Nature Writing Examples

by Lisa Hiton

nature writing examples

From the essays of Henry David Thoreau, to the features in National Geographic , nature writing has bridged the gap between scientific articles about environmental issues and personal, poetic reflections on the natural world. This genre has grown since Walden to include nature poetry, ecopoetics, nature reporting, activism, fiction, and beyond. We now even have television shows and films that depict nature as the central figure. No matter the genre, nature writers have a shared awe and curiosity about the world around us—its trees, creatures, elements, storms, and responses to our human impact on it over time.

Whether you want to report on the weather, write poems from the point of view of flowers, or track your journey down a river in your hometown, your passion for nature can manifest in many different written forms. As the world turns and we transition between seasons, we can reflect on our home, planet Earth, with great dedication to description, awe, science, and image.

Journal Examples: Keeping Track of Your Tracks

One of the many lost arts of our modern time is that of journaling. While keeping a journal is a beneficial practice for all, it is especially crucial to nature writers. John A. Murray , author of Writing About Nature: A Creative Guide , begins his study of the nature writing practice with the importance of journaling:

Nature writers may rely on journals more consistently than novelists and poets because of the necessity of describing long-term processes of nature, such as seasonal or environmental changes, in great detail, and of carefully recording outdoor excursions for articles and essays[…] The important thing, it seems to me, is not whether you keep journals, but, rather, whether you have regular mechanisms—extended letters, telephone calls to friends, visits with confidants, daily meditation, free-writing exercises—that enable you to comprehensively process events as they occur. But let us focus in this section on journals, which provide one of the most common means of chronicling and interpreting personal history. The words journal and journey share an identical root and common history. Both came into the English language as a result of the Norman Victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. For the next three hundred years, French was the chief language of government, religion, and learning in England. The French word journie, which meant a day’s work or a day’s travel, was one of the many words that became incorporated into English at the time[…]The journal offers the writer a moment of rest in that journey, a sort of roadside inn along the highway. Here intellect and imagination are alone with the blank page and composition can proceed with an honesty and informality often precluded in more public forms of expression. As a result, several important benefits can accrue: First, by writing with unscrutinized candor and directness on a particular subject, a person can often find ways to write more effectively on the same theme elsewhere. Second, the journal, as a sort of unflinching mirror, can remind the author of the importance of eliminating self-deception and half-truths in thought and writing. Third, the journal can serve as a brainstorming mechanism to explore new topics, modes of thought, or types of writing that otherwise would remain undiscovered or unexamined. Fourth, the journal can provide a means for effecting a catharsis on subjects too personal for publication even among friends and family. (Murray, 1-2)

A dedicated practice of documenting your day, observing what is around you, and creating your own field guide of the world as you encounter it will help strengthen your ability to translate it all to others and help us as a culture learn how to interpret what is happening around us.

Writing About Nature: A Creative Guide by John A. Murray : Murray’s book on nature writing offers hopeful writers a look at how nature writers keeps journals, write essays, incorporate figurative language, use description, revise, research, and more.

Botanical Shakespeare: An Illustrated Compendium of All the Flowers, Fruits, Herbs, Trees, Seeds, and Grasses Cited by the World’s Greatest Playwright by Gerit Quealy and Sumie Hasegawa Collins: Helen Mirren’s foreword to the book describes it as “the marriage of Shakespeare’s words about plants and the plants themselves.” This project combines the language of Shakespeare with the details of the botanicals found throughout his works—Quealy and Hasegawa bring us a literary garden ripe with flora and fauna puns and intellectual snark.

  • What new vision of Shakespeare is provided by approaching his works through the lens of nature writing and botanicals?
  • Latin and Greek terms and roots continue to be very important in the world of botanicals. What do you learn from that etymology throughout the book? How does it impact symbolism in Shakespeare’s works?
  • Annotate the book using different colored highlighters. Seek out description in one color, interpretation in another, and you might even look for literary echoes using a third. How do these threads braid together?

The Living Mountain: A Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland by Nan Shepherd : The Living Mountain is Shepherd’s account of exploring the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland. Part of Britain’s Arctic, Shepherd encounters ravenous storms, clear views of the aurora borealis, and deep snows during the summer. She spent hundreds of days exploring the mountains by foot.

  • These pages were written during the last years of WWII and its aftermath. How does that backdrop inform Shepherd’s interpretation of the landscape?
  • The book is separated into twelve chapters, each dedicated to a specific part of life in the Cairngorms. How do these divisions guide the writing? Is she able to keep these elements separate from each other? In writing? In experiencing the land?
  • Many parts of the landscape Shepherd observes would be expected in nature writing—mountains, weather, elements, animals, etc. How does Shepherd use language and tone to write about these things without using stock phrasing or clichéd interpretations?

Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation by Kyo Maclear : Even memoir can be delivered through nature writing as we see in Kyo Maclear’s poetic book, Birds Art Life . The book is an account of a year in her life after her father has passed away. And just as Murray and Thoreau would advise, journaling those days and the symbols in them led to a whole book—one that delicately and profoundly weaves together the nature of life—of living after death—and how art can collide with that nature to get us through the hours.

  • How does time pass throughout the book? What techniques does Maclear employ to move the reader in and out of time?
  • How does grief lead Maclear into art? Philosophy? Nature? Objects?
  • The book is divided into the months of the year. Why does Maclear divide the book this way?
  • What do you make of the subtitles?

Is time natural? Describe the relationship between humans and time in nature.

So dear writers, take to these pages and take to the trails in nature around you. Journal your way through your days. Use all of your senses to take a journey in nature. Then, journal to make a memory of your time in the world. And give it all away to the rest of us, in words.

Lisa Hiton is an editorial associate at Write the World . She writes two series on our blog: The Write Place where she comments on life as a writer, and Reading like a Writer where she recommends books about writing in different genres. She’s also the interviews editor of Cosmonauts Avenue and the poetry editor of the Adroit Journal .


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What is Nature Writing?

Definition and Examples

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

Nature writing is a form of creative nonfiction in which the natural environment (or a narrator 's encounter with the natural environment) serves as the dominant subject.

