Skip to content

Aesthetics Matters

2008 May 21

About the author: John Lehrter is a research ecologist with the Office of Research and Development in Gulf Breeze, Florida, who joined EPA in 2004. His research activities examine the sources, transport, and fate of pollutants from watersheds to the coastal ocean.

photo of John Lehrter in front of his houseMy wife and I have been painting the exterior of our house over the last month or so. It has been a hectic and challenging task. We get home from work, throw on our painting clothes (soon to be retired), and paint until the sun goes down. On weekends we vie for trips to the hardware store to catch a respite from the endless brush strokes. All in all, though, it has been a good experience and the best reward is that we love our house again.

As I was painting on Earth Day it struck me that aesthetics, like a freshly painted house, are very important in how we perceive our surrounding environment. As a water scientist at the EPA, I am often asked the “Why?” question. Why is it important to safeguard water quality and quantity? My typical response is to cite the ways that we are dependent on water resources such as clean drinking water supplies, fisheries resources, and the large number of other natural services provided by freshwater and marine ecosystems. Usually, I forget to even mention aesthetics.

Really, though, the environmental issues we’re most often confronted with on a personal level are aesthetic. During the spring, especially, the natural world showcases its beauty. As we ride to work or run errands we’re visually inundated with scenery. Green scenery, like a city park or a coastal marsh, evokes feelings of well-being. While other scenes, like urban brownfields or heavily eroded hillsides, indicate environmental problems and challenges.

In a lot of cases, training in the environmental sciences is not required to recognize a “good” or “bad” environment. It is rather confusing, however, about what an individual might do to improve things. Educational resources about the environmental issues related to water and what you can do to lessen your impact are available from EPA’s website. Generally, actions that improve aesthetics are a step in the right direction.

Now that we’ve nearly completed painting the house, it is time to start rethinking our yard … and the rest of our environment. I guess I won’t be throwing away those work clothes after all.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Marcus permalink
    May 21, 2008

    I enjoyed your post John. While usually the two correlate, it’s worth remembering that ‘improvements’ are not always what an apparently ‘unhealthy’ ecosystem needs. While canoeing in Okefenokee Swamp, my companion looked into the tea-colored lifeless water and essentially said, “Ick, did that red stuff kill everything?” The answer is, “Yes, but that is the way it is supposed to be.”

  2. Rajesh permalink
    May 24, 2008

    Hi John! Every person have their own hobbies and I like your painting one …:) Well environmental issues are increasing and the problems are getting worse than ever. We are digging our own graveyard. Nature is losing its beauty slowly but surely and we human beings are completely responsible for it. The increasing percentage of pollution and population is certainly not helping the cause either. Water is precious and we just cannot live without it but the way its getting polluted can cause serious shortage of drinking water in the near future. We soon have to find new methods to eliminate the toxic metals and other heavy elements before they get drained into the river channels so that we can stop water from getting polluted further. Proper education in schools and other educational institutions on environmental issues, problems and their adverse effects on nature will surely help us save the Earth and its beauty.

    Regards
    Rajesh Roy
    http://www.webguru-india.com/

  3. sTanDuPjOKes permalink
    October 10, 2010

    Hi John! Every person have their own hobbies and I like your painting one …:) Well environmental issues are increasing and the problems are getting worse than ever. We are digging our own graveyard. Nature is losing its beauty slowly but surely and we human beings are completely responsible for it. The increasing percentage of pollution and population is certainly not helping the cause either. Water is precious and we just cannot live without it but the way its getting polluted can cause serious shortage of drinking water in the near future. We soon have to find new methods to eliminate the toxic metals and other heavy elements before they get drained into the river channels so that we can stop water from getting polluted further. Proper education in schools and other educational institutions on environmental issues, problems and their adverse effects on nature will surely help us save the Earth and its beauty.

    Regards
    Andria

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS