Cady Drell is a journalist, editor, and Master’s student at New York University, studying Environmental Conservation Education and environmental justice. She’s written about culture and the environment for Rolling Stone, Marie Claire, Elle, Newsweek, and others. Her latest work seeks to understand how marginalized communities can be centered in narratives of environmental protection and how to find and value nature in all the unlikely corners of the world. Her recent scientific study has focused on risk communication among communities living in flood zones, and eco-forestry in the Mesoamerican biological corridor. Her favorite places to interact with the natural world are the Northern California coast, the Belizean jungle, and Prospect Park, Brooklyn.
In what way does nature inspire or inform your work?
When we tell stories about people, we’re also telling stories about the environment that they were raised in, that they value. While working on the more mechanical side of environmentalism—policy, law, education—can seem unromantic at first, I believe that telling meaningful stories can be incredibly useful when it comes to making tangible change in these arenas. It all comes back to a love and appreciation of the nature I grew up in and my desire to preserve it for future generations. I spent a lot of time as a kid in the California redwood forests and being in that sacred silence is so rare in the modern world.
Everyone deserves the opportunity to interact with quiet nature, wherever they are; remembering that informs the work that I do as a writer, an educator, and an activist. I hope to do work that can help others grow an appreciation for the natural world in all its forms.
What does it mean to you to be part of a thriving ecosystem?
One of my favorite things about being in really densely green places is the feeling that nature is a fighter, and will take back over if we give it the chance. You see some places, even where I live in Brooklyn, where people have vacated and the plants and birds and weeds have just taken back over. Those sights are important, even when they’re just abandoned garages, because they show us that the nature we rely on for our very survival is still fighting to be a part of our lives. I don’t believe that a thriving ecosystem is one without people. Instead, it’s one where people are conscious of their role in nature, where wild spaces don’t have to fight as hard to exist, and where we allow nature in and give back to it for all that it’s given us. I would love to see the culture in the U.S. shift toward this symbiotic thinking, and I believe that telling important stories about people in their environments is one way to help that shift happen.