Leave It Better Than You Found It

Reader Contribution by Anneli Carter-Sundqvist
article image

In many communal kitchens, may it be a hostel or a student dorm, postings are usually to be found; “Leave it nicer than when you came”, they read. That can be said to humans on earth too, to leave it better than it was.

In previous blogs I’ve mentioned the difference I see between the commonly used term “low-impact” and how I rather talk about “positive-impact.” Low impact is a pretty popular way of indicating an environmentally friendly approach, to not disturb and to be barely noticeable in the natural world. While all this is well intended and certainly better than many options, I like to think of what Dennis and I are doing here at the homestead as positive impact instead of low impact.

To take an approach to nature as that humans’ impact should be barely noticeable is to me to imply that humans’ involvement in nature is destructive. It’s easy to see where that notion comes from, humans has throughout history, and exponentially in recent time, been unfathomably destructive to nature, but that doesn’t mean that that’s all humans can be. Furthermore, to take the stand that human involvement in nature should be low impact is also to imply that we should be observers of nature rather than acting in nature, once again assuming that human’s actions in nature are negative.

By living and working in nature, with nature, I believe that our surroundings here at the homestead are ecologically healthier, more diverse and vibrant than should we as humans not have been here. In a dense forest with pretty a low diversity of spices, the clearing made for our farm seems to open up for an abundance of life benefiting from the different ecology it offers. Deer and other mammals are drawn to it and owls use it as a hunting ground for mice and voles. We can encourage their presence by providing houses for them, since there are so few old and hollow trees of the right size around here. Our gardens feed many but us, birds for example, like the Red Robins passing through the area in the spring or the Blue Jays, that in September eat the seeds from the dried sunflowers I leave standing for them. Insects, bees and butterflies take advantage of the broad diversity of flowers, a diversity that would not exist on our land had we not created it. Rodents live around the edges of the garden, whether we like it or not, and there’s a vast microbiology created by the compost and seaweed we fertilize with.

By promoting the few oaks growing on our land over the invasive balsam fir, we provide nutrient dense acorns for many living creatures and by clearing a white spruce stand to plant apple trees we increase plant diversity that once again provide feed for numerous insects, bees, butterflies and mammals, humans included.

We all depend on nature for our sustenance, even if we don’t live directly in it, and all our actions have an impact on nature in some way. But by living like this, with a daily and direct connection to nature and a desire for it to provide for us, we can be in better control over what impact our actions, and interactions, have. Here, we can not only tread lightly but tread positively, and leave it a better place than we found it.