We sometimes hear of the connectedness people experience when they find themselves immersed in nature, but even when we are not deep in some remote forest or hidden wetland, we can call upon these experiences to renew us and restore us. In addition to the connection we experience in an ecological community, we can also experience a connection to the cultural roots that have been deepening in an area for generations in this place we call the Pines. Some of us may not have had these experiences in the past, but wish to attain them, some may wish to regain a sense of connection from the past, and some may simply wish to deepen the connections they already feel.
One potent way to build these experiences is to educate ourselves about our reliance on the natural world. Many of us who live in South Jersey depend totally on the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer for our drinking water, recreation, and even our employment, but this knowledge is not always well understood. Education is one way we can help bind the reality of our dependence to our perception of the world. We can learn that without proper management of our water supplies, we could lose access to the substances which sustain us and the ones we love. A benefit to this type of education and understanding is that the more people who have an interest in sustaining our environment, the more support we will have to work and protect it in times of need.
Another great way to deepen our understanding is to learn about the plants, animals, insects, and geologic forms that make this area unique. Learning that a particular butterfly like the Hessel Hairstreak requires only an Atlantic White Cedar to breed, or that Pine Barrens Tree Frogs and other amphibians require a specific geologic formation (Intermittent Ponds) for successful reproduction, can inform our perception of these places in important ways. Even the recognition between a Pitch-Pine(need bundles of three), as opposed to a Short-Leaf Pine(needle bundles of two and three), can give us a sense of being a part of a specialplace. Traveling deeper into plant and animal identification and relationships will only further that understanding. We can also experience a connection from the cultural roots that have been deepening generation after generation in this place we call the Pines. The feeling of continuity obtained from using a tool from our grandparents shed or practicing an art or craft that has been handed down through the generations, can give us a sense of respect for the past and for the future. It is these things that bind us to place and give us a sense of ourselves and the world around us. Over the long term, this sense, and the motivation that stems from it wills us to protect our area in the long-term. The individuals that possess it will not easily let the place they know and love fall into the unrecognizable. This is why the mission of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance to educate the public is so critical, we only will protect what we love, and we love what we know.