"In critical practice," says Michael P. Branch, "the term 'nature writing' has usually been reserved for a brand of nature representation that is deemed literary, written in the speculative personal voice , and presented in the form of the nonfiction essay . Such nature writing is frequently pastoral or romantic in its philosophical assumptions, tends to be modern or even ecological in its sensibility, and is often in service to an explicit or implicit preservationist agenda" ("Before Nature Writing," in Beyond Nature Writing: Expanding the Boundaries of Ecocriticism , ed. by K. Armbruster and K.R. Wallace, 2001).

Examples of Nature Writing:

  • At the Turn of the Year, by William Sharp
  • The Battle of the Ants, by Henry David Thoreau
  • Hours of Spring, by Richard Jefferies
  • The House-Martin, by Gilbert White
  • In Mammoth Cave, by John Burroughs
  • An Island Garden, by Celia Thaxter
  • January in the Sussex Woods, by Richard Jefferies
  • The Land of Little Rain, by Mary Austin
  • Migration, by Barry Lopez
  • The Passenger Pigeon, by John James Audubon
  • Rural Hours, by Susan Fenimore Cooper
  • Where I Lived, and What I Lived For, by Henry David Thoreau


  • "Gilbert White established the pastoral dimension of nature writing in the late 18th century and remains the patron saint of English nature writing. Henry David Thoreau was an equally crucial figure in mid-19th century America . . .. "The second half of the 19th century saw the origins of what we today call the environmental movement. Two of its most influential American voices were John Muir and John Burroughs , literary sons of Thoreau, though hardly twins. . . . "In the early 20th century the activist voice and prophetic anger of nature writers who saw, in Muir's words, that 'the money changers were in the temple' continued to grow. Building upon the principles of scientific ecology that were being developed in the 1930s and 1940s, Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold sought to create a literature in which appreciation of nature's wholeness would lead to ethical principles and social programs. "Today, nature writing in America flourishes as never before. Nonfiction may well be the most vital form of current American literature, and a notable proportion of the best writers of nonfiction practice nature writing." (J. Elder and R. Finch, Introduction, The Norton Book of Nature Writing . Norton, 2002)

"Human Writing . . . in Nature"

  • "By cordoning nature off as something separate from ourselves and by writing about it that way, we kill both the  genre and a part of ourselves. The best writing in this genre is not really 'nature writing' anyway but human writing that just happens to take place in nature. And the reason we are still talking about [Thoreau's] Walden 150 years later is as much for the personal story as the pastoral one: a single human being, wrestling mightily with himself, trying to figure out how best to live during his brief time on earth, and, not least of all, a human being who has the nerve, talent, and raw ambition to put that wrestling match on display on the printed page. The human spilling over into the wild, the wild informing the human; the two always intermingling. There's something to celebrate." (David Gessner, "Sick of Nature." The Boston Globe , Aug. 1, 2004)

Confessions of a Nature Writer

  • "I do not believe that the solution to the world's ills is a return to some previous age of mankind. But I do doubt that any solution is possible unless we think of ourselves in the context of living nature "Perhaps that suggests an answer to the question what a 'nature writer' is. He is not a sentimentalist who says that 'nature never did betray the heart that loved her.' Neither is he simply a scientist classifying animals or reporting on the behavior of birds just because certain facts can be ascertained. He is a writer whose subject is the natural context of human life, a man who tries to communicate his observations and his thoughts in the presence of nature as part of his attempt to make himself more aware of that context. 'Nature writing' is nothing really new. It has always existed in literature. But it has tended in the course of the last century to become specialized partly because so much writing that is not specifically 'nature writing' does not present the natural context at all; because so many novels and so many treatises describe man as an economic unit, a political unit, or as a member of some social class but not as a living creature surrounded by other living things." (Joseph Wood Krutch, "Some Unsentimental Confessions of a Nature Writer." New York Herald Tribune Book Review , 1952)
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Nature Essay for Students and Children

500+ words nature essay.

Nature is an important and integral part of mankind. It is one of the greatest blessings for human life; however, nowadays humans fail to recognize it as one. Nature has been an inspiration for numerous poets, writers, artists and more of yesteryears. This remarkable creation inspired them to write poems and stories in the glory of it. They truly valued nature which reflects in their works even today. Essentially, nature is everything we are surrounded by like the water we drink, the air we breathe, the sun we soak in, the birds we hear chirping, the moon we gaze at and more. Above all, it is rich and vibrant and consists of both living and non-living things. Therefore, people of the modern age should also learn something from people of yesteryear and start valuing nature before it gets too late.

nature essay

Significance of Nature

Nature has been in existence long before humans and ever since it has taken care of mankind and nourished it forever. In other words, it offers us a protective layer which guards us against all kinds of damages and harms. Survival of mankind without nature is impossible and humans need to understand that.

If nature has the ability to protect us, it is also powerful enough to destroy the entire mankind. Every form of nature, for instance, the plants , animals , rivers, mountains, moon, and more holds equal significance for us. Absence of one element is enough to cause a catastrophe in the functioning of human life.

We fulfill our healthy lifestyle by eating and drinking healthy, which nature gives us. Similarly, it provides us with water and food that enables us to do so. Rainfall and sunshine, the two most important elements to survive are derived from nature itself.

Further, the air we breathe and the wood we use for various purposes are a gift of nature only. But, with technological advancements, people are not paying attention to nature. The need to conserve and balance the natural assets is rising day by day which requires immediate attention.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Conservation of Nature

In order to conserve nature, we must take drastic steps right away to prevent any further damage. The most important step is to prevent deforestation at all levels. Cutting down of trees has serious consequences in different spheres. It can cause soil erosion easily and also bring a decline in rainfall on a major level.

nature writing essay examples

Polluting ocean water must be strictly prohibited by all industries straightaway as it causes a lot of water shortage. The excessive use of automobiles, AC’s and ovens emit a lot of Chlorofluorocarbons’ which depletes the ozone layer. This, in turn, causes global warming which causes thermal expansion and melting of glaciers.

Therefore, we should avoid personal use of the vehicle when we can, switch to public transport and carpooling. We must invest in solar energy giving a chance for the natural resources to replenish.

In conclusion, nature has a powerful transformative power which is responsible for the functioning of life on earth. It is essential for mankind to flourish so it is our duty to conserve it for our future generations. We must stop the selfish activities and try our best to preserve the natural resources so life can forever be nourished on earth.

