To the editor
When I was growing up, life was full of the experience of nature. Ice skating on a pond, climbing up into an oak tree, jumping over a creek, standing in a forest listening to bird song, lying in a grassy field to watch the stars, exploring the shale-lined banks of river. These natural places were part of the rhythm of life.
None of this seemed extraordinary because nature was so accessible right outside the door. And when we spent summer days in the North Cascades with our grandparents, I felt that we were integrally allied with these magnificent places. Mount Pilchuck was grandpa’s mountain. The Stillaguamish River was grandma’s fishing hole.
It never occurred to me that such levels of connection to nature might be unusual or that the places themselves might not survive into my adulthood. But as the average American child now spends 5 to 8 hours a day in front of a screen, they also spend dramatically less time outdoors. Human connection to the landscape has also been attenuated due to the loss of natural areas and their inhabitants. More than 1 in 4 birds have disappeared from our American scenery in the last 50 years. In just the last two decades, the world has lost over 247 million acres of forest.
Natural areas like forests are sometimes treated as commodities, measured in things like board feet, biomass and the value of standing timber. But a forest is a living and closely connected community, and each community member contributes in its own way. The diversity of the community gives it strength and resilience. Modern life may make it more difficult to see ourselves as part and parcel of this community of nature. But then again, we can reconnect ourselves, our children and grandchildren to this wealth of natural experience with a simple walk in the woods.
A bit more is required, though, to preserve our natural heritage. We are fortunate on Bainbridge to have visionary people who are helping expand, protect and preserve such places. Through the work of the Bainbridge Island Land Trust, we become members of the island’s natural communities. The Land Trust’s record is remarkable; over 1,400 acres preserved, and more to come in the final phase of Stand for the Land.
The return on our investment in this inspiring work is beyond measure, producing huge intangible wealth and discernable well being. Our preserved shorelines, streams, wetlands, forests, tidelands, and plant and animal habitat are the enduring legacy we can leave to our children’s children’s children.
Michael Piraino, Bainbridge Island