Healthy Space, Healthy Species
When Tennessee River Gorge Trust Executive Director Rick Huffines leads field trips, he starts each one with the same question: "What makes up a healthy habitat?"
Hands shoot up. "Food! Water! Shelter!"
The kids are on iteasily identifying the first three elements.
Rick continues, "Now, who shares a bedroom with a brother or sister?"
This question may seem out of left field, but it actually points to the most important, yet most forgotten, element of a healthy habitat: space.
The kids answer his question by sharing tales of scuffles with siblings over Barbies and Legos. These tales, trivial as they sound, actually illustrate a species'yes, that's usnegotiations with space. Those scuffles and disagreements arise, in large part, due to a lack of space and a lack of the resources (Barbies and Legos in this case). In adult life, we are still constantly making these same kinds of spatial negotiations: deciding how to deal with unruly neighbors, how to interact with cubicle mates at work, whether or not to actually pick up that litter at the end of your street. Once you begin to pinpoint the Legosthe shared resourcesof adult life, you begin to realize that every moment of your life uses some kind of shared resource. Think: air and water.
The quality and quantity of these shared resources is determined by the quantity and quality of our space. Conservation groups like the Tennessee River Gorge Trust protect and manage the shared space of the community. In leaving large tracts of land undeveloped and untouched, we allow water and air to go through natural filtering systems and to come to usas a communityclean. As humans, we take so much from the land around us. By respecting natural lands, we are taking care of them so that they can in turn take care of us.
Beyond offering us the clean, shared water and air that sustain our lives, natural lands such as the ones the Trust protects also offer us the opportunity to restore ourselves before jumping into the frustrations of everyday life.
Without space, without solitude, without the peace of nature, we fight over the Legos of adult life. Open, accessible space, such as Stringer's Ridge and Raccoon Mountain, offers us the ability to reenergize and refocus, so that we can continue our lives with patience and understanding for others.
What's more, nature shows us what a healthy, mutually beneficial relationship can look like. Trees breathe out, we breathe in. What if you we lived with that focus? Appreciating the resources others are offering while enriching the community through our own talents? By keeping our lands whole, we are keeping our selves whole.
The Trust recognizes that a speciesus, againcannot be healthy without healthy space.
EO Wilson, Harvard professor and naturalist writer, speaks to this in his book Biophilia when he writes, "The crucial first step to survival in all organisms is habitat selection. If you get to the right place, everything else is likely to be easier."
In Chattanooga, we've already chosen the right place. The Tennessee River Gorge Trust needs help to ensure that Chattanooga continues to be the right place, so that our habitat continues to provide for us.
For more information on the Tennessee River Gorge Trust, visit www.trgt.org.