Being a Positive Force of Change in our Watershed

By Lauren Clinton

Over the course of the Watershed Academy internship, I have become even more aware that “nature” is not just hiking trails, sunsets, and kayaking. It’s the water running in the gutters when it rains, the weeds growing through the cracks in the pavement, and the shrubs growing in the arroyo behind your house. Nature is not something that you need to plan a day trip to experience. In fact, it’s a presence that’s nearly impossible to avoid. And because it’s so ubiquitous, it’s something that everyone- not just the biologists or archaeologists- must understand. Because only when we understand something are we able to truly respect it, and coexist with it.

So much effort has been put into trying to fend off the forces of nature through urbanization, but so little attention is given to the importance of preserving the environment, especially by politicians. As a Santa Fe resident, I have grown up with the understanding that water is precious, and should not be wasted. And through this internship at River Source, I have become aware of so many ways that every last drop of water could be used to its full potential. For example, creating storm gardens, which collect runoff from roads and parking lots and in turn create mini ecosystems while simultaneously preventing floods. These basic ecosystem functions are things that I need to know, even though I may not intend to become a biologist or geomorphologist.

As a teenager coming of age in a time of political and environmental chaos (and now a global pandemic), I feel a lot of pressure to think about how I’m going to use my life to make a change for the better. There are so many problems that need to be solved, and at times it can feel overwhelming. And that’s why it’s crucial for me to expose myself to as many walks of life as possible, so that I can become a well rounded and capable person. This two-week intensive took me into the world of land and water management. And provided me with valuable insight into the way the Earth’s systems function, and how I can do my part in assisting them. Water flows from points of high elevation to points of low elevation, and interacts with the ground as it travels. If there is something on the ground to slow the flow of water, the water sinks into the ground, promoting soil moisture and preventing erosion. So if I’m in my backyard trimming branches, I know that I should scatter them across an eroding area of land, instead of piling them in a corner. This is something that’s so simple, but has the power to drastically change a landscape. If everyone was provided with knowledge like this, and got used to implementing simple environmental practices, I think the planet would look very different compared to how it does now. This internship at River Source has drastically increased my awareness of how I interact with my environment, and I now have much more confidence in my ability to help heal the Earth.