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Malana Neal

The Tatnall School, 12th grade

White v. Gol

I dream of a world before humanity.

One where the Earth and her systems exist in blissful harmony instead of on the losing end of a merciless battle: a world free from a species that deems itself superior and crushes skulls beneath its heels. 

I have always been fascinated by the natural world of flora and fauna. But as a child, I was taught that the most important thing for me to do was to sit at a desk for eight hours trapped between nauseating blank white walls. My only hope of going outside to experience the Earth’s wonders was recess. As I aged I was required to spend more and more time trapped under those blinding white fluorescent lights and consequently less time playing under the golden rays of the sun. Needless to say, I disliked school as a child and have always felt that traditional school systems strip youth of their childhoods and obstruct their path to true joy. Anywhere there was a window– a car, a classroom, my bedroom– I continued to stare, watching trees dance in the wind and birds dart alongside falling leaves. But as my classroom responsibilities intensified, nature became less of a reality and faded into a mere location outside of the expansive world of concrete buildings and highways. 

After rediscovering my love for this planet in high school thanks to AP Environmental Science, my fascination with nature expanded exponentially and eventually it clicked: I am nature. All things exist together, sustaining each other through breaths, thoughts, and tears; walls and imaginary borders cannot separate us. We are collections of borrowed molecules and consciousness from the water, the wind, the sun, and the soil– and that is all we will ever be until our twilight comes to bury ourselves under the Earth’s skin and return all we have taken. The reason we exist is simply to continue existence– to nourish our bodies during life and afterward the soil. Everything on this planet is part of us and we are all part of each other: no life is more valuable than another. A rock is no less than a bug who is no less than a fish who is no less than a man. No difference matters between the living and the dead. No difference matters between creation and destruction. No difference matters between your body and mine. Everything here has a specific duty to uphold within this massive system, and one missing piece of this puzzle would cause catastrophe for all. We all exist because of each other.

It would be wrong to imply I think myself special for caring about the Earth. Having respect for our land should be the bare minimum. However, I am reminded daily that my vision is not common. We claim that we are not outdoorsy people or that we are not “into” nature: we have been blinded by a false narrative that states we do not belong to our roots. It is baffling to me how anyone could ever believe that we are exempt from the laws of nature because of our higher intelligence or because of some perceived superiority. Nature is not something one can choose to be interested in, just as a fish cannot choose to be interested in its ocean. The only thing separating us from the Earth is the idea that we are better than creation itself. To disrespect the Earth is to disrespect one’s own mother and everything she has ever worked for. 

We continue to live disconnected from our roots because the youth of this planet are being raised to see through the lenses of the previous generations, who saw nature as something to take from without ever giving back. To break this cycle we must create new lenses for our youth. We must help our children view this planet in the way it was always meant to be seen: not only as a home but also as our mother. Nobody should ever have to spend more time in a white, sterile room than they do in experiencing the natural world. I want to ensure that no child has to feel suffocated at school– an environment that is meant to nurture their minds. I am going to help develop policies that will require schools to incorporate environmental education programs into children’s curriculums as early as preschool. Once we start teaching children that they belong to the nature around them instead of alienating them from the forests and the waters, the world’s weeping wounds will mend. This is why I am dedicating my life to caring for the Earth, and teaching as many people as possible about this planet and her wonders. It is only right to repay the planet for all it does for us: it is us. And for that, I owe it my life in the same way I owe myself my own. I am going to help open more eyes to the radiant beauty of this planet– to show you what rests in your hands.

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