From the Publishers
Source of action?
by Chris Klein
'm always interested in what has individuals be in action
for the environment. Being informed and concerned is important ... but action
is what makes a difference in the real world.
Conversations with friends, family, Earth Day volunteers
and ET readers seem to indicate three fundamental motivations for getting
involved. The first motivation I'll call "pragmatic." This is
largely an appreciation for specific, quantifiable factors associated with
ecological issues: how much will this oil spill cost, or how much will that
toxin increase my chances of getting cancer.
The second motivation is ethical/moral. This seems to
be different for each individual, based on their upbringing and beliefs.
Personally, I feel a moral charge to leave the world in better shape than
I found it - or at least no worse.
The third motivation is religious. While I make no claims
of scholarship, it seems that all of the world's major religions have injunctions
to preserve and care for Creation. Those who feel this stewardship strongly
are moved to act.
All this makes perfect sense ... but something is missing.
All of the above are intellectual exercises. And as I learned in school,
you can find intellectual justification for just about any position. If
you attend to the media coverage of Congress, you know this is true.
Something deeper is at work, but I couldn't quite put
my finger on it. That "something" is related to experience; there
is a feeling that informs the intellect. It's a little bit like the difference
between talking about love and being in love. Where does the being come
Clearly, it's not information. We have all the facts
we can swallow, and they don't (necessarily) generate action. Everyone knows
what makes a healthy diet; if all it took was facts, we'd all be healthy,
fit and trim. But just look what's walking down the street.
Our lead article this month, Cultivating Biophilia:
our love for the family of life, suggests some deep insights into this question
that gave me a real "ah ha!" experience. It describes work by
Edward O Wilson, Harvard biologist, Pulitzer prize winner and authority
on biodiversity. Without recapitulating the entire article, Wilson presents
the case that man has a natural affinity for life and other living organisms.
The article suggests that a direct experience of nature can (re)generate
the relationship needed to preserve it. This validates my own experience:
after a trip into the wilderness, I definitely feel a renewed commitment
to ecology. But I had always thought that the outdoor experience was just
validating my position; the truth was, it was generating it!
So, one prescription for action is clear: experience
the natural world directly. If you feel your environmental commitment slipping
- or if you don't think you have one - try getting out into nature. Our
Earth-Friendly Events calendar has dozens of outings within a half-hour
drive of downtown San Diego.
Later this month, my wife and I are going on a wilderness
rafting trip on the Salmon River in Idaho. I am looking forward to getting
my ecological batteries recharged.