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13 Essays About Nature: Use These For Your Next Assignment

Essays about nature can look at the impact of human behavior on the environment, or on the impact of nature on human beings. Check out these suggestions.

Nature is one of humanity’s greatest gifts. It provides food, shelter, and even medication to help us live healthier, happier lives. It also inspires artists, poets, writers, and photographers because of its beauty.

Essays about nature can take many different paths. Descriptive essays about the beauty of nature can inspire readers. They give the writer the chance to explore some creativity in their essay writing. You can also write a persuasive essay arguing about an environmental topic and how humans harm the natural environment. You can also write an informative essay to discuss a particular impact or aspect of the natural world and how it impacts the human beings who live within it.

If you need to write a nature essay, read on to discover 13 topics that can work well. For help with your essays, check out our round-up of the best essay checkers .

1. How Happiness Is Related to Nature Connectedness

2. why protecting nature is everyone’s responsibility, 3. how technological advancements can help the environment, 4. why global warming is a danger for future generations, 5. how deforestation impacts the beauty of nature, 6. the relationship between plants and human beings, 7. the health benefits of spending time in nature, 8. what are the gifts of nature, 9. the importance of nature to sustain human life, 10. the beauty of non-living things in nature, 11. does eco-tourism help or hurt the natural world, 12. how sustainability benefits the natural environment, 13. does agriculture hurt or help nature.

Essays About Nature

Exposure to nature has a significant positive impact on mood and overall mental health. In other words, happiness and nature connectedness have a close link. Your nature essay can explore the research behind this and then build on that research to show why nature conservation is so important.

This essay on nature is important because it shows why people need the natural environment. Nature provides more than just the natural resources we need for life. Spending time in the fresh air and sunshine actually makes us happier, so behaviors that harm nature harm your potential happiness.

Planet earth is a precious gift that is often damaged by the selfish activities of human beings. All human beings have the potential to hurt the natural environment and the living creatures in that environment, and thus protecting nature is everyone’s responsibility. You can build this into an essay and explore what that responsibility may look like to different groups.

For the child, for example, protecting nature may be as simple as picking up trash in the park, but for the CEO of a manufacturing company, it may look like eco-friendly company policies. For an adult, it may look like shopping for a car with lower emissions. Take a look at the different ways people can protect nature and why it is essential.

Technology is often viewed as the enemy of nature, but you can find technological advancements helping rather than harming nature. For example, light bulbs that use less energy or residential solar panel development have reduced the average home’s amount of energy. Your essay could explore some inventions that have helped nature.

After looking at these technologies, dive into the idea that technology, when used well, has a significant positive impact on the environment, rather than a negative one. The key is developing technology that works with conservation efforts, rather than against them.

Essays About Nature: Why global warming is a danger for future generations

Global warming is a hot topic in today’s society, but the term gets used so often, that many people have tuned it out. You can explore the dangers of global warming and how it potentially impacts future generations. You can also touch on whether or not this problem has been over-blown in education and media.

This essay should be full of facts and data to back up your opinions. It could also touch on initiatives that could reduce the risks of global warming to make the future brighter for the next generation.

Much has been written about the dangers of deforestation on the overall ecosystem, but what about its effect on nature’s beauty? This essay topic adds an additional reason why countries should fight deforestation to protect green spaces and the beauty of nature.

In your essay, strike a balance between limiting deforestation and the need to harvest trees as natural resources. Look at ways companies can use these natural resources without destroying entire forests and ecosystems. You might also be interested in these essays about nature .

People need plants, and this need can give you your essay topic. Plants provide food for people and for animals that people also eat. Many pharmaceutical products come from plants originally, meaning they are vital to the medical field as well.

Plants also contribute to the fresh air that people breathe. They filter the air, removing toxins and purifying the air to make it cleaner. They also add beauty to nature with their foliage and flowers. These facts make plants a vital part of nature, and you can delve into that connection in your nature essay.

Spending time in nature not only improves your mental health, but it also improves your physical health . When people spend time in nature, they have lower blood pressure and heart rates. They also produce fewer damaging stress hormones and reduced muscle tension. Shockingly, spending time in nature may actually reduce mortality rates.

Take some time to research these health benefits, and then weave them into your essay. By showing the health benefits of nature exposure, you can build an appreciation for nature in your audience. You may inspire people to do more to protect the natural environment.

Nature has given people many gifts. Our food all comes from nature in its most basic form, from fruits and vegetables to milk and meats. It provides the foundation for many medicines and remedies. These gifts alone make it worth protecting.

Yet nature does much more. It also gives the gift of better mental health. It can inspire feelings of wonder in people of all ages. Finally, it provides beauty and tranquility that you cannot reproduce anywhere else. This essay is more descriptive and reflective than factual, but it can be an exciting topic to explore.

Can humans live without nature? Based on the topics already discussed, the answer is no. You can use this fact to create an essay that connects nature to the sustenance of human life. Without nature, we cannot survive.

One way to look at this importance is to consider the honey bee . The honey bee seems like a simple part of the natural world, yet it is one of the most essential. Without bees, fruits and vegetables will not get pollinated as easily, if at all. If bees disappear, the entire food system will struggle. Thus, bees, and many other parts of nature, are vital to human life.

Have you ever felt fully inspired by a glorious sunset or sunrise? Have you spent time gazing at a mountain peak or the ocean water crashing on the shoreline and found your soul refreshed? Write about one of these experiences in your essay.

Use descriptive words to show how the non-living parts of nature are beautiful, just like the living creatures and plants that are part of nature. Draw from personal experiences of things you have seen in nature to make this essay rich and engaging. If you love nature, you might also be interested in these essays about camping .

Ecotourism is tourism designed to expose people to nature. Nature tours, safaris, and even jungle or rainforest experiences are all examples of ecotourism. It seems like ecotourism would help the environment by making people more aware, but does it really?

For your essay, research if ecotourism helps or hurts the environment. If you find it does both, consider arguing which is more impactful, the positive side or the negative side. On the positive side, ecotourism emphasizes sustainability in travel and highlights the plight of endangered species, leading to initiatives that protect local ecosystems. On the negative side, ecotourism can hurt the ecosystems at the same time by bringing humans into the environment, which automatically changes it. Weigh these pros and cons to see which side you fall on.

