When Young People Mourn Lost Nature

Elizabeth’s childhood home in New England was near a woodland. She loved spending time there. The woods were her playground, her refuge, her friend, her spiritual home. She knew those trees and stones, birds and animals, weathers and skies personally, and she knew that they knew her.
When a storm raged through woods, it toppled many of the trees. Elizabeth was inconsolable. The next time her teacher assigned an essay, she wrote about her grief over the loss of the trees.
When the teacher handed back the graded papers, he kept Elizabeth’s back. Then he read parts of it aloud to the class. He read not out of appreciation but mockery. He called her sentimental. He made it plain to the class that sorrow over the loss of a place was not a serious subject for literature.
This teacher’s cruelty to a student and his hostility to love of nature is a double indictment. Elizabeth was very wounded, yet she has gone on to study, write about, and do ceremony for wounded places like her woodland.
But this is a cautionary story too. Children need to know that it is not only permissible but healthy and normal to feel sad when something happens to a loved place. Parents, grandparents, and teachers must engage children in conversation about their feelings and encourage them to write stories and poems and make art about what they’ve lost and miss. Adults can share their own sense of loss with youth and then help them discover how the natural world around them also copes and adjusts and thrives.
Young people who are open to their feelings of sadness about the loss of nature will grow up to become adults who love and protect the Earth.

Trebbe Johnson
Trebbe JohnsonFounder
Trebbe is the author of The World Is a Waiting Lover and 101 Ways to Make Guerrilla Beauty. Her new book, Radical Joy for Hard Times: Finding Meaning and Making Beauty, will be published in Fall 2018 by North Atlantic Books. Her articles about people’s emotional and spiritual relationship with nature have appeared in Orion, Sierra, Ecopsychology, The Ecologist, The Nation, Harper’s and other magazines. She lives with her husband, Andrew Gardner, in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, a region currently under exploitation by natural gas companies.

Image Credit:

  • Friedmann Children 2 Copy: Andrea Friedmann


  • CEDAR GROVE27 T1170

She addresses the cedar…

One simple and meaningful way to find and make beauty for a place—and actually to do both at the same time—is to praise it. Praising a clearcut forest, a littered beach, a raccoon killed by a [...]

  • Simeon 2019

Ceremony Replaces Shyness

It's not uncommon that people feel a little bit shy and awkward when they do their first—or even their second or third—Global Earth Exchange. There is little precedent, after all, for going out to a [...]

More Revealed



Radical Joy Revealed is a weekly message of inspiration about finding and making beauty in wounded places.

This website uses cookies and third party services. See our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information. Settings Ok

Google Analytics

We use Google Analytics to track your path through our website. To assist in protecting your privacy, we anonymize the last 4 of the IP address.

Tracking Cookies

To monitor and help enhance your visit while on the website.

Host Accounts

We offer a individuals private member access as Hosts when they register. We offer Host newsletters and the ability to manage Earth Exchange Events & Stories that Hosts will author and help manage. We ask for basic information from Hosts to join. We additionally ask the Host to provide detailed information about their events and preparations. This includes images and narratives about their event and any Stories told about the Exchange Events hosted.