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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

Return to nature

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

(4/2015) When asked to consider the environment, my friend, the environmental science major, would start talking about going green or invite me to come to the next Environmental Club meeting. Donít get me wrong, Iím lucky to have her in my life to yell at me for littering or tell me strange details about the Chesapeake Bay when I just want to go swimming, but my mind doesnít go in that direction. Instead, I reflect on the return to nature that is ever-present in romantic literature.

During the Romantic period (1785-1832), there was a distinct revolution of what it meant to be human in the works as people experienced and rejected the shift towards industrialism. The happenings of the time period resulted in a focus on nature in most romantic literature, especially poetry. Poets focused on what it meant to be human through a focus on all that is natural and all that was simultaneously slipping away from them as they watched London begin to be characterized by modern industrialism. People were desperately clinging to nature and poets focused on it. They realized even as it was happening that their environment was changing. They knew that they were losing the world as they knew it.

Can we say the same?

With Earth Day approaching and recycling bins going into all the dorms around campus, thereís slightly more awareness and conversation than usual, but it canít be enough.

Every day we drive out of small town Emmitsburg and see the way industrialism changed the world that used to exist. No longer is it abnormal to see a shopping center erected where a farm used to sit, or see smoke billowing into the sky on a clear day. But do we write about it the way Romantics did? Do we sing about it or talk about it? I donít think so, and itís not because we donít care; itís because as a society we arenít consciously thinking about it as we live our daily lives. We arenít surprised at the way cities look or upset when we see a plastic cup on the side of the road. We donít muse over seas of daffodils as William Wordsworth does in the famous poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," and we donít hate the way dangerous jobs in crowded cities harm lives the way William Blake does in "The Chimney Sweeper."

Maybe some of us do. Maybe some of us do not walk past a pond without stopping to reflect on the air of peace around it. Maybe some of us pick up trash as we walk along a sidewalk. But there has to be more. The Romantic poets got it rightóin order to evoke change or maintain the environment we have, we have to start to care more. We have to start to feel.

Wordsworth says it best when he says, "All good poetry [is] the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling." Pair this with the idea that these poets focused on nature more frequently than most issues. They cared about losing their environment. They wanted to return to a sincere appreciation of all that is natural, and thatís what we needómore people to care and feel something about the environment.

I donít think that weíre in the same state that London was in the early 19th century; in fact, I think weíre in very different places. However, at the core, weíre not that different.

I donít think we have it all wrong, I just think we can take it a little further.

There are thousands of people and groups working to protect our environment, but as a whole there isnít enough talk about it, not enough care. We need more awareness, more conscious thought about the environment.

Earth Day is coming up and on April 22, weíll celebrate the 45th anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement. Born as a result of the overwhelming presence of industry and air pollution, Earth Day serves each year as a reminder that we have started to care. We, as a society, have made a move in the right direction. No longer is pollution accepted as a sign of prosperity or industrialism viewed as the answer to all of our problems.

That is incredible to consider. Whatís even more incredible is all of the clubs meeting on college campuses and the organizations devoted solely to sustainability. It is all in the works; now we just have to take the final step and make conversation about the environment widely circulated on a daily basis. We do this by getting people to care, to talk about it, to report on it on the evening news, or to write poetry about it, and we do this by starting to feel something about it.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary