Education should have been my first tip--it is by far the most important thing to combating global warming, shrinking your carbon footprint, and learning to appreciate and respect the Earth. First, educate yourself. Search Google, get e-newsletters from valuable organizations like Sierra Club, National Geographic, and the Center for Biological Diversity. Read books with information about what is going wrong with the way humans treat the planet, like Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Pick up a book that will show you the beauty and fragility of our planet, or watch something like Planet Earth, which shows the diversity of our planet and gives you a picture of how the many living things on Earth can easily be destroyed with the warming of the Earth and the destruction of the ozone layer.

If you have never gone camping, spent an afternoon outside in a field, gone on a hike, or climbed a tree, chances are you don't understand the value of nature in life. Before you read any of the scientific data, watch movies about far-away countries and the animals that inhabit them, step outside. Go somewhere where nature is pure. However, don't go to a park; that is man-made nature and it does little to the soul but relieve it temporarily of the buildings and infrastructure we have covered nature with. Go to an empty field, one where the grass has not been planted by the hand of man. Go to a creek, where nature is allowed to wander freely, and is not stifled by a lawn mower, a saw, or a leaf-blower. If there is no such place near your home, plan a trip to the closest sanctuary of wild nature that you can find. If there is regulated grass sizes or the trees are cut regularly, do not venture there to look for solace. Find the places that we don't touch. The places where Mother Earth can nourish her children without restrictions, without cement coverings, without man's corrupted vision of perfection and organization. Man was given perfection in nature, yet he was blind to it and, though unconsciously, he wanted to become a god on Earth, transforming the paradise he was given into a controlled garden with trimmed grasses and shaped shrubs. That is not nature, though some may say it is enough. It is what Richard Louv, author of The Last Child in the Woods, calls "synthetic nature," and it does little but entertain us as a hobby, or as a brief escape from the confined walls that we have placed around ourselves, separating ourselves from the rest of nature. Whether or not people want to face it, we came from nature. We have abilities that no other animal has, yet we abuse them and turn away from the Earth from whence we come to try to find a happiness that has been there since the first organism constituted as life on Earth.

To understand the value of decreasing your impact and use of natural resources, you must first learn why the Earth needs us to care about it. You need to see what a negative impact human beings have been to the Earth. And most importantly, you have to care about our planet and understand the devastation that will occur to not only the Earth, but to the animals, plants, and humans who live and depend on it if we do not do something to reverse the problems that we as a species have caused.

As you learn to care and begin to understand the enormity of the problems, tell others. Start with family, for they can help you get your facts straight before you begin telling friends. People will be skeptical, unmotivated, unwilling, stubborn, uncaring - don't push them too hard. Reach for those willing to listen and learn. Teach them what you know, and show them why you care. If all else fails, know that you as an individual are trying to make a difference. Though the quote is ubiquitous nowadays, it is so incredibly true:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
-- Margaret Mead


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