For more help with this topic, read our guide explaining what is persuasive writing ?

Sustainability is the practice of taking care of human needs and economic needs while also protecting the natural environment for future generations. But do sustainable practices work? This essay topic lets you look at popular eco-friendly practices and determine if they are helpful to the environment, or not.

Sustainability is a hot topic, but unfortunately, some practices labeled as sustainable , aren’t helpful to the environment. For example, many people think they are doing something good when tossing a plastic bottle in the recycling bin, but most recycling centers simply throw away the bottle if that little plastic ring is present, so your effort is wasted. A better practice is using a reusable water bottle. Consider different examples like this to show how sustainability can help the environment, but only when done well.

Essays About Nature: Does agriculture hurt or help nature?

Agriculture is one way that humans interact with and change the natural environment. Planting crops or raising non-native animals impacts the nature around the farm. Does this impact hurt or help the local natural ecosystem?

Explore this topic in your essay. Consider the impact of things like irrigation, fertilization, pesticides, and the introduction of non-native plants and animals to the local environment. Consider ways that agriculture can benefit the environment and come to a conclusion in your essay about the overall impact.

If you are interested in learning more, check out our essay writing tips !

nature writing essay examples

Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.

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Home Essay Samples Environment

Essay Samples on Nature

Revealing the fascinating complexity of the seasons of our nature.

You may think seasons are simple and easy to understand. But seasons are harder than you think to understand. Season actually have to do with the earth's axis how far we are from the sun. Also are orbit path around the sun and the way...

  • Natural Environment

Exploring the Scale of the Caribbean Sea Marine Ecosystem

The Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) is a region that runs along east coast of North and South America from Cape Hatteras in the north to the Amazon River mouth in Brazil in the south. The Caribbean Sea is one of four large marine ecosystems within...

  • Marine Life

How Equalization in Nature Depends on Human Interventions

The biological system is frequently adjusted when the living beings, for example, plant, people, and creatures are in agreement. People are key in keeping up such a parity since the equalization is subject to their exercises. Notwithstanding, individuals frequently complete exercises that are hurtful and...

Invasive Species: Exploring Different Vectors and Pathways

Invasive Species are the world's second-largest danger to biodiversity and they come at a significant cost to the planet's economic well-being. In my perspective, I strongly believe that these invasive species introduced into a new ecosystem can have major negative repercussions for the environment and...

  • Invasive Species

The Fragile Beauty of Marine Ecosystems: A Look into the Wonders

A Marine Ecosystem is a subset of all aquatic ecosystems. Since 70% of Earth’s surface in filled with water, and around 95% of that water in salt, Marine Ecosystems are defined as the largest and most biodiverse ecosystem in the world. An Ocean/Marine Ecosystem can...

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Images Of Nature In R. Frost`s Poetry

Nature is a beautiful and mysterious entity. It is vast and can have you wandering and wondering until you are lost both physically and mentally. Just being surrounded by nature can have you feeling up or feeling down. The immensity of it all can be...

  • Robert Frost

Best topics on Nature

1. Revealing the Fascinating Complexity of the Seasons of Our Nature

2. Exploring the Scale of the Caribbean Sea Marine Ecosystem

3. How Equalization in Nature Depends on Human Interventions

4. Invasive Species: Exploring Different Vectors and Pathways

5. The Fragile Beauty of Marine Ecosystems: A Look into the Wonders

6. Images Of Nature In R. Frost`s Poetry

  • Importance Of Recycling
  • Importance Of Water Conservation
  • Climate Change
  • Deforestation
  • Environmental Changes
  • Planting Trees
  • Waste Problem
  • Animal Rights
  • Wildlife Conservation

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What is nature writing?

What we talk about when we talk about nature writing.

“Nature writing can be defined as non-fiction or fiction prose or poetry about the natural environment.” This is actually its definition on Wikipedia.

For the purposes of this prize, we're accepting only non-fiction prose submissions (see last week's resources on breaking down the brief ), but in general, nature writing can mean many more things and cover lots of different ideas. As such, there’s a whole variety of approaches to writing a book in this genre. Different types of nature writing books can include: factual books such as field guides, natural history told through essays, poetry about the natural world, literary memoir and personal reflections.

Typically, nature writing is writing about the natural environment. Your book might take a look at the natural world and examine what it means to you or what you’ve encountered in the environment. You could frame this idea through a personal lens.

Perhaps you want to take a more focused or factual approach and look at individual flora and fauna in detail. Recent books that we’ve enjoyed have looked at topics such as beekeeping, owls, social and cultural history, trees, swimming, cows and have offered personal observation and reflection on their chosen topics.

You might be writing about the landscape, from farming to remote islands or city life. You may want to write about the fauna and flora of a whole region, or just one animal or a single tree. You don’t need to go out into the wilderness to write about nature and you don’t need to be hiking for three months in a remote area either. Most importantly, we believe the best books on nature writing convey a clear sense of place and mainly focus on the natural world and our human relationship with it.

The Nan Shepherd Prize aims to find the next big voice in nature writing from emerging writers, and we can’t wait to read about what nature means to you.

  • Read an academic paper on New Nature Writing here .
  • ‘Land Lines’ was a two-year project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and is a collaboration between researchers at the Universities of Leeds, Sussex and St Andrews. The project carried out a sustained study on modern British nature writing, beginning in 1789 with Gilbert White’s seminal study, The Natural History of Selborne, and ending in 2014 with Helen Macdonald’s prize-winning memoir, H is for Hawk. You can look at their website here .
  • Read about nature writing throughout history (this is a US perspective) here .
  • Read about which nature books have inspired today’s contemporary nature writers here .
  • Read this guide to nature writing from Sharmaine Lovegrove, publisher of Dialogue Books, who teamed up with the Forestry Commission to find undiscovered nature writers here .

Over @NanPrize we’ve been sharing examples of our favourite nature writing books, so if you want to see some specific examples of recent favourites, that might be a good place to start. We’ve also got a collection here which will give you an idea as to what books we like to publish in the nature writing genre.

