Henry David Thoreau lived on Walden Pond for two years and two months during the 1840s (Buell). During this time, he wrote Walden, which was a self recorded account of his time spent living on Walden pond. Thoreau’s writing of Walden was greatly influenced by transcendentalism, which was a philosophical movement concerned with taking a step back from societal norms, and finding your own connection to the universe (Goodman). Therefore, transcendentalism inspired maxims concerning all aspects of life, especially nature, appear consistently throughout Walden. Thorea made countless remarks on both his opinions about conserving the environment, and scientific data entries on the environment of Walden Pond. Although some of Thoreau’s ideas are outdated, Henry David Thoreau’s maxims concerning nature have stayed relevant throughout time by aiding modern-day scientists in understanding global warming, urging people to protect the environment, and stressing the importance of nature to our health.
Thoreau’s Walden contains several accounts of natural aspects around Walden pond that help modern scientists understand the effects of global warming. For example, Michelle Nijhuis wrote an article discussing how Thoreau’s botanical notes have helped several scientists, such as Richard Primack and Miller Rushing, research the effects of global warming. Primack and Rushing used Thoreau’s original botanical notes, which were added to sixteen years after his death by Alfred Hosmer. Together, Thoreau and Hosmer’s notes contained the original flowering dates of more than 700 species in the Walden pond area. Comparing Thoreau and Hosmer’s notes to modern data, Primack and Rushing discovered that certain types of flowers were blooming several weeks earlier than in Thoreau’s time, which suggests warmer modern temperatures pointing to a direct effect of global warming. They also only found 400 present of the 600 plant species recorded by Thoreau, again suggesting the deterioration of our environment, and possibly even the effects of global warming. By providing this botanical data to modern day scientists, Thoreau ensured his relevance and immortality through Walden.
In Walden, Thoreau mentions how the planet is alive. He compares the Earth to living poetry and leaves on a tree. This imagery presents a message. Thoreau stresses the importance of acknowledging that our planet is alive, and treating it accordingly. Our Planet is a documentary series on Netflix that explores all the different regions and natural wonders of our world and discusses the impacts of climate change. Our Planet is relevant to my paper because it helps support Thoreau’s transcendentalist ideas of preserving nature. It also supports Thoreau’s belief in the importance of preserving our environment.
Although some may claim global warming is a myth, there are countless scientific studies that suggest otherwise. Thoreau was ahead of his time in relation to his ideas about climate change and the environment. Janni Yuval provides evidence that global warming is in fact a real thing. Yuval discesses modern data, as recent as 2020. Yuval claims that temperatures will continue to rise due to the increase of greenhouse gas concentration getting put into the atmosphere. Considering Thoreau’s maxims concerning nature, it is important to understand the reality and factuality behind climate change. It is important to remember how essential the environment is. Recalling Thoreau’s words and keeping them in mind would do us great good.
Another point Thoreau makes in Walden concerning nature that is still very much relevant today is the importance of preserving our natural environment. Thoreau describes how he takes home the pleasures of nature without a wheelbarrow, meaning instead of taking a shell from the beach or picking a flower from a meadow, just enjoy the sounds and sights, and take home the memory. Why not take a shell? Why not pick a flower? Why bother preserving the environment? W. R. Kleinman gives a few sensible, realistic reasons. Kleinman notes some of the consequences of not doing so, such as: lack of clean water, inadequate sanitation, unhealthy air quality, and food shortages. Additionally, Kleinman discusses how we can’t manipulate ecosystems, and how we have a moral obligation to protect the environment.
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Somehow, Thoreau grasped the concept of how important bodies of water are to the planet. Thoreau noted that heaven is both above and below our feet, referring to the ocean and other bodies of water. He recognized and stressed their importance in his work. Obviously, the ocean is a huge topic today. There are countless organizations dedicated to both preserving and protecting the quality of ocean life. According to Alexandra Sifferlin, eight million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year. In a study published in the journal Science, the amount of plastic going into the ocean could increase by ten times the number it is now. Jenna Jamebeck from the University of Georgia estimates by the year 2025 there will be one hundred and fifty five million tons of trash dumped into the ocean. By stressing the importance of the ocean and bodies of water, Thoreau nearly predicted they would be jeopardized in the future; therefore, he ominously warns against deteriorating the environment, which is yet another way his maxims in Walden have stayed relevant throughout time.
What aspect of life is more important than health in our modern day? Somehow, without the help of science and pre-existing knowledge, Thoreau preached about the benefits of nature to human health. Thoreau claims people need the tonic of the wilderness. He also mentioned how he prefered to sit outside in the fresh air because no dust gathers outside. Furthermore, Thoreau claimed the only acceptable drink to intake was water. How Thoreau was so spot on with his ideas, no one knows, but they can easily be paralleled to known, modern facts. Howard Frumkin discusses the links between health benefits and exposure to nature in his research agenda titled, “Nature Contact and Human Health.” Frumkin states that In recent years, the time spent outside has dramatically decreased, but the interest in nature’s health benefits have greatly increased. He also notes that despite the increasing amounts of evidence suggesting nature benefits our health, still a large amount of knowledge concerning this specific topic remains in question. The scientific studies about natural aspects on the human body explored in this source can back up Thoreau’s thoughts and opinions about the outdoors.
Thoreau’s Walden has been echoing throughout the generations, it all comes down to when more people will start to listen. Considering global warming, the increasing importance to preserve our environment, and current health concerns, Henry David Thoreau’s maxims concerning nature have stayed relevant throughout time by aiding modern-day scientists in understanding global warming, urging people to protect the environment, and stressing the importance of nature to our health. Although Walden was written in 1846, Thoreau’s words ring true and relevant today. Mark Cocker beautifully illustrates the relevance of Thoreau by writing, “Walden blossoms as a holograph of the planet and of one human life, lived as a prism refracting the sunlight onto the page.”