Making Connections

“For its own sake.”

The environmentalism movement is intricate and made of up many idea and many people; discussing them separately can pre productive, but comparing the views and drawing out the similarities that force the movement to stay alive is more so. These authors and activists are working to show the selfishness of humans that do what they do for their own sake.

I have previously spoken of Rachel Carson and her strong way of writing that inspires an attention to the hazards of chemicals being used to our food and the land. I also recently wrote about Wendell Berry and the ignorance in our modern era in relation to agriculture, specifically in the realm of organic farming. When I reflected back on both books, I realized how similar the central ideas were in many of the chapters/essays. Carson talks about how the man-made chemicals and poisons are destructive and truly hurting world that is not owned by humans, but one with the humans. Berry talked about the destruction humans are causing to the earth and questions the respect we have for the world around us, and ourselves, our human bodies.

I think that when you put the two authors in context with each other, you can equate a form of the golden rule to their words. “Treat other the way you wish to be treated.” But for these authors and many other writers of the movement the golden rule becomes,

Treat the earth the way you wish to be treated.

We depend on the earth to give us nutrients and everything we need to survive. The earth does not depend on us for anything; it survived long before us and it will survive long after us if we treat it properly. Berry talks about how we live in an era of “forgetfulness.”  We have forgotten what the earth has given us and we take advantage of it. Carson would happily join in this conversation and say not only have we forgotten the value of the earth, we have created chemicals that work against the land. This ignorance of where we live, and what this ignorance is doing directly to us, is revolting. Carson does a good job of not trying to reason, but create an excuse (that is still not excusable) for why humans are not changing their ways. Berry also talks about the way we have come to view ourselves and our health, excuses again for why we are where we are.

Carson says in her chapters “The Human Price,” “It is human nature to shrug off what may seem to us a vague threat of future disaster.” She then goes to quote Dr. David Price to reinforce her point about humans not feeling concern over what is not directly affecting them. Price says,

We all live under the haunting fear that something may corrupt the environment to the
point where man joins the dinosaurs as an obsolete form of life… and what makes these
thoughts all more disturbing is the knowledge that our fate could perhaps be sealed twenty
or more years before the development of symptoms.

This denial that we are becoming hazards to the earth and thus ourselves, but not seeing it like a flaming ball of fire heading towards us, is similar to the way humans see health. Berry talks about how we only try and fix what is broken. If we see or feel the disease then we treat it and it is treated as a separate entity from the rest of the whole human. Human’s health and view of the world need to broaden so the whole picture is being seen. If we see the destruction to our liver that the pesticide is doing and build the connection we need to correct our way of thinking, to help the earth, to then help ourselves, humans may develop the understanding necessary to start the change.

Berry said in his chapter “The Body and the Earth,” “It is wrong to think that bodily health is compatible with spiritual confusion or cultural disorder, or with polluted air and water or impoverished soil.”  This quote directly responds to Carson’s overarching question of why are we using these deadly chemicals? Our health is not compatible with the chemicals and hazards we are spraying all over the land and our crops.

The question Berry asks, “Why do the health of the body and the health of the earth decline together?” can be answered in many way throughout Carson’s book. We are indirectly destroying our bodies when we work to destroy a blemish on the earth; whether is be bugs, weeds, or altering a natural process for the convenience of mankind, we alter the human body. We become “the virtual prey of the manufacturers.”

 

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