© Matt Vale
“We are profoundly connected to nature whether we know it or not.”
Student, Rice University - Houston, Texas A 20 year old rising sophomore at Rice University, Matt Vale has spent his fair share of time in the peaceful depths of nature. In high school, Vale spent his summers with a school group in the Nature Conservancy’s wild and remote Davis Mountains Preserve, considered one of the most scenic and biologically diverse areas in Texas. During his time in the desert “sky island” of the Davis Mountains, he was involved in brush thinning for prescribed burns, trail building and biological field research.
This summer, Vale worked as a traveling intern for The Nature Conservancy, visiting nature preserves throughout the state and sharing his experiences through video and writing.
Vale has traveled to many natural areas throughout the United States and, while he has enjoyed the classic and picturesque views of the Sierras or the adventure of backpacking through Colorado, it is the desert where he most likes to be.
“What I love about the desert is that there is so much of an ‘otherness’ to it. We’re not particularly adapted to survive there,” says Vale of his time in Davis Mountains. “It’s important for me to be someplace that is the opposite of what I’m used to – where you can’t turn on a faucet and have water appear.”
“There is something more powerful and evocative in the desert mountains than anywhere else I’ve been,” says Vale. “The desert’s hardness has given me a gratefulness towards nature. You have to look a lot harder to find water in the desert, so you suddenly realize what an extraordinary blessing water really is.”
“I try to use my outside voice to debunk the myth that there is a division between nature and people’s lives in cities or towns. Rivers are where we get our water; we need to protect our shorelines from erosion to protect our economy. But what I most want to express in my writing is not just that nature provides for our livelihoods, but that—more deeply than that—it also affects us emotionally, spiritually. We are profoundly connected to nature whether we know it or not.”
Vale encourages others to speak up for nature and “get out in a wild place.”
“Get out of the city. Go to the mountains. Go to the woods. Go to the desert. That’s where I have learned the most about what it means to live and to be alive. It’s not just about being in beautiful places, but about entering places of self-discovery.”