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Rudra Patel

Delmar Senior High School, 9th grade

2024 RENEW essay contest 3rd place winner

Weaving My Thread in the Delicate Web of Life

This space probe had forever departed the planets with no intention of returning. And yet, on February 14, 1990, it turned back around to marvel at its origin. From six billion kilometers out, Voyager 1 captured an image of Earth. It saw just a minuscule speck, barely enough to occupy even a pixel on its camera, amidst the great vastness of space. While this pale blue dot seems insignificant in the large cosmos, it harbors all of humanity and the myriad of organisms that roam this planet. This thought-provoking image reminds me of my shared existence with the wonders of nature on this tiny celestial body.

When I look around at nature, I imagine various ecosystems of Earth as perfectly-strewn spider webs. The fragile threads of a spider web are meticulously intertwined with each other to form a stable structure. Similarly, interdependent organisms have a plethora of interactions among themselves that create a thriving ecological community. Intricate food chains span through ecosystems, with predator-prey relationships keeping creature populations under control and the various trophic levels allowing for the cycle of energy. Additionally, symbiosis is present between organisms on both a macroscopic and microscopic level. For instance, some species of algae live inside coral reefs while also providing them with energy and essential nutrients for their skeletons. Moreover, the various spheres of the Earth—the atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere—work together on a planetary scale to establish the water cycle, form different land structures through erosion, and circulate the six essential elements of life (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur) through the Earth. With these complex interactions between the myriad of organisms on Earth, it is no wonder that the ecosystems of Earth are so intricately interconnected.

As a part of the human race, I am also one of the many intertwined strands in the web of life. Many times during the summer, I would enjoy time outside in my local park. Whenever my mind was not preoccupied with other thoughts, I wondered about my purpose in the world. While I sat outside, I would watch bees and butterflies flying around from flower to flower in their daily job of pollination. Around me, I would see a plethora of creatures such as squirrels and woodpeckers who were given shelters by the canopy of trees surrounding the park. As I observed these organisms helping each other out, I continued to reflect on my role in the natural world. And after many visits to the park, I realized this purpose: a duty to help and protect other creatures and human beings. In my backyard, I started to leave out pieces of fruit and bread for birds to munch on. Whenever insects such as mosquitos would enter my home, I would catch them and safely release them outside. By adhering to this duty of mine to protect nature, I can play a role in maintaining the web of life around me.

But recently, these intricate webs of life have been breaking apart due to human activity. Instead of protecting the nature around us, humanity as a whole has negatively impacted the Earth’s environment and organisms through our irresponsible actions. Due to the industrialization of the world, carbon dioxide levels today are 50% higher than those before the Industrial Revolution, increasing global average surface temperatures by 2℉ since the Industrial Revolution and causing Arctic sea ice to shrink at a rate of 12% per decade. We have polluted our oceans with over 5 trillion pieces of plastic debris and acidified them with increased emissions of carbon dioxide, extensively damaging marine ecosystems. More than half of the tropical forests in the world have been destroyed since the 1960s, removing the homes of numerous organisms and significantly reducing the previously high biodiversity. Over 15 billion trees are chopped down each year, causing soil erosion and water cycle disruption. If humanity is harming creatures and destroying ecosystems left and right, how will it be possible for individuals to feel an intimate connection with nature in the future?

However, there is still time to reform our ways. Big corporations will not change their eco-unfriendly practices immediately, and thus, change must begin with us: the youth.

Thus, I have altered my lifestyle in several ways to fulfill my duty to protect nature. First, as a vegetarian, I refuse to eat any meat and have a low dairy consumption. Every year, meat production emits billions of tons of carbon dioxide and methane and uses more than two quadrillion tons of freshwater. Moreover, the meat production industry is arguably the biggest perpetrator of animal abuse, for many animals such as cows, chickens, pigs, and sheep are inhumanely tortured, forcefully bred, and slaughtered to death for their meat. If one person even slightly reduced his or her meat consumption, he or she could save the lives of many animals and prevent tens of thousands of gallons of water from being used each year. Second, I opt to solely use non-plastic containers. Even though most plastic is not biodegradable, it is still disposed of in the ocean, greatly disrupting marine ecosystems. Furthermore, microplastics can easily enter the bodies of many creatures, including humans, and have the ability to carry contaminants and damage cells. To reduce these risks, I utilize containers made of glass and/or metal instead of plastic. Third, I pick up almost all of the trash that I encounter. Creatures can be seriously harmed if they accidentally ingest litter, and this trash can negatively affect both air and water quality. Thus, picking up trash is an easy and effective way to protect creatures from its dangers. Through these relatively simple actions, I have been able to make a difference in the world. And if everyone makes a difference, we can collectively change the world.

There is an endless list of ways for the youth to contribute to nature. We can plant flowers and trees to promote biodiversity and help reduce carbon dioxide levels. We can avoid utilizing plastic and styrofoam to protect marine creatures. We can conserve precious resources such as water, food, and electricity. By playing our part in the natural world, the youth can spark transformative change and ensure that future generations continue to experience a close and profound connection with nature.

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