To be an eco-literate person can mean many different things. My eco-literacy story begins with a love letter to my dear friend Emily who is my inspiration and my definition of what it means to be an eco-literate person. She makes it look like magic, the way she takes used materials and creates her own brand new creations. She precisely sorts her recycled materials and never leaves a glass, plastic, cardboard, or paper behind when doing so. Her home is always so green with her conservation of electricity and water. And the air she breathes is incredibly clean in the way she saves on fuel and throws her garbage in waste cans. She, in my eyes, is an eco-literate goddess.
But a few days later Shyla read me a poem about the cattle ranchers who preserve the grasslands and care for their livestock. She opened my eyes to the obvious ways that my family and I (as well as many other ranchers) are eco-literate through a very beautiful poem. The ranchers she spoke of “earn a living off the land by studying, and respecting, and loving, the environments” they have created a living out of their eco-literacy. Something I never considered in my own definition, but dearly admire and ultimately can relate to being a cattle ranchers daughter. She discussed how working in, and with, the weather and knowing the water tables can help save animal’s lives. Another strand to add to my eco-literacy definition.
I was feeling great about this new definition of eco-literacy that I had created. And the next day Vanessa reinforced my good feelings through her letter that defined what the term meant to her. She agreed that recycling was a great way to help the environment. But she made me feel silly when she went on to talk about the importance of planting trees every year. And then she included “the benefits [composting] has to the environment” another way to make use of our waste to make the earth healthier! My mind is overwhelmed and very happy with the definition of eco-literacy that it has compiled thus far.
In just a short few days I managed to braid together these strands of ideas to create a strong definition of what it means to be an eco-literate person. But then I remembered what Kimmerer wrote in her story. “Our relationships with the land, we are given so much and what we might give back” (122), she makes me question if I have truly found a set definition. What else can I, as one individual, give back to my environment to make it happier and healthier? Vanessa had shared in her letter, “spread your knowledge with as many people as possible… of the small things… to change the environment” and I must agree that all these small tasks we do make a big impact. And if thousands of people do them it would be better than just a handful of people doing them. But is it enough? I hope to continue my eco-literacy braid as I grow older, to lengthen and strengthen it. As for the answer to my questions, I hope they can be answered someday.
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