Reflection by High School Student Niklas Martensson
I have lived in the city my whole life. The suburban realm is not the most environmentally diverse or sustainable. There are a lot of parks within my neighborhood, though. Furthermore, my parents would always take my siblings and I up to Door County to see the State Parks up there and a few beaches north of Milwaukee.
I was introduced to the outdoors, as much as any suburban kid can, through the efforts of my parents, but it really struck me when I joined the Marquette High School’s environmental science and outdoors homeroom and also enrolled in the environmental science class. Ever since then, I have seen the world differently, appreciating the environment we have been given by God, from the smallest insect or blade of grass to the deadliest predator or largest forests.
Laudato Si’ has shown the Catholic Church that care for the environment is part of a belief in God. We have been created and entrusted with caring for our home that God gave us and unfortunately we have destroyed a good portion of it. Humans need to care about how their actions impact the world around them and what they can do the preserve nature for generations to come. Laudato Si’ has inspired me to seriously think about how I am impacting the environment and ecosystems around me in my daily actions. From convincing my lunch table to recycle properly, to biking as much as possible. This shows that little actions in our lives can create small changes. If these small things, inspired by the “Care for Our Common Home”, could be instituted on a much larger scale, who knows how much we would be able to accomplish.
Religion classes have often neglected the topic of care for nature, but the focus is starting to return to its importance as part of our faith. Being involved in the Laudato Si Project has meant a lot to me because previously, I had thought that tiny little me in a world of polluters could do nothing, but since my involvement in many projects, I have seen ecosystems and small communities improve with every eradicated invasive species, savanna reconstructed, and river cleaned. All of these projects build men who can see their environmental impact, reduce their waste, and improve the ecosystem around them by small steps one at a time.
Last winter I was involved in a group that went out to restore a woodland back to savannah and prairie lands. Arriving on the chilly morning and meeting with a few professionals including Mr. Jim Uhrinak of the Milwaukee Audubon Society. Zipping up coats and putting on work gloves meant that we were about to start. Chainsaws rumbled and sliced through the woods. We dragged the large trees to a huge fire, where we burned the lumber in order to create a prairie landscape like the way it was when only Native Americans were here.
After several exhausting hours of dragging tree after tree through the muddy snow, we were allotted time for a break. Stepping back and admiring our work, we realized that we just restored a vast area of prairie land back to what it looked like prior to European Settlement. How could a small group like that work so efficiently? This was my favorite project because we endured the cold, worked hard, and enjoyed the blessings of our labor with sub sandwiches and our friends.