Registered: December 2016
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In 10th grade, an Environmental Science class was forced onto me. By the middle of the year, I had begun to enjoy it, but was convinced the world was going to end by human destruction. At the end of the year, I realized that that was a rather apocalyptic point of view. I also realized that Environmental Science is an important class for helping educate people on the status of the world's health. Humans have the power to preserve the Earth's natural resources, including the beautiful forests of the Sierra Nevadas.
My Apprentice Ecologist project was to clean up broken sleds and garbage in the Donner Summit rest area. During the winter, many families come up to Donner Summit to go sledding in the deep snow for free. It is a very convenient place to spend the day, since there is a nice bathroom nearby and many small hills to sled down. For many people, it seems like visiting the summit is their once in a lifetime chance to sled. They bring very thin plastic sleds, or even cardboard boxes, that break into tons of tiny pieces very easily. These are the people my friends and I pick up after.
Our fun day at Donner Summit includes playing capture the flag and sledding, then picking up trash. I bring the sleds, shovels, flags, and usually some of my baked cookies. We arrive at Donner Summit around 11am, then walk way back into the forest, past all the people sledding on hard snow. We build our forts, play capture the flag, and sled until about 3:30pm. Since we play deeper in the forest than everyone else, we don't have to go out of our way to pick up the trash on our way out. I bring big Costco bags to put trash and broken sled pieces in. We always leave with bags overflowing with trash. We can't pick up all the trash because there are so many broken sleds that they won't all fit in the car. I recycle as much of the trash as I can once we get home. It is always a fun day of playing and keeping our play area clean.
I think playing capture the flag before cleaning up the trash shows me and my friends that helping the environment can be done fairly easily. It is not hard to pick up trash on the way out of a fun day. The rest area is a good example of the Tragedy of the Commons; everyone plays, but few people take out their trash. The people who see us cleaning trash see that the expectation for playing is that you leave only sled tracks behind. Some people seem to think that it is okay to leave their broken sled where it fell, especially when everyone else leaves their trash. Well, it's not okay. It is irresponsible and rude to everyone else playing in the snow. I like to think that my friends and I are showing other people playing in the snow that if they want to continue to have fun, they have to preserve their play area.
The Donner Summit rest area is one of my favorite places to be. I love playing in the snow all day with my friends. Cleaning up the trash at Donner Summit preserves the snow (because plastic in the snow melts it faster), and the fun of playing in it. Once, a lady gave me a broken sled piece to put in my bag; that meant she noticed what we were doing and wanted to help our cause. Because of global warming, it seems like the amount of snow at Donner is diminishing quickly. Picking up trash helps preserve the forest's beauty in the short term, but to preserve the snow that I love on Donner Summit in the long term, I have to do something that will help slow greenhouse gas emissions.
When I graduate from college, I want to be a mechanical engineer. My dream job is to help send robots into space, but maintaining the Earth's health will always be important, no matter where humans live. In order to get to space, humans have to use the resources on Earth, without depleting them. Engineers have the power to stop global warming. Playing in the snow at Donner is very fun, so as an engineer, I will definitely work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to preserve the snow in my favorite place.