“Nature Is Literally Our Larger Context”

The cedar waxwing is the glutton of songbirds, known for stuffing itself—even to the point of incapacity—with fruit. In “The Cherry Birds,” Kateri Kosek traces the path of a 1908 act “relating to the protection of fruit from the cedar waxwing” through the Vermont state legislature and, more broadly, considers the value humans assign to the species with which we share our space.

Writing about birds is not new to Kosek; her essay “Killing Starlings”—about a seasonal job that required her to kill invasive species—appeared in Creative Nonfiction #40 in 2011. Her poetry and essays have also appeared in Orion , Terrain.org , and Catamaran , and she teaches college English and mentors students in the MFA program at Western Connecticut State University. “The Cherry Birds” is the winner of the $1,000 Best Essay prize for Creative Nonfiction #69: “Intoxication.”

CNF: The research for your prize-winning essay “The Cherry Birds” began when you saw a cedar waxwing killed by your housemate’s cat. You write, “But before the waxwing fluttered away and flopped to the ground, before I turned away and went inside so as not to see the cat finish it off, we stood there in the driveway guiltily admiring the finer points of its plumage.” What about that moment inspired you? Did you know right away that you would write about these birds?

Kosek: Well, it’s always exciting to see a bird that up close, and a waxwing isn’t a bird that comes to feeders, that you spend a lot of time looking at. It was beautiful, which becomes a key premise in the essay, but mostly I was struck by the tenuousness of the moment, how fragile yet tenacious the bird was, fighting for its life. I did write about it immediately, though not with any sense of the essay you see before you, or of how waxwings specifically would figure into it. At first, the poor waxwing worked metaphorically for how I was feeling at the time. Two essays I had read also colored the incident. One was “Les Oiseaux,” Angela Pelster’s very short lyric essay that opens her book Limber, in which a huge flock of waxwings descends on her yard in the winter and devours the berries off the trees, both magically and destructively (my epigraph). And Leslie Jamison’s essay “In Defense of Saccharin(e)” grappled with notions of sweetness and indulgence and included a passage about birds that were, I think, drunk on berries and banging into windows. So I was kind of stuck on the idea of gorging on sweetness even though it may do us in. I forget why, exactly, but at some point perhaps a few months later I did a search on waxwings. I kept coming across that story of the Vermont senators in 1908, which set the course for the essay. But I am first indebted to my housemate and her cat.

CNF: This essay takes a historical and personal approach to the story of the cedar waxwing. How did you organize your research? Did you find that there was some research that had to be left out?

Kosek: This is by far the most “researchy” piece I’ve written. I definitely tried to represent everything that I found (there were lots of examples to choose from), but it’s possible I could have kept looking. Most everything I used was available online. Perhaps somewhere out there, obtainable through more old-fashioned research, is an old newspaper article that would illuminate what happened when the bill to exterminate waxwings came before those senators. Not having found that, I just worked that gap into the essay.

So, similar to leaving things out was deciding when to stop combing through the research and just write the essay already. As a poet I tend to prefer a limited amount of material, when I can see everything on a page and just tinker with it. This amount of research was a little overwhelming. The sources were kind of slippery and finding them was haphazard. Luckily the legislative journals from Vermont in 1908 were digitized on a Vermont government website. Where I found those, all sorts of supplemental government-issued writings popped up, such as old agricultural bulletins. Several of those happened to contain extensive guides to different bird species, based on the research into their diets to prove that they were (mostly) helpful to farmers. But there was a lot of overlap with variation, and sometimes it was hard to tell what something was and when it was written. Submitting for this theme —intoxication—was actually very helpful. I had thought about the essay thematically for a long time, but the deadline forced me to stop staring at potentially endless amounts of material and select enough to make a narrative.

CNF: Did anything in your research surprise you?

Kosek: Some attitudes toward ecology and environmental protection were more progressive than I might have expected for the early twentieth century. I was surprised to find the origins of the “keep cats indoors” campaigns; apparently, some states even wanted to license cats. A State Fish and Game Commissioner report, after establishing how helpful birds were for agriculture, crunched some numbers about how many might get killed by cats and ended, “Those who are really bird lovers and want to have birds nesting close to the house should try the experiment of dispensing with the family cat for one summer and note the increase in bird life about the garden.” Another article was about how we shouldn’t dismiss the “lower animals,” for they can do us much good—insects keeping other insects in check, for instance. It contained the delightful sentence, “Even such a humble animal as the common garden toad deserves our sympathy and encouragement.” And I was surprised at how popular bird-watching was, to the point of newspapers running lists of the new bird species seen migrating through the locale. That was one branch of this essay I didn’t initially plan on, but searching for the phrase “cedar waxwing” in old newspapers turned up a lot of lists like that, as well as some funny items, like an Audubon-sponsored ball to which guests wore outfits that mimicked the plumage of a certain bird, and then everyone had to guess the birds … maybe something someone should bring back?

CNF: Both of the essays that you’ve published in Creative Nonfiction are about birds. What attracts you to writing about nature?

Kosek: Well, I’ve been a birder since I was a little girl. I certainly didn’t share such a questionable hobby with my peers growing up, but the more I wrote, the more I decided to claim and tap into that rather unique area of knowledge. Nature in general has always anchored me, so it seems to follow that it also anchors most of my writing. It also embodies mystery, which is important for my writing. I’ve always written more personal things too, but often in the slightly veiled form of poetry, where nature may exist symbolically. In prose, recapturing extended dialogue and scenes intimidates me. I’m more comfortable describing exterior elements—birds and landscapes and my movements in them—and they also provide that bigger picture that’s necessary for creative nonfiction to avoid falling in on itself. Nature is literally our larger context. The backdrop of the natural world can prevent writing from being too purely confessional. Where I live, in a river valley in western Massachusetts, surrounded by mountains, hiking on the Appalachian Trail regularly, it’s hard for me not to notice nature on a daily basis.

CNF: How does your background in science overlap or feed into your writing?

Kosek: Actually, somewhere in cellular biology lab my freshman year of college, I abandoned wanting to be a scientist, and went in the direction of literature and writing. I wouldn’t have made a very good scientist, because I can’t read science without being struck by the poetic implications of it. So, you could say I “use” science to render it lyrically. But I’m also very interested in what it has to say. The poetry I’ve written in the last few years has a strong environmental consciousness to it, though it’s also very personal. I weave in various effects of climate change, the disruption of weather patterns, my longing for snow in the winter. We can’t afford to ignore science these days. But art and imagination are important vehicles for it.

