This is a paper that I had to write for my English class. Our assignment was to write a "This I Believe" essay. According to their website, "This I Believe is an international organization engaging people in writing and sharing essays describing the core values that guide their daily lives." It began long ago in the -50s and was continued recently by NPR. You can listen to and read essays here at their website: http://thisibelieve.org/
Here is my essay. I'm unsure about the ending and perhaps how strongly I make my point so let me have some feedback about what you think! (also, I have not yet had time to proofread it, so if you notice any typos, let me know!)
The Desert vs. Man
Last summer, my mom, brother, and I visited my friend where she worked at Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is located at the southern end of the Great Salt Lake Desert in the middle of nowhere—over three hours from a major city, with two of those hours driven along a rutted dirt and gravel road. I loved the feeling of being out in nature, away from humanity; it was blissful. Overall, Fish Springs is perfect, except for one thing: that two hour drive.
My mom had driven on the way to the refuge and she did not want to be the one to drive that road again. Alas, I ended up driving on the way back. Before long it was dark and we all had headaches from the incessantly bumpy drive. At one point we thought we saw the end of the road ahead of us, only to be greatly disappointed. When that moment finally did come when we reached solid pavement, we were so relieved that we simultaneously burst out cheering. But, we were greeted by something even greater than smooth ground; we had awoken the life of the desert.
Anyone who says that the desert is a barren wasteland devoid of life is greatly mistaken: this, I learned that night. After driving hours without catching a glimpse of any other living creature, suddenly we were surrounded. Tiny kangaroo rats were running in and out of the grass and onto the road. A black-tailed jackrabbit bounded across the path and away into the night. Flying along beside us for a short distance before it dove to hunt in the grass was a burrowing owl. My mom, brother, and I were all laughing with joy as we observed the magic of the desert at night. This spectacle is something that I am forever grateful to have experienced, for it showed me that even in extreme environments where life may seem impossible, there can be found the means for great vitality if one only looks. Driving down that road with the bustling activity of all the desert’s creatures around me, I realized that I believe…
And then the rabbit ran in front of car, too close for me to stop.
I saw it only briefly, just long enough to tell it was a desert cottontail. Then, it was out of sight and we all heard the thud as the tire hit it. I kept driving for a while; I had not yet fully understood what had just happened. When the realization finally hit me, I broke down into tears and stopped the car. Nobody spoke. My brother handed me a tissue.
I spent only a moment stopped there, just enough time to clear my eyes of tears so I could see, but then I continued driving. The sudden death of the rabbit had broken the magic. I do not deny that the night desert is mystical, and I still am thankful to have been able to share that knowledge with the desert. However, this is what I realized: we did not belong there, and there was nothing I wanted more than to get away. The desert was a place for the creatures of the desert, and when we intruded, nothing good could come from it.
I believe that humans are inherently monsters. I do not believe it is normally mankind’s intention to do wrong, but we do. Perhaps it is best said in the words of author Ursula K. Le Guin in her short story The Finder: “I look at the world, at the forests and the mountain here, the sky, and it's all right, as it should be. But we aren't. People aren't. We're wrong. We do wrong. No animal does wrong. How could they? But we can, and we do. And we never stop.”
This is what I believe, for we, as people, too often think that the world is ours—ours to dominate, ours to build, and ours to destroy—and in our blindness, we do what we think is right for the world and right for ourselves. Look around you. What do you see? Buildings, cars, lights, roads. We have ignored the millions of other creatures we share this world with, taking their homes, their land, their lives where we deem appropriate. Even in the middle of nowhere at Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge, I, as an ambassador of man, sent a stake through the heart of nature as I killed that cottontail. Everywhere we go, destruction stalks in our shadow, whether we want it to or not.
There is nothing we can do to change mankind—we are what we are, and there is no denying it—but I do believe that we can at least apologize for the ruin we bring to this earth. To this day, the thought that I killed that cottontail haunts me, but every time I think about that moment, I tell Nature that I am sorry. And I continue to apologize for the rest of mankind for what we have done.
This is a true story, as true to my memory as possible, free of exaggeration. And yes, even the part about being haunted by the memory of killing the rabbit is true...