There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.
Whether we recognize it or not, as inhabitants of the southern Appalachians we are all part of a community that is larger than just that which we call civilization. As we are learning more and more each day, nature is not a closed system and neither is human society. The things we do, how we live, the decisions we make, and most importantly how we interact with nature have an immense impact on the complex interrelationships between our local plants, animals, and ecological processes. What is often forgotten is that these natural communities and ecosystems also have a colossal impact on humanity, both at the economic and commodity level and at a level that is fundamentally deeper within our psyche. It is this basic fact that has driven the creation of a new series we are calling Wild Connections.
Wild Connections is a collaboration between WildSouth, Ashvegas, and the Warren Wilson College Department of Environmental Studies. Our goal is to help you connect more deeply with the amazing variety of local ecosystems that constitute the southern Appalachian Mountains through a series of informative essays pieces that we hope will coax you to enjoy, value, and protect them.
We want you to get out and experience all of the remarkable areas and biodiversity right here in your backyard. It’s our hope that you’ll come to see the direct connection between us and the natural systems that surround us. Neither nature nor human society can flourish by sealing off one from another. We must fully appreciate that connection, then begin to heal the breach between the two.
Why is it so important that we alter the way in which we as a society interact with nature? We face a myriad of mammoth environmental issues, principally habitat alteration, defaunation (the loss of wildlife), water pollution, and global climate change. The challenges are so great that an international team of scientists has begun to consider whether the human impact on Earth is so large that it warrants the naming of a new epoch. It’s a designation usually reserved for enormous shifts in the earth’s timeline, such as the mega-asteroid impact that wiped out most lineages of dinosaurs and robbed us of our chance to come face to face with Tyrannosaurus rex (maybe we should be thankful for that).
The environmental issues we face are no doubt enormous and daunting. Yet, Wild Connections is not a call to “love it before it’s gone.” Rather, it is an appeal to get out, enjoy nature, and join those who are fighting to save our wild places, not from ourselves but for ourselves. It is a call to learn about and engage the astonishing variety of wild places and biodiversity that literally surrounds us and to familiarize yourself with the multitude of organizations and individuals who work to defend the places and species that make up the natural heritage of the southern Appalachians. Through learning about these efforts, we hope that you will come to recognize that we can save all things natural, wild, and free. That is the essence of Western North Carolina – the water we drink, the trails we love, and the mountains that take our breath away.
Spring has arrived and as the great John Muir once said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.” Please join us for bi-weekly installments of Wild Connections, even if you just want to find new places to explore!
J.J. Apodaca, Ph.D., is a professor of conservation biology at Warren Wilson College. For questions or comments, send an email to [email protected].