat locally. Spend more time with people, without the addition of electronic devices. Live simply, so others may simply live.

My challenge to everyone, especially me, is to start appreciating our dependent relationship with nature, and work together to protect and preserve it. It is our life-source. My hope is that others will embark on this journey of honoring the earth and, evidently, each other’s lives.

Carly Breault writes a blog about her commitment to living simply (, and is a recent high-school graduate embarking on a lifetime journey to protect, preserve, and honor the environment.