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Becoming an Environmentalist- A Piece by Kelcie Kraft

 

As a university student pursing a degree in environmental science and environmental policy I often get asked what drove me to become an environmentalist. Answering this question is often difficult for me, as the truth is not simply that I woke up one morning and decided that was the career path for me, but that I’ve spent my whole life becoming one.

Perhaps it started with the endless summers of my childhood, spent outside from sun up to sun down, climbing trees, catching lightning bugs, and having mud fights so intense they’d leave dirt in my hair for a week afterwards. These were the days when I first began to familiarize myself with the natural world and to fall in love with the outdoors.

From there it was weekend camping trips with dad, summer wildlife camps, and family vacations spent exploring our country’s amazing national parks where I learned not only to appreciate nature, but how to respect it. Having mastered the principles of Leave No Trace by age six, I began to develop a different relationship with the outdoors, built on respect and appreciation.

This relationship drove me all the way through high school, where my biology teacher recommended a book to me in the hopes that it would inspire my future endeavors. I put off the recommendation for some time, always finding better things to do, until the summer going into my freshman year of college when I finally decided to pick it up.

The book was A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. With every page my desire to interact with nature on the level that Leopold described through his exquisitely beautiful writing grew. When I got to his essays on conservation I was blown out of the water. To this day no piece of writing has resonated with me more than Leopold’s depiction of a Land Ethic.

His quote, “I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in,” along with many others, struck a chord so deep in me that by the end of my first week of class freshman year I had changed all of my classes and switched my major to environmental science. I knew, with full conviction, that from that day forth I was going to do everything in my power to protect the Earth that I loved so dearly so that no one would ever have to be young in a world without wilderness to enjoy and experience as I had.

With that, an environmentalist was born.