(302) 703-7086

Isabella Anderson

Caesar Rodney High School

Web of Wonders


My Backyard

I have been hiking across the East Coast. From Florida to Maine to California, I have seen some of the most beautiful places in America, and even though these places are breathtaking and aweinspiring, I love most deeply the nature right in my backyard. 

Delaware does not have soaring mountains, great chasms, or rushing rivers, but it is my home. Its trees are my trees. Its streams are my streams. It’s air is in my lungs. Delaware has sustained me and given me life for 16 years. 

I live on a quarter acre in a quiet neighborhood across from the Methodist church. My backyard is small, but it holds so much life. I sit, and I watch the bees fly through the garden my parents lovingly planted and tend to. They bumble gently from rose flowers to lavender. These bees, native to my area, are vital to the local ecosystem. So I ask myself, what is my place in this delicate world that exists in my backyard? My answer: I am to plant the flowers for the bees. 

I can not stop industrialization any more than I can make a mountain in my backyard. That’s not my role. Instead, I restore nature where I can, and I try to understand the world I live in. There is a concept in psychology called unconditional positive regard. It is the idea that we must acknowledge that every person is capable of and contains good inside them. If we apply this concept to nature, we will understand that every living thing exists in a way that might benefit the world. Nature is working hard. Trees make oxygen. Rivers shape landscapes. Crops sustain entire populations. Birds disperse seeds. Bees and butterflies pollinate the world. So again, what is my role? My answer: I am to love the trees. I am to love the rivers. I am to love the birds, and the bees, and the butterflies. 

Beyond my backyard, another world exists. It is a world of steel and stone. But the daisies that grow through the cracks in the sidewalk show that nature is never gone. It is in this world that I go to school, to work, to live. Where is the nature in these spaces? It exists in the house plant in my chemistry class. It exists in the trees lining the sidewalk. It exists in the green houses behind my school. It exists in the hope inside of me–hope for a future not ruled by carbon and coal. 

More exists beyond my backyard than a lack of nature. What exists in corporate meetings and congressional hearings is a desecration of nature. The world beyond my backyard is not ruled by birds, trees, or streams. It is ruled by greed and gold, by consumption and confusion, by profit and pollution. The world beyond my backyard is ruled by people who will not be alive to witness the consequences of their actions. In their backyards of machinery, money, and twisted machinations, nature plays no role beyond what it can give, what they can take. 

My trees make their packaging. My streams hold their run off. My air doesn’t matter to them. My home is either profit or loss. My ocean is not worth the memories I made. It is worth only the oil that it holds. 

How do you put a dollar value on Nature? What is the shade of the tree worth? How do you quantify the value of the sea breeze, the smell of marsh air? Does it matter? 

As I sit in my backyard, the ash from California wildfires settles in my sky. I have seen these trees, burnt goliaths standing in defiance of the life they nearly lost. Still, I only see what has survived. In my own backyard, the fiddle-head ferns have died. They did not survive the winter. The soil in my backyard is poor and acidic, but the roses are beautiful and the raspberries are sweet. They live in spite of their conditions. The redwoods live in spite of theirs. I live in spite of mine. 

I live in spite of the misinformation, the disinformation, and dissonance. I live for my backyard, and my Delaware, and my Earth. The beauty I find in nature, I find within myself. 

Every living thing is made of Carbon. This most basic of elements creates you, me, the trees, and bees. Carbon exists as a double-edged blade, to ruin or raise. The most essential building block of life threatens to permanently endanger it. 

The carbon makes me realize that fundamentally, I am not independent from nature. I am the

Genus Homo, of the Family of Hominaide, of the Order Primate, of the Class Mamalia, of the

Phylum Chordata, of the Kingdom Animalia. I exist in nature the same way the honey bee is the

Genus Apis, of the Clade Corbiculate, of the Family of Apidae, of the Order Hymenoptera, of the Class Insecta, of the Phylum Arthropoda, of the Kingdom Animalia. I am no less nature, no less animal than the honeybees I share my backyard with. 

Why do humans view themselves as separate from nature? We are not animals, we cry. We are Men, despite the fact that we are in Kingdom Animalia just the same. What right do we have to declare ourselves gods? Is it because we are smart? Octopi and rats can solve puzzles. Is it because we are social? Dolphins are incredibly social, and chimpanzees form complex social hierarchies. Is it our endurance? A horse can run much faster and for much longer. 

By all accounts, our bad teeth, bad hips, bad eyes, and bad backs should keep us firmly in the middle of the pack. But we have overcome this! We have dentists, and glasses, and cars. Weep at the triumph of man! Weep at the hubris we have gained to think that machines make us the masters of nature! 

I know the truth. We are masters of much. We are masters of fire, electricity, and the ocean, but we are not masters of nature. Nature will consume our decay, and it will keep on going. We are quite egotistical to think that it is us that will destroy nature. Long after we are dead, nature will be fine. The question then is how much will we take with us? If we continue down this path, how much of what lives on our planet will be condemned to die for our sins? 

When the great floods came, Noah built an ark and the animals were saved. This flood will be of our own making, and no ark is coming to keep us or the animals afloat. We must build our own ark. 

How? In my backyard, how am I supposed to build my own ark? The world is so big, and I exist on a quarter acre in suburban Delaware. I can not move mountains, or stop tides, or shape our atmosphere. I can’t even get the fiddlehead ferns to live through the winter. I am so tired. I am tired of fighting this fight. I love my backyard, but I can not love climate change away. 

In truth, a dying planet should not be my responsibility. I should be out enjoying my life, studying for exams, and going on dates. Instead, I am here writing this essay because I am scared 

of a world that I may live to see. A world where the seas have swallowed my coastline, and my air is not breathable. You may not live to see it, but I will. At 16, I have my whole life ahead of me. I want to live it. I want the adults to make this problem go away. I want them to stand up and make life better for the future generations. I want them to keep their promises to build a better future. 

In my backyard, 80 miles away from the U.S Capitol Building, I can forget that they have let me down. And since they have let me down, I will pick up the mantle. I will scream from the steps of Washington. I can not protect the whole world, but I promise to protect my backyard, which has raised me. I promise my daughter or son a world in which their adults have not let them down. They will not worry about climate change. I will build a world in which they can just be kids.