WCLT 2008 Scholarship Awarded to Earth Day Essay Contest Winner
Westborough High School graduating senior Evan Gross received the 2008 Westborough Community Land Trust Scholarship. It was awarded on the basis of the essay he submitted in WCLT’s 2008 Earth Day Essay Contest.
Evan received the scholarship at the Westborough High School graduation in June and will attend Michigan State University in the fall.
The WCLT scholarship is awarded each year to a graduating senior to recognize a deep appreciation and concern for the natural environment, as expressed in an Earth Day essay. WCLT encourages young people to develop a strong connection with nature as the basis for responsible, thoughtful decisions about the environment.
Two graduating seniors received honorable mention for their essays: Eric Chang, who will attend the California Institute of Technology, and Matt Feresten, who will enroll at the College of William and Mary.
Evan’s winning essay emphasized the importance of childhood experiences in the outdoors in fostering an interest in stewardship and preservation of the natural environment. He suggested ways of encouraging children, teenagers, and adults to become involved in stewardship of the environment for the benefit of future generations.
Evan’s essay reads:
I have always loved the outdoors. I remember as a child exploring the vast woods across the street from my house. Long before me, kids had built treehouses and forts in the woods, and finding them was a source of endless entertainment for my friends and I. Fox, deer, raccoons, fisher cats, and turkeys from those woods would make frequent visits to our backyard and I vividly remember reports of wolves and bears living in there too as my friends and I all dared each other to venture into the woods after dark.
That all changed though when the land was marked for development. I was too young to realize what was happening at the time, but soon my favorite place was plowed away and replaced with large cookie-cutter houses. While I admit that my house, although older and nicer, is also part of a development, the animosity I felt toward the people in the development still lingers today and ever since I have described myself as a preservationist.
Being a preservationist, a steward of the earth, means protecting open space, natural resources, and environmental beauty from the growth of an industrial economy and the sprawl of urban society. Stewardship goes a long way toward solving the many environmental problems in our society today. If we all took better care of the environment by using less energy, conserving resources, and recycling waste, then the air and water we need could remain fresh and clean for generations to come, hundreds of species of animals could escape extinction, and modern society could live free from the dangers of rapidly changing climate, rising ocean levels, and ultraviolet radiation. In addition, local natural areas, such as the one I lost, can be saved by the community getting together and taking a stand to protect it from development.
I began getting involved in community preservation by joining the cub scouts in hopes of finding other woods in town to explore, and I wasn’t disappointed. My fellow scouts and I took stewardship roles by building birdhouses and bat-houses, learning how to recycle, and later, learning “Leave No Trace” methods such as storing food safely away from wildlife, filtering out dirty water from camp meals, making campfires that do not have an impact on the environment, and of course picking up any trash, even if it wasn’t ours.
Getting the rest of the community to think about preservation is no small task. Home values, taxes, school district performance, and gas prices are the issues that everyone is thinking about right now. However, Westborough has always been a town that has come together around the children of the community and if children are interested in preserving Westborough’s natural environment, then that will be a good first step toward better stewardship.
Getting kids thinking about the environment can be done through getting them involved in scouting and recreational activities, as well as teaching environmental science in school, but all that really needs to be done is to get them outside, away from the television and beyond the familiar swing set in the backyard. Teenagers and adults can get involved in stewardship as well through hobbies such as landscape artwork, wilderness survival techniques, and forestry and gardening. I think the best way to encourage people to become good stewards is to get them outside to see the simple beauty of nature, teach them how to protect it, and allow them to enjoy the results of preservation.
Lessons about the environment in boy scouts always refer to the Outdoor Code, which is a pledge that states, “As an American, I will do my best to be clean in my outdoor manners, be careful with fire, be considerate in the outdoors, and be conservation minded.” The first part of the Outdoor Code declares, “As an American” which signifies that being a good steward is not just something for the Scouts or the environmentalists, it is the responsibility of all Americans. We all depend on the Earth, and it is America’s abundant natural resources and environmental beauty that make this place a great country, and preserving this for the next generation is what it means to be a responsible steward.