Is Mother Nature in Your Family Tree?

A family enjoy a nature outing along the Mill River in Northampton, Massachusetts in the Connecticut River Valley.

[Editor’s Note: the following post was written by Katherine Sather, digital marketing specialist for The Nature Conservancy’s North America region.]

The American philosopher and poet George Santayana once said, “The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.”

If that’s true, then it must be something by Jackson Pollock — big, complicated and messy. But priceless, no?

From mom and dad we inherit so much. Sometimes that includes a receding hairline, a garage full of junk or a neurotic tendency to never be on time. But our families are also where we first start learning about morality and tradition.

When we asked you, our readers, how your families have affected your conservation values, you had a lot to say. Hearing your parents and grandparents use their Outside Voices to speak out for Mother Nature did a lot to influence your lives, and you’re trying to pass that along to your own children. After all, as Florida resident Becky Grieser wrote on Use Your Outside Voice:

“Kids need to be able to be outside and run free… I need to be able to be outside and run free. It will make me and my kids better people.”

We hear you.

We are inspired by your comments on Use Your Outside Voice and our Facebook page about family and conservation values. Here are some of the stories that stood out:

  • “If it wasn’t for my mom buying a bird feeder when I was in jr. high, I doubt I would be the conservationist that I am today.” –Molly Stoddard
  • “My Dad took us camping and canoeing almost every year, sometimes more than once a year. His compassion for the wildlife was (is) contagious.” –Sandy Phillips
  • “My mother started me off just by helping me learn to be aware … aware of all the many amazing and wonderful creatures with which we share space and resources. She taught me that, although I’m a special and unique person, I’m not entitled to do whatever I want to the earth … part of being a ‘good girl’ was always using my head and thinking about how my actions would impact other humans and other animals.” –Megan N. Bonnett
  • “My dad planted woods in northern WI as a member of the CC Corps. We would visit it every year. He loved the woods and birds and gave all that to me. Way better than a trip to Disney World … way better.” –Pat Hartl Stevesand
  • “I grew up in NY state, and my Dad was an arborist. He was the first one who imparted to me the truth that you ‘plant a tree for your children.’ As a child, you can’t fully get your head around it, but as you see your parents’ yard mature, it becomes real. I take the hardwood canopy of the NE very seriously, as I do any major forest of this planet. They are the lungs of the earth and habitat for a multitude!” –Colleen Finley
  • “I was blessed to have grown up in rural southern Ohio and to have a large tract of woods behind my house, as well as to have been involved with scouting for a significant part of my childhood. My early formative experiences outdoors have definitely help shape my ethics of conservation. I feel that it is critical to get children to experience nature in a direct hands-on manner at an early age, and to continue this type of experience often throughout childhood and adolescence. I feel that if they do not develop a love of nature early on, it is very difficult to get them interested in conservation at a later stage of life.” –Travis Neely, PA
  • “I grew up in the 1960’s on Long Island, NY with parents who loved birds and nature. I remember my parents’ concern about DDT, my mom reading Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring,’ and them joining neighbors’ fight to keep a bridge from being built across the Sound, which would have destroyed the wetlands in our town. The area was preserved as a National Wildlife Refuge and ospreys nest there now.” –Sue Weaver, NY
  • “I thank my Dad for instilling his love and appreciation of the wilderness in me at a young age and always encouraging me to find that next mountain to climb. If only all girls could be so lucky.” –Amanda Souza, Idaho
  • “I love Nature! Of all kinds, but especially flowers and trees. Even as a small child, the beauty of Nature inspired me and filed me with a sense of awe. My Great Grandmother taught about the beauty and grace of flowers. And as it turned out, I inherited her ‘Green Thumb.'” –Krista Tackett
  • “As a mom who has been recycling since before they did street-side pickup, I am happy to report that my daughter is now majoring in biology with a minor in environmental studies. I must have done something right!” –Linda Alfredson
  • “I was never so proud as the day I heard my 22-year-old son tell his buddy headed for the trash basket, ‘Don’t throw that out! My Mom recycles EVERYTHING!'” –Leah McConnell Meyer

Can you relate to these stories? Leave a comment below and share this post with your friends!

Use Your Outside Voice

[Top image: A family enjoys a nature outing along the Mill River in Northampton, Massachusetts in the Connecticut River Valley. Image source: Jerry and Marcy Monkman]

If you believe in the work we’re doing, please lend a hand.


  1. My parents were so great about taking me and my siblings on vacations every year to state and national parks, particularly in the western U.S. They instilled a passion for nature, and the ethic to help preserve it. Thanks Mom and Dad for showing me how beautiful and precious our natural world really is!

  2. Something for me to think about. One of my sons is a team leader for Conservation Volunteers Australia, I taught biology, agriculture and ran nature expeditions, my father was a forester, his father was a nature journalist & director of National Parks – there may be something in this.

  3. I grow up in the South West of England in great country side, my parents taught me to look and admire and not to hurt or destroy. I’m still looking and finding nature and all she gives us all so wonderful every day.

  4. My Dad came to this country from Greece at eight years old. He grew up on the lower East Side, New York, known as Hell’s kitchen. His compassion and love for nature and animals was shown to us, his children through his kindness. He adopted unwanted animals, and usually found them homes. I remember being startled by a huge praying mantis on a bush and him telling me, not to be afraid, it was a good insect! My brother and I got scolded for pulling leaves off the hedges. My father explaining, it was a “living plant”. Even though my Dad was killed in a car accident, when I was still a child, all his children and the grandchildren, he never saw, love and respect nature and animals and work for their care. That’s his living legacy.

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