Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: The Greatest Threat to Our Environment May Not Be What You Think

 I am often asked by reporters, friends and people I meet on our nature walks, “What is the greatest threat to our environment?”

I can tell they think they know exactly what I will say. At times they even try to answer for me. “Climate change right?”  they cry out as they look to me to sadly agree. No, I say. “Ok habitat loss?” or “ It’s pollution right  ?” “Plastic? Fracking??  

Sill not agreeing with them they finally give up ask ok what then? My answer is the issue that scares me the most and  is far worse than all those critical issues combined because, know unless we learn to somehow overcome and conquer it, in the long run nothing much else will matter.

 If there is an issue that keeps me awake at night it is the seriousness of how many people are becoming disconnected from the natural world around them.


If the average person does not care about or even see the Robin on the front lawn or even glance at the hawk flying overhead how can we ever to expect  to convince them to care about what happens to the future of our environment ?

Why would they even blink an eye about a bulldozer clearing a few acres of trees if they no longer feel that nature is important?  Why care about climate change or vote for people that do care about the future if their connection to the natural world has been forgotten or at the very least ignored ?

There is more than enough blame to go around as to the causes for the disconnect. Urban sprawl has less nature for us to find close to home, technology occupies more and more of our free time, our educational system provides little or no time to keep our children interested in nature , and of course there is the big one, FEAR.

Our  “fear,” or maybe just a serious lack of understanding of nature, is falsely creating more and more reasons to avoid a walk in the woods and meadows and close our doors and windows and just stay inside. The fears run the gamut from being attacked by a wild pack of coyotes to being hissed at by an angry goose or chased by an aggressive wild turkey as  highlighted on the evening news.

From slipping in the mud to getting cold toe , their worries seem to have become extreme and  now has limited their nature connection to a wilderness  hike from their f ront door to the far off reaches of the driver’s side door of their SUV. Take precautions? Absolutely! But hiding inside is not my idea of living . 

Ultimately as a result we continue to lose more and more natural areas. As the trees go to development, the fields to warehouses and the meadows to ratables we continue to lose our linking to nature. Our children have nowhere to walk through a forest or play in a pond, our seniors lose their places to rest and relax, and society losses a place to regain their souls. Study after study reveals evidence on how much healthier both mentally and physically a society is when they get to spend time communing with the natural world around them .

We will need to decide for ourselves if we no longer care  to watch a Hummingbird sip nectar from a flower or see a Monarch Butterfly come to rest on a milkweed. Will we accept getting  cold hands and feet to watch a Bald Eagle hunt for fish along the river banks or to see your first   Snowy Owl perched silently on a meadow? The decision you make will affect all of us and the future of our natural world .  

But there is hope and the solution is up to us all. Get outside and take a friend, a child, loved one, neighbor, whoever you can find on a walk in woods and meadows that we still have here in the Garden State. Conservation organizations cannot do it alone. We all must convey our respect and love of nature to all who will listen so that we all learn to care to be sure there will still be places that future generations of people and wildlife can survive and thrive.

Since humans first walked in a forest, felt the tall grasses brush their sides and looked for the answers to questions of the spirit  in the wilderness we have known that we need to be in nature. We are part of it, it is part of us.

Wallace Stegner , writer and conservationist, once said, “Wildness can be a way of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.”  Somehow, despite our long work days, family obligations  and the stresses of life we all need to stay connected to nature in some way.

We need to realize that nature is real, it is happening just outside the door. So open it, go out and reconnect ! We are all depending on you .


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6 thoughts on “Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: The Greatest Threat to Our Environment May Not Be What You Think

  1. Marianne Herrmann

    This gentle suggestion will evoke such feelings of peace and actual satisfaction if followed. Walking in the wild is a remedy that helps one unfurl every inch of your body and soul and stretch outward instead of inward. Reconnecting with nature brings me memories of when I was a child and my parents would call my name far and wide telling me to come inside at dusk. I loved hiding up in a weeping willow tree that was on our property in Saddle Brook or walking down the street to the park. And now as I get older it is a tonic to get outside and discover wild places. That old feeling of adventure and the old “tomboy” (since that was what I was called) comes back and it is invigorating! Thanks, Don Torino, for a salve on our soul as you unspool your solution in this patient and caring way .

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