By Kim Murphy
The year was 1974, I was 10 (yes, I’m almost 60). Outfitted in a Sears body suit with a white collar and brown hip-hugger pants, I was stylin’ like most other 4th graders growing up in State College, Pennsylvania. Only my pants had a special patch on the knee: a Girl Scout “Eco-Action” patch that showed the world I cared about the environment.
The birth of the environmental movement began in the 1960s and the very first “Earth Day” began in April 1970, when I was in kindergarten. For the first time people saw photographs of Earth taken from space by the astronauts. People knew the beauty of our planet was different than the reality many knew on the ground. Residents mobilized and insisted upon a deeper commitment to protecting the land that we love.
My husband and I enjoy travel as well and have been on many adventures with our 2 boys who are now grown adults. When I look back on the places we have been to, I realize that most of our favorite times were spent outdoors exploring. Spending time in other countries helped me realize how other communities appreciate (or do not appreciate) their natural resources. From recycling, composting, litter, air quality many countries are doing what they can to protect their natural resources. And many countries are much more serious about making changes to prepare for and mitigate extreme weather and the effects of climate change.
The skills and experiences I and many others had growing up are in essence the basis of what we’re trying to share at Berks Nature. Our State of the Environment program looks at local data in the areas of air, land, energy, waste & water and helps people learn how they can be a good neighbor and make things better. Our field trips and programs are designed to connect people with nature so that their connection helps them appreciate our natural resources and want to protect them. Our nature preschool for example is designed to help us grow the next generation of conservationists. Our work to protect land, plant trees and protect and restore watersheds is important to our health in Berks county.
From a proud 10-year-old wearing her Eco-action patch to a proud employee of Berks Nature, my life’s theme of time spent outdoors and educating others about the environment will be part of my legacy. It is a privilege to lead this organization and its dedicated staff and to do the work that we do because nature is essential to our quality of life.
I was involved in Girl Scouting from Brownie to Senior scout and even earned the highest award, a first-Class scout (now called Gold Award). As an adult I was a brownie troop leader and even worked for the Girl Scouts in the late 1980s. As a Girl Scout I learned many things: how to leave no trace, how to sell, how to manage money, how to be resourceful and independent, how to do arts and crafts and of course how to enjoy lots of time outside. While there were no specific requirements to get an eco-action patch, we were encouraged to plant trees, learn about and protect water, learn about ecology, be conscious of our electricity usage, and recycle. We did a lot of camping in our troop and living amongst the critters gives you a new appreciation for the complex web of life. We had many adventures including a month-long car and camping trip out west to visit what was then a national girl scout center camp in Wyoming.
I know I have had the great good fortune to travel all over the country and all over the world with my family. Growing up my parents were both teachers and so the entire family had our summers free. We were a camping family that started in a tent, progressed to a pop-up camper and then moved to a travel trailer. It was not uncommon for us to leave town the last day of school and begin some months long travel to ultimately nearly every state in the continental United States. Through that travel I saw parts of the US that were so different than Pennsylvania. I gained new appreciations for my state and why I love being a Pennsylvania girl (4 seasons, beautiful farm and forestland, winter, beautiful spring seasons, fall; the turning of the trees, need I say more). I learned about commerce (we went on just about every free factory tour we could), and arts and culture and regional dialects and of course the beautiful and natural resources our vast country had to offer.