Nature-versus-humankind. For centuries, many thinkers (including environmentalists) have applied this construct to try to understand our place in the natural world. Nature is something that thrives in the absence of human interference—in remote jungle rainforests or vast untouched wilderness preserves, while the human-built environment of our great cities show the work of our brains, hands, and culture.
But this dichotomy is a misconception; the human animal is both a part of nature, and also a force that shapes the natural world just as surely as any other animal, plant, or element. It’s true that the Amazon jungle possesses an astonishing degree of biodiversity. But you can also find thriving ecosystems in, say, a public park or vacant lot behind the shopping mall in Anytown, USA.
Each of us has a clear choice, every day: Do we attempt to support nature’s healthy biodiversity in our environment, or do we make choices that limit biodiversity?
Examples of this choice are all around us—from the back yard, to the city park, to the landscaping at the office complex. But perhaps nowhere is this interconnectedness between humans and nature so evident as on a farm. Farmers, after all, cultivate plants and animals for a living. In aggregate, how they do so has an enormous impact on the health of our planet.
Fostering healthy and productive biodiversity is at the forefront of many farm projects, including Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary. A ten-minute drive from downtown Lincoln, Massachusetts, Drumlin Farm is a working vegetable farm, a wildlife sanctuary, and an educational institution that provides hands-on learning for thousands of schoolchildren every year.
The farm is on the estate of a local resident, Louise Ayer Gordon Hatheway, who deeded the land to the Massachusetts Audubon Society. A working organic farm, Drumlin farmers grow a year-round produce CSA, as well as raise sheep, cows, goats, and pigs.
Equally important is the educational mission of the farm. The staff offers more than a dozen programs for children and adults aimed to increase their understanding of farming and biodiversity. The offerings include summer camps, on-farm field days during the school year, and specialized programs to teach bird-watching and other skills.
The goal, says sanctuary director Renata Pomponi, is to teach participants about the connections between their choices and the natural environment. “Never before has the need to give children opportunities to connect deeply with nature been more important,” says Pomponi. “And never before has our resolve been as strong. Drumlin Farm’s goal is to transform the way environmental science is taught and experienced, using the context of sustainable farming to inspire the next generation of conservation leaders.”