Why Nature Has the Power to Awaken Our Curiosity

By Susan Rockefeller

My earliest memories of being captivated by wonder are of my summer days spent on the beaches of the East End of Long Island.

My sister, brother, and I would fashion sandcastles and swim in the ocean. I recall the surprise of the sun and glistening water, the waves, and the sharpness of the ocean salt.

The grittiness of the sand energized me and even back then, when I was only five or six years old, I would ponder our earth’s magic; I’d dig deep, deep in the sand, gaze out to the ocean, and contemplate the fish and the birds busy at play at the water’s edge.

Wandering alone with a bucket, I’d collect smooth shells and bumpy horseshoe crabs and was — and continue to be — at peace with the mysteries of nature.

I have come to believe that nature, its power and its cycles of life and death, enliven one’s curiosity.

Much of my life has been spent involved in the arts from photography and filmmaking to drawing and crafts to journaling to ceramics and encaustic art, as well as gardening. In one way or another, I have used each of these mediums to deepen my connection to nature and to create space for quiet reflection.

After college I lived with the Inuit in Alaska teaching them about organic gardening. In turn, the elders taught me about a subsistence way of life. Since then, my passions and callings have focused on celebrating the beauty of nature while being mindful of the complexities of global economic development.

From this intricate balance grew my devotion to protect what is precious: in terms of the environment this means focusing on healthy soils and healthy seas.

We must keep our soil freer from fertilizers and pesticides so the runoff from the nitrogen and other chemicals doesn’t end up in our waters resulting in oxygen-depleted dead zones.

It’s incumbent upon us to keep our oceans bountiful so that we can save their magnificent biodiversity, continue to feed the world with renewable resources, and provide oxygen and climate regulation.

In the spirit of this, I combine my life as an artist with my advocacy as a board member of Oceana and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. I believe our choices matter, from the foods we eat to the time and energy we devote to making our earth and all her inhabitants, human and non-human, safe.

I sometimes ask myself why I devote so much time to conserving nature. Part of the answer lies in its wonder and the gifts she gives me for solace and purpose.

The other part is that our evolution has created diversity of cultures and creative expressions through the many beings inhabiting our earth. There is a spectacular and, yes, wondrous diversity amongst our human and nonhuman species and this is cause for celebration.

I have been lucky enough to travel a great deal in my life and have seen much beauty and abundance, and also much poverty such as the favelas in Brazil where people live with scarce water, food, sanitation and lack of economic opportunities. It is difficult to see the wonder when nature has been set aside and people and animals exist in fear.

In response to this level of suffering, the United Nations has developed Sustainable Development Goals as an evaluative lens and road map to help sustain our planet and provide more equity for all people. I have chosen a few to focus on (land and ocean sustainability and responsible consumption, amongst others) but strive to address all of them on my media platform musingsmag.com. My hope is that I have curated a space for people to find inspiration to celebrate this earth as well as ways to use the power of our pocketbooks to make sustainable choices.

When I am wearied by the enormity of problems facing us in the world today, I use the Three R’s to bounce back: Rest, Rejuvenate, Reimagine. So too can the oceans rebound if we provide them with the same opportunity to regenerate, so too can our farmlands and soils, and so too can our wildlife.

Nature is a return to mystery for me. Our place in the universe, with its 14 billion year history of rich diversity and complexity, is to be revered, celebrated, and protected.

I cherish the ability to be in the “silence” of nature, free from the constant noise of life’s distractions. This revisiting of my childhood wonder brings me to a deepening connection about my place within this world — and loving what is precious brings me to work to protect it.


Thrive Global collaborated with Adrian Grenier and the Lonely Whale Foundation to spread awareness of their new #StrawlessOcean initiative through this series on wonder and our environment.

The One Thing You Can Do Today To Help The Environment

Finding Wonder In the Wild

Making Space for Wonder On Our Plates