That first essay that appeared in CNF, “Killing Starlings” (Issue #40/Winter 2011), I wrote after a seasonal job teaching environmental education, and the scientific principle that says invasive species = bad was at the heart of that piece, but of course it’s more complicated than that. After that essay, I noticed that I was fascinated with the larger concept of how we ascribe value to other species, particularly birds—which ones we as a culture cherish or ignore, which we deem okay to hunt, or despise, and how those biases change if one is a birdwatcher. So science certainly plays a role in that discussion.

CNF: The passage that describes the cedar waxwings drunk on fermented berries made me laugh out loud. Did you start writing knowing that humor would be an important element, or is that something that developed as you wrote?

Kosek: No, I definitely started in a more poignant mindset, but the more I read, the more I found the writings about birds in the early twentieth century to be inherently humorous, and I suppose I wanted to convey some of that. The very notion of passing moral judgment on birds based on their habits or diets, all of which we now view objectively through the lens of science, is endlessly amusing. (Though I’m not against anthropomorphizing the natural world to a certain degree. If we don’t see ourselves in nature, we risk distancing ourselves from it.)

I’m also pretty aware that writing focused on the natural world carries a stereotype of reverence and awe—and, often, boredom for the reader—so I suppose humor is one element that works against that. Most writers who write about nature these days find something that erodes that stereotype. It’s also worth mentioning that although I had a draft and many notes, I rewrote this essay with the theme of “intoxication” in mind, so perhaps I was drawn to the many facets of the word, one being the humorous connotation. But from the start I was captivated by the fervor with which these birds can gorge themselves, so “intoxication” seemed fitting—also the way their beauty can intoxicate us, or the way we need to let ourselves be intoxicated by the natural world if we hope to protect it.

CNF: Your essay ends with a lovely but tragic description of “Albatross chicks on Pacific islands, crammed to the throat not with insects, but with bright bits of plastic” and “stunned, jeweled bodies of warblers piled below a skyscraper.” What would you like the reader to take away from these final paragraphs? Do you believe that writers also have an obligation to be advocates?

Kosek: Ideally, yes, but being an advocate could take so many different forms, I wouldn’t presume to tell anybody what to do, writers or readers. Of course—using that example—don’t throw your plastic in the street, but I’m not sure a reader in America can greatly impact the problem of plastic in the ocean, which stems mostly from six or so nations on the other side of the world. It is easier, though, to put decals on our big glass doors so birds don’t fly into them. So sure, there are measures we can all take, but mainly I just hope readers are at the very least more aware and attuned to something the essay touches on after reading it—maybe the birds themselves, or maybe the current administration’s regular attempts to roll back laws that protect endangered species and environmental regulations. 

I certainly find it easier to write than to be an advocate. It’s hard and overwhelming to keep track of every issue and make sure I’m doing something about it, but as a writer, I can follow an obsession with one particular place or bird or story and present that to readers. Of course, the hope is that art can make a difference because people need images and stories in addition to science and facts. A student of mine recently quoted a line from Words that Sing: Composing Lyrical Prose by Mary Ylvisaker: “language has the power to transform people … by adding to or altering the images in the subconscious—the place where 90% of our opinions are formed and decisions made.” I liked that scientific explanation to the sense that writing can translate to societal change.

CNF: What are you working on now?

Kosek: I plan to put together a book of essays exploring what I mentioned above regarding our various attitudes towards other species, particularly birds. One I worked on recently focuses on the Bicknell’s Thrush, a bird considered rare and prized because of its very limited mountain range. Lately, I’m drawn to braided lyric essays, because they allow me to be more of a poet while still writing essays. So that one also has some threads about me and my proclivities. I have another lyric essay about swimming that needs finishing. And a few months ago, I traveled for the second time to Poland, where my father is from, so I have a lot of material from that floating around.

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The gates to the garden of nature writing are being prised open by a new generation of talent.

Written in the wild: the best radical nature writing

From This Land Is Our Land to Why Rebel, the message is that if we take heed of the natural world, we can heal ourselves

E nglish nature writing can be a bit polite. Decorating nature with adjectives has become something of a fashion in the last decade, but there are some books whose verve is a wildflower seed bomb to the neat lawns of English prose.

Principal among these are any of the books written by the magus of human experience in the wild, Jay Griffiths. From Wild , to Kith , to Why Rebel , her latest collection of essays, there is an energy in her words that feels like being chased by wolves. Best of them all is Tristimania: A Diary of Manic Depression , which describes with hyperreal force the electrical storms of the mind, the eerie twilight of mania.

There are many books that shine a light on the otherwise unmentioned elephant in the room of writing about English nature: that we are allowed access to so little of it. Andro Linklater’s Owning the Earth deals with the issue on a global level, and Guy Shrubsole’s excellent Who Owns England? focuses on this country. Ask any land rights campaigner, and the book that inspired them was Marion Shoard’s This Land Is Our Land . Shoard worked for several years for CPRE, the countryside charity, and was fully integrated into the system of land ownership in England and yet, or thus, wrote three excoriating books about its iniquities: The Theft of the Countryside , Right to Roam , and This Land Is Our Land . The last is a comprehensive history of how we lost our rights to land, from William the Conqueror to the modern day.

At long last, the gates to the English garden of nature writing are being prised open by a new generation of talent from communities previously marginalised from both the countryside and the publishing industry. Jini Reddy’s Wanderland deals with the sense of feeling unwelcome in a predominantly white landscape. It primarily seeks a connection of magic between the human and non-human, something deeper than our obsession with leisure and recreation.

The book that most informs the dynamic of race in the English countryside for me is Capitalism and Slavery by Eric Williams. It is a detailed account of the horror at the heart of racism, how it was used to justify the profiteering of sugar barons. It hammers home the point that by objectifying and commodifying nature, we do the same to each other.

