It's Friday. I'm at home. by myself. working on homework. Pathetic, right? Well, I'm at the end of an enlightening semester, and I needed a brief break from writing my final paper for Public Lands Policy . . . to write about environmentalism.
It's been on my mind every waking moment for the past few weeks as I've been either writing or avoiding my looming research paper. One point my instructor has driven home this semester is the inappropriate way in which many use the term environmentalist. Certain things come to mind, right? You're thinking singer-songwriter, teva-wearing, slightly smelly, somewhat angry hippie type. Well, my friend, that is where you may be wrong. Should someone be considered less of an environmentalist because he enjoys smelling the fresh scent of pine from an ATV or getting salt water splashed in her face by jetskis? Those are not my preferred outdoor activities, but my experience in class has helped me reconsider the way I frame things and people - which I happen to believe is the hallmark of genuine education.
Public lands policy. Interesting, right? I didn't really think it would be; actually, I wasn't at all interested in this topic; I took the class because the instructor is fabulous. Not having had strong opinions about the environment prior to taking this class (outside of my pronounced views on agriculture), the process of developing an opinion and evaluating others' positions was interesting to say the least. In my reading and in class, I noticed several prominent paradigms of human beings' relationship to nature. The following are meant to be vague sketches, though there is a diversity of opinions and motivations behind each of these philosophies.
- Domination - development ethic. No holds barred. Drill ANWAR for oil. Use it up. Wear it out. Global warming either isn't real, or isn't a real problem. There is a small but growing faction of people who believe they can speed the coming of the rapture by using up the world's resources.
- Stewardship - conservation ethic. The health of the environment and biodiversity are important. Humans and nature are part of the same system and their fates are inextricably combined. It is important to work to slow global warming. Society and individuals should use what is necessary (subject to interpretation) and leave an amount that is sustainable or renewable for the health of the environment and the benefit of future generations. Resources should be developed in accordance with the best available science.
- Worship - preservation ethic. Nature is pure and is a world apart from humans. Humans destroy nature and extractive economic activity is bad.
With much news about climate change, some paradigms are shifting. I thought this was very cool and an omen of good things to come in the stewardship category. If you are interested in grasping some of the basics of the environmental movement, I recommend these two books: