Nature Connects All of Us

Sandra Thaxer shares what Small Solutions Big Ideas is doing to provide opportunities for our youths to feel close to nature

Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash
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Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship. The series is coordinated by ACES, the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

The image of the earth as one whole organism and the realization of which human beings are an integral part can be a challenge for us to envision.

Many of us see ourselves as outside nature and maybe even as masters of nature. For those living in cities who purchase their food in air-conditioned grocery stores where each item is carefully placed in shiny stainless steel refrigerators or neatly stacked shelves, we have created an “other worldly” place.

Nature is our world. It is messy, uncontrollable, beautiful and difficult to understand. If we have the means to visit national parks, we know the power of waterfalls, rivers and the great ocean itself.

But we often live in constructed communities where humility about our fragile lives is difficult to keep in perspective. We forget how each of our choices to use the resources of the earth has an impact on the lives of others, significantly those in more fragile places on our globe. In Kenya right now, families struggle to have water to drink, cook and wash. Goats and giraffes are dying.

What can we do? Small Solutions Big Ideas is using the abundant natural resources we have here in Greater Newburyport – our marshes, rivers, small forests, and seashore to bring youth closer to curiosity and eagerness to understand nature.

We are doing this by creating a public wildlife mural created by local youths and with contributions from our youth community in Kenya, Africa.

There are two more art workshops available free to the public for children ages 7 to 11 at the Parker River Wildlife Refuge Center, July 9 and 16.

You can sign up or just show up at 9:30. We are grateful for the stewardship of the Parker River Wildlife Refuge Center for their welcoming this project to their facility and for the support of the Newburyport Cultural Council and Massachusetts Cultural Council in understanding the significance of nature to youth via artwork.

Newburyport is abundant in artists who spend hours contemplating the changing colors of the marshes, the sky and the flight of birds. Experts acknowledge that their creative work offers opportunities for all of us to be reinforced by the beauty that they share.

We need to ensure we provide opportunities for our youths to feel that close to nature.

Research by the British RSBP group documents: That people with a greater connection to nature are more likely to behave positively toward the environment, wildlife and habitats … and may be critical for future nature conservation.”

Bill McKibben in a recent Atlantic article calls this destructive heat the “fire” we have created digging coal, extracting oil which we now depend on.

We don’t yet know all the solutions to greening our environment, but we can assist youths in understanding the complex web of life and be prepared for the future.

This mural will be celebrated on Aug. 6 (1 to 6 p.m.) in the outdoor areas of Pleasant Street’s historic Unitarian church.

Youth art will be displayed, Megan Hiango’s sculpture made of broken lobster pot grates will be an interactive art piece. Our Kenyan youths will be present through their videos and art to provide a global perspective.

We invite other environmental groups to join us, contact us to set up a table and let the public know of your work. A highlight of the afternoon will be a 3 p.m. performance by a nationally known spoken word poet, Jordan Sanchez, along with our local NHS “Poetry Soup’ geniuses, who performed at the Juneteenth celebration, and knocked us all off our feet.

Jordan’s poem “Climate Denial” can be previewed online: Please join us.

If you are a youth and have your own art, bring it along. Contact us on Facebook /smallsolutionsbigideasafrica, website: or email:

Sandra Thaxter is a founder and president of Small Solutions Big Ideas.

This column was coordinated by ACES youth corps member Caleb Bradshaw. To share any comments or questions, please send an email to To learn more about ACES and its Youth Leadership Initiative, visit

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