Posted: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 1:28:42 AM
Ever since I was in pre-school I knew that I wanted to become a doctor. Since four years of age, I was so set on that goal that whenever relatives or teachers would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always answer “doctor” without even batting an eyelid. But after a recent trip to China, I began to rethink and reexamine my “perfectly” planned out life.
It all started when I signed up to volunteer with the Tian Zi Biodiversity Foundation in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China. Thinking that I would be learning about how the products from the abundant natural resources are utilized to produce pharmaceutical products, I eagerly signed up for what I thought would be a medically relevant project. Little did I know that I was in fact signing up to work with China’s leading environmental conservation group to help bring a stop to the spread of rubber plantations that were fast encroaching upon what little was left of the dense rainforest of Xishuangbanna.
Upon my arrival in Xishuangbanna, I quickly realized how intimately lives are tied to the environment. Living here in America, I felt that I did enough to help the environment by recycling regularly, conserving paper usage, and keeping a small compost pile in my kitchen. In Xishuangbanna, I saw the same dark green foliage rolling across vast tracts of land, outgrowing and out-competing all the native species of plants and robbing native animals of their natural habitats. Whole sections of native rainforest were being decimated at alarming rates while helpless animals fled to the shrinking areas of what was left of the rainforests.
After this trip, I became so much closer with nature. I had just witnessed our nature crumbling before us and I soon realized that my children may not be able to see the small remaining tracks of beautiful rainforests in China anymore. This trip opened my eyes to how out of tune most American teenagers are, to how out of tune I was with nature. With Facebook, cell phones, and the ever evolving world of computers and new gaming systems, teenagers tune themselves into fake friends and imaginary worlds while shutting themselves out of nature, out of what is real. Nature is needed in the lives of everyone. The environment is something that has a limited time on earth too, and if we keep selfishly shutting ourselves out, we will never learn, we will never be able to truly reflect on our lives. Nature is something that opens new doorways, new ideas, and new beginnings. After my trip to the forest, I have so many new doorways open for me. I started to re-evaluate what I wanted to do when I grow up. After all those years of certainty, it somehow fell apart, fell apart and then molded into something about saving nature, of loving it, and learning from it. If I had never stepped outside, I would have never found me.