Rob Cowen’s recent collection of poems focuses on our recent year of lockdown, emphasising how desperately we need to connect with nature. Mixing the deeply personal with policy and propaganda, interweaving the callous coldness of the wild, from sparrowhawks to viruses, with the regenerative and ebullient effects of nature, The Heeding reminds us what, with a thousand years of exclusion, most of us had forgotten until lockdown: take heed of nature, and we can heal ourselves.

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4 Best Descriptive Essay Examples About Nature

Descriptive essay examples about nature

Table of Contents

Opening remarks.

Nature is one of those certain things that you cannot get rid of, whether you live on a farm or in a downtown skyscraper. It has its way to exert its dominance either by sheer beauty to uplift spirits and moods, or by its ferocity to turn foundations upside down. 

Writing about nature takes a lot of time and effort. It is not something that can be mastered by simply reading a book or attending a lecture. Apart from practical tips and insights, examples can be great to work on because novice writers can see the elements of the essay working and balancing one another.

Descriptive Essay Writing

A lot of it is self-evident from the nomenclature but certain brass tacks should be covered before moving on to the examples. Descriptive writing is about describing a subject under consideration. A descriptive essay is a subjective or objective account of a person, a thing, a place, an event or experience, and more. It is written with acute reliance on figurative language, sensory details, and other literary devices.

Experts have divided descriptive essay writing into two distinct types. One is objective where only “facts” get to be shared with the readers. The other form is expressionist where a subjective approach and personal angles play out for the writer and ultimately the reader.

In schools and colleges, descriptive writing is employed by instructors, both in the form of full-fledged essays as well as descriptive paragraphs and other short assignments. The exercise allows them to gauge the thinking, writing, and editing capabilities of the students and then award them scores based on the results.

Purpose of Writing A Descriptive Essay

Just like much of writing, the purpose of  writing a descriptive essay  is to entertain the readers and let them “see” or “feel” the subject that the writer is experimenting on. By relying on literary devices and sensory details, such as similes, metaphors, comparisons, and more, writers can chalk out relevant details of the topic. That’s why the real test of descriptive writing is how much readers actually “saw”, “felt”, “heard”, “touched”, or “tasted” the subject. 

The purpose of writing evolves from one place to another. For instance, the rationale behind composing riveting descriptive essays in academic institutions is to woo the teachers and secure higher scores. Descriptive essays are also used by colleges and universities to base the candidature of aspirants for different programs and degrees.

4 Examples of Descriptive Essays On Nature

If you ask a high school student or a college student for that matter, how they can see and define nature, it would be difficult for them. Either they would have too much to say with little value, or too less to put into words with no room for explanation and expansion. To help students better understand and implement aspects of nature into words, we have dedicated this section to cover four different aspects of nature. One is where it is useful in terms of monetary value, the second is where it is furious and punishing, the third is where it is beautiful for the sake of it, and the fourth is where it is transforming essentially covering all the other three aspects.

When Nature Is Useful

A descriptive essay is more than just putting flowery words and phrases into paragraphs to enhance their value. It is to connect readers with the “true” picture of the phenomenon concerning nature. The instance where nature can be useful spans occupations and fields. A fisherman whose livelihood depends on the tame nature of the seas and who goes out away from the shores each day to fetch for himself and his family shows the useful and plentiful side of nature. While writing a descriptive essay on this angle, it is necessary to connect people’s dependence on the sole nature of “nature”.

When Nature Is Furious

From literary works of art to Hollywood movies, you can always get abundant examples of nature in killing frenzy and fury. The very duality of nature, from being beautiful for some and furious and unforgiving for others, creates a “moody” or highly volatile picture for writers. While writing about the ferocity of nature, you can always connect disasters with the narrative, from floods to earthquakes to avalanches and beyond. Again, there is always a need for showing the two sides of the coin or the proverbial picture. Otherwise, the description and the value in it can fall flat and produce lackluster results.

When Nature Is Beautiful

This is somewhat a “universal” truth as many people would blurt out that nature is indeed beautiful and quite enchanting to behold and feel. A garden full of blooming flowers or a gravel pathway in a park during the fall when the leaves turn yellow and cover that gravel path are some of the things that can make your heart skip a beat. In a descriptive essay where the writer is trying to show the beauty of it all, it is necessary to connect the writer with the narrative because the description would be hollow and unbecoming without it. In other cases, there is beauty in understatement.

When Nature Is Transforming

Nature is always transforming and that is a cruel joke of the time. Spring is always running toward the fall and life is longing to meet death. As a writer, the descriptive essay on nature’s transformation and its ability to transform things around it can be anything. It can be as brutal as a hurricane where living breathing cities can become graveyards. It can be as lovely and heart-stealing as the dew drops on cool morning grass. In addition to this, it can be useful as a stream leading fishes and other sea creatures to it for the people to eat and sell and make their livelihood.

Tips For Writing Descriptive Essays On Nature

Even after going through examples of  descriptive essays on nature , students could find it hard to connect their minds with the pen and the paper. In these cases, it is necessary to give them some tips and hacks that can help them either kick-start the process or make crucial decisions on the go.

In that spirit, here are some great tips for writing descriptive essays on nature whether it is for a high school assignment or college admission.

Figurative Language & Sensory Details

If we are to narrow down the essentials of a descriptive essay, figurative language and sensory details will take the prize. They are the essential tools that writers rely on when they need to make things come alive. Figurative language denotes the usage of words and phrases in a way where they depict other meanings than their true ones. For instance, a falling tree is not a description, but a falling yellow tree on a roadside is the description. Similarly, sensory details connect the five senses of human beings with the traits of the subjects under consideration. While writing a descriptive nature essay, this is the key!

Solid Introduction With A Hook

After the topic or the title, an introduction is a thing that makes or breaks the deal for the readers. Also called the opening of an essay, these are at the beginning of the essay and sets the proverbial stage for the other elements of the content. Professional readers use “hook” to lure readers in. These hooks come in all forms, shapes, and sizes, but their purpose remains the same. The most common and potent forms of hooks include, but are not limited to, statistics connecting the essay with the facts, a question asked by the readers, a quotation from famous works of literature, and more.

Choosing A Specific Topic

Many students think that they can string five paragraphs together with a semblance of commonality and call it an essay. Sadly, that is not the case. Before actually researching and writing a descriptive essay, they need to choose a specific topic and then research it further before outlining the whole essay. A topic and then a well-groomed title give a much-needed focus and a thread of belonging to the content. Since it is mentioned at the top of the essay, readers and potential readers will read it first before making up their minds, about whether they want to read the whole essay or not.

