“We shall never achieve harmony with land, any more than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations, the important thing is not to achieve but to strive.” – Aldo Leopold
Over the past three-and-a-half years, I have grown quite fond of the Arboretum. In fact, I consider the Arb to be an invaluable piece of my Carleton experience. So, I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect broadly on the importance of the Arb.
Of course, the Arb offers much needed respite from the academic rigors of Carleton and a valuable academic resource for the college, but the Arb is far more than grass and trees. It is more than a place to take a walk or go for a run, it is more than a home for animals, and it is more than an outdoor classroom. The Arb is, at its core, a material representation of Carleton’s desire to forge a more sustainable, environmentally responsible future.
Yet, the value of the Arb is easily overlooked. After all, it is more difficult to quantify the value of a restored prairie than it is to estimate the amount of energy produced by a wind turbine. Nevertheless, I believe the Arb’s capacity to foster an awareness of the natural world and a sense of environmental stewardship in Carleton students and in the larger Northfield community cannot be taken for granted. At a time in which we face unprecedented environmental challenges worldwide, it is easy to fall victim to persuasion that big problems require big solutions and grow impatient. However, in the act of restoring and managing the Arb’s natural lands, Carleton leads by example and demonstrates the importance of educating a local community and striving toward smaller but no less admirable goals.
As I prepare to leave Carleton, I know that the work will continue and that the Arb’s appearance will change, but I also know that the Arb’s capacity to educate and inspire will persist.