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Why We Give: One Couple’s Story

"We think it’s a faulty assumption that nature and technology can’t work together. What if technology could help us look around, notice and interact in new ways?"

Each contributor to The Nature Conservancy has a story about why they give back to nature—to leave a legacy, to support our mission, to help protect our world.

For Rochester artists and teachers Leila Nadir and Cary Peppermint it's about maintaining the wild places they believe are critical to all people’s spiritual, creative and intellectual growth.

Read their story below and then share your own story to inspire others as you have inspired us!

Q. How did you first become interested in nature? 

Nadir & Peppermint: We both grew up in semi-rural areas with big tracts of woods nearby. Each of us took for granted that we had places in which to play and imagine. Years later we had lots of weekend adventures backpacking in New York and Maine together. But as artists interested in cultural issues, we were struck by the fact that nature remained something “outside” of our regular work.

At the same time, life in New York City was stressful, particularly after September 11th, and we began to really appreciate nature’s role in helping us cope. We both knew then that we wanted nature in our lives in a bigger way.

Q. You started the new media project EcoArtTech to “explore environmental imagination from our place in the modern age.” What role can digital media play in connecting people to their environments?

Nadir & Peppermint: One of our starting points with EcoArtTech was to rethink the divide between nature and technology. Instead of thinking of new media as simply a tool, we wondered if it could also be a means of transformation. We react to our environment, whether natural or digital. Do our mobile devices always take us out of our surroundings or can they take us into them as well?

We think it’s a faulty assumption that nature and technology can’t work together. What if technology could help us look around, notice and interact in new ways?

Q. Why do you give to The Nature Conservancy?

Nadir & Peppermint: We feel strongly that there should be places where nature can be itself, where the land can express itself and remain undeveloped. Natural places are so important to people’s physical and spiritual health. Most people feel something special when they are in a wild place. Thoreau talks about solitude and quiet in the woods as a key to intellectual growth.

As artists and teachers, it’s important to us to keep the creativity flowing. Having a piece of land we love — where we can notice the forest change season by season, see trees get bigger over the years and watch birds live out their life cycles — helps us with that.

We need natural spaces that are conducive to imagination. We think all people do.

Leila Nadir and Cary Peppermint included The Nature Conservancy in their estate plans in 2013, becoming Central and Western New York’s newest members of The Legacy Club. Nadir is a critic, scholar, artist, and creative writer, and teaches environmental humanities courses in the Sustainability and Digital Media Studies programs at the University of Rochester. Peppermint is a digital artist and Assistant Professor of Digital Art at University of Rochester. Working collaboratively as EcoArtTech since 2005, they study the environmental imagination–from nature and built spaces to the mobile landscape and electronic environments.

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