Can I write a descriptive essay on the beauty aspect of nature?

Of course! Nature is often attributed to as one of the most beautiful things in the universe, among both natural and artificial aspects. Whether it is about meadows or the grasslands to the snowy peaks of the mountains, the beauty of nature is indeed both subjective and objective. By defining the topic and formulating a good working title, you can write a descriptive essay on the beauty aspect of nature.

What is the best way to start a descriptive nature essay?

Readers are well aware of nature, evolving and unfolding around them. But when you are writing a descriptive essay, it is necessary to let them connect with that aspect early on. That’s why you need to set the stage in the introduction phase and let them know what the essay will be about using literary hooks and contraptions. At the end of the introduction, you can top off the introduction with a thesis statement.

How can I show different faces of nature through descriptive writing?

Descriptive writing focuses on sensory details and figurative language to overcome the barriers of space and time between the subject and the readers. When the task is to show different faces of nature through description, it is necessary to take command of figurative language and other literary devices to bridge the gap.

Is it easy to describe nature?

It depends. If a writer has experience and a deep understanding of the language, then it can be easy. For novice writers, nature can be a mixed bag. For the objective ends, it is easy and pretty straightforward. For impressionistic reasons, nature can be a tough nut to crack but things mean different when they are put in different lights.

Should I write exactly how nature makes me feel?

As far as the artistic truth is concerned, you should write about nature and how it makes you feel. Talking about how we feel, a lot depends on what we are going through internally. If your mood is fresh and your spirits are high, you can extract joy from the basest things in nature. On the other hand, you can be irritated by the most soothing things if your mind is on fire.

What is the ideal word count for a descriptive nature essay?

The ideal word count for a descriptive essay is between 800 to 1000 words. Students should aim for five paragraphs with one each for the introduction and conclusion and the remaining three for the main body. When word count is assigned by the instructors, it is best to stay in that range.

Final Thoughts

Nature is one of the most recurring topics that students will find in their essay classes. It can mold and transform by changing only a handful or sometimes even a single variable from the lot. Still, many novice writers find it hard to connect to the essence of the topic and even fail at formulating a good title. In this blog, we have covered the basics of descriptive essay writing, including four examples of nature writing in different scenarios so that students can take inspiration from them and incorporate them into their essays. We have also shared some tips for nature writing in descriptive essays so that they can start and finish at a high.

For complete guidance on descriptive essay writing on nature, feel free to consult this resource at any time!

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Nature vs. Nurture Essay

Nature is the influence of genetics or hereditary factors in determining the individual’s behavior. In other words, it is how natural factors shape the behavior or personality of an individual. In most cases, nature determines the physical characteristics which in effect influence the behavior of an individual. Physical characteristics such as physical appearance, type of voice and sex which are determined by hereditary factors influences the way people behave.

Nurture on the other is the upbringing of an individual according to the environmental conditions. That is, the way individuals are socialized. Basically, nurture is the influence of environmental factors on an individual’s behavior.

According to this paradigm, an individual’s behavior can be conditioned depending on the way one would like it to be. Often, individuals’ behaviors are conditioned by the socio-cultural environmental factors. It is because of socio-cultural environmental conditions that the differences in the behavior of individuals occur.

Nature determines individual traits that are hereditary. In other words, human characteristics are determined by genetic predispositions which are largely natural. Hereditary traits are normally being passed from the parents to the offspring. They include characteristics that determine sex and physical make up. According to natural behaviorists, it is the genes that will determine the physical trait an individual will have. These are encoded on the individuals DNA.

Therefore, behavioral traits such as sexual orientation, aggression, personality and intelligence are also encoded in the DNA. However, scientists believe that these characteristics are evolutionary. That is, they change over time depending on the physical environment adaptability. Evolutionary scientists argue that changes in genes are as a result of mutations which are caused by environmental factors. Thus, natural environment determines individual characteristics which are genetically encoded in the DNA.

Conversely, individuals possess traits that are not naturally determined. These are characteristics that are learnt rather than being born with. These are traits which largely determined by the socio-cultural environmental factors or the way the individuals are socialized within the society depending on the societal values.

These traits are learnt as an individual develops and can easily be changed by the socio-cultural environment where the individual is currently staying. These characteristics include temperament, ability to master a language and sense of humor. Behavioral theorists believe that these traits can be conditioned and altered much like the way animal behavior can be conditioned.

From the discussion it can be deduced that individuals’ traits are determined by hereditary genes and at the same time can be natured. There are those traits that cannot be changed in an individual no matter what condition the person is exposed to. These traits are inborn and embed within the individual hereditary factors.

In most cases, they constitute the physical characteristics of an individual. They also determine the physical behaviors such as walking style, physical appearance and eating habits. At the same time there are learned characteristics which are normally being conditioned by the socio-cultural values. Individuals learn these traits from the way they are socialized within the immediate social or cultural environment. In other words, such behaviors are conditioned by the cultural values encouraged by the immediate society.

In conclusion, nature vs. nurture debate still remains controversial. However, all agree that nature and nurture play a crucial role in determining an individual’s behavior. Nature is associated with heredity roles in determining the individuals characteristics where as nurture is associated with the role of socio-cultural environment in determining the individuals behavior.

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IvyPanda. (2024, February 28). Nature vs. Nurture. https://ivypanda.com/essays/nature-vs-nurture/

"Nature vs. Nurture." IvyPanda , 28 Feb. 2024, ivypanda.com/essays/nature-vs-nurture/.

IvyPanda . (2024) 'Nature vs. Nurture'. 28 February.

IvyPanda . 2024. "Nature vs. Nurture." February 28, 2024. https://ivypanda.com/essays/nature-vs-nurture/.

1. IvyPanda . "Nature vs. Nurture." February 28, 2024. https://ivypanda.com/essays/nature-vs-nurture/.


IvyPanda . "Nature vs. Nurture." February 28, 2024. https://ivypanda.com/essays/nature-vs-nurture/.

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Our Mother Nature

  • Category: Environment
  • Topic: Natural Environment , Natural Resources

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