“Environment”

To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.

– Excerpt from the Seventh State of the Union Address by Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, December 3rd, 1907.

This is my first journal entry in a new category entitled “People and the Environment.”  The category title comes from a Bemidji State University (BSU) course of the same name in which I have enrolled during summer session in order to complete my last liberal education requirement towards my bachelor’s degree.  The class fulfills the BSU Category 10 requirement of the liberal education requirements for bachelor degree graduates.  Category 10 also goes by the same name of People and the Environment, and is part of BSU’s commitment to an awareness of the planet’s global community and the future we are providing for ourselves and generations to come by acknowledging modern society’s influence on our planet’s limited natural resources in a global ecosystem.

In order to fulfill its mission and its responsibilities as a public university, Bemidji State University will:

  1. Promote an uncompromising pursuit of knowledge, excellence, civic responsibility, and environmental impact.

Excerpt from the Bemidji State University mission statement.

During the next month you will see journal entries made into this category stemming from lecture in association with the text Sustaining the Earth by G. Tyler Miller, Jr., reflections on activities and field trips into the discovery of the interweaving of our natural capital, and reactions to small group discussions from the global pollution perspective as I analyze my own ecological footprint.

With that introduction, in our first journal entry, we were asked to respond to the following question:

  • What does the term “environment” mean to you and why?

My environment.  When I think of my environment, I think of a place, a location, where I am in my element, or more specifically, where I feel the most comfortable spiritually and emotionally as well as where I get the most satisfaction physically and socially.

For me, my environment will always be the small town, countryside, and the wide open spaces of this wonderful world in which we live.  I grew up in a small town, a central Minnesota town of some industry and technology, but mostly a community supported by and risen from the surrounding industry of the agricultural community – the farming families.

I didn’t grow up on a farm myself, but I had many relatives and friends who did and both my parents came from families who worked the land.  My connection with this environment came through them and the countless days I spent in the woods, on the lake, the prairie, or on the farm itself.

Summers were filled with camping trip after camping trip in which our main activity was fishing.  My dad loved to camp and fish and if there was a weekend between fishing opener and football season that we weren’t gone fishing or on a excursion to some far away place, something was peculiar or amiss.  Falls meant football seven days a week unless we were in the woods harvesting timber to heat the family house for the long Minnesota winter ahead.  Winters were snowmobiling and ice-fishing, and spring meant crappie fishing with my dad and brother at our secret spot before the obligations of school and work.

Lumberjacking with my dad and bothers was hard, strenuous, and sometimes dangerous work, but those days spent working together in the outdoors are some of my fondest memories of childhood.  Another of my fondest memories from childhood is making homemade summer sausage using the family recipe with beef from my Uncle Dan’s farm and smoking it in the old smokehouse at my Uncle Ray’s farm, the farm that previously belonged to my grandparents and where my father grew up.  It’s been 25 years or more since I set foot in that little old smokehouse that now has long since been gone – given back to the land from where it came – but I can still smell the penetrating aroma like it was yesterday.  This was also an important dietary staple as homemade summer sausage and homemade strawberry jam sandwiches were the required pail lunch for a day spent lumberjacking in the woods!

My upbringing in a place where environment meant the outdoors and a way of life has shaped the way I have chosen to live my own life.  I spent a decade in the metropolitan area of Minneapolis and St. Paul after leaving home.  Other than the first couple years of college when I spent summers at home, I was living the city life.  Although there were still weekend escapes, outdoor refuges inside the city, and even a career in the outdoors industry, it was never a sufficient substitute for the outdoors lifestyle of the lakes, woods, and countryside of rural Minnesota.

I relocated to Bemidji, Minnesota – a community similar to my hometown – in the early spring of 2003, with no intention ever to return to the city lifestyle.  The decision to fight for the opportunity to come back to where I’m from was a choice I made for the improvement of my life.  The fact that Bemidji is located in the middle of lake country in Minnesota’s North Woods amplified then, and now, the reasons why my environment is dependent on my surroundings, earth and timber instead of concrete and steel.

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