• David Unger, PhD

Bygone Days


This picture is of an another era. It does not look like anything that would happen today. Partly it is the color of the photograph, the dress of the people and the simplicity of the structure. I look at this picture and it is hard for me to relate to it although it is a picture from my own past.


When I was going to grade school in New York City, someone thought it was important to take us city kids out to the country to let us know that life was not just about skyscrapers and hoards of people. This is my fourth grade class on a week-long trip to a farm. This picture was taken to note the culmination of our week’s work to build a shelter as our forbearers may have done. It surprises me that this picture has survived with me, but I stumbled upon it the other day and was shocked about how far away that time seems.


We milked cows, got our hands dirty in the garden and learned about living close to the earth. I have not reflected much over the years on how that time at Otis impacted my thinking about my relationship with nature. I do know as I have grown I have become increasingly aware and concerned about how we all relate to the earth. I learned that when you go out in nature or anywhere for that matter, you want to leave the place at least as good as you found it. I would like to think as I look back upon my life that I have left the earth as good or better than I found it, but I am not sure.


I know what seemed simple back at Otis feels more complex now as I weave my way through traffic, use a plastic bag at the market or notice the waste that goes in the garbage each week. It takes a lot of resources to live on this earth, especially if you live in a city. I know more and more recycling is a part of all our lives and gradually we are reducing our carbon footprint. Yet I also know that simultaneously we tear down a forest to utilize those resources in other ways. It is hard to live harmoniously in nature as you increasingly move away from it.


I find it distressing that each year children spend less and less time outdoors. Our relationship with nature and the earth is not going to improve if we don't spend some time visiting its environs. It is hard to be motivated to advocate for rain forests if you have never been in a forest.


I didn't write this post to encourage you to spend some time with your family in the great outdoors, but I certainly don't mind jumping on that bandwagon. I wrote this post to reflect on my and your relationship with the world that provides for us. Will we leave it better or worse for our tenure with it? I know for me I get mixed scores. I do, however, endeavor to be aware of leaving everyplace I go and everyone I meet at least as good as I found them. It is akin to the Hippocratic oath that physicians have been taking since around the 4th century – Do no harm. While that oath was created for doctors, I think it is an oath we all ought to take and do our very best to honor.

#Hippocraticoath #donoharm #nature

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