“The world has enough for everybody’s need, but not enough for one person’s greed.”- Gandhi
When did mankind become so entitled as to use and abuse what has been here long before us? Ramachandra Guha wrote in his book, Environmentalism: A Global History, “Nature became a source of cheap raw material as well as a sink for dumping the unwanted residues of economic growth.” Seventeen years after this book with published, forty to fifty years from when the movement started, and humans are still treating the Earth in this brutal way. I have to give due credit to those that are actively working to make a change, such as John Muir and the Sierra Club. But, to all those who think it is okay to do things like throwing a can out the window while they are driving, to knocking down forests to build new establishments or pipelines, with little regard to the world around them, those are the people we all need to fear.
Muir asked a powerful question in his essay “A Thousand Mile Walk to the Golf, “Why should man value himself as more than a small part of the one great unit of creation?” This speaks directly to what I was just struggling in my own head.
As a kid, you have those selfish moments, I know I had my share. My mom would say, “Madison, the world doesn’t revolve around you, my dear.” That was in response to me playing my music a little too loud that our neighbors (inches away in our small apartment building) might hear. It also was in response to me asking to throw out my bubble gum out the window after it had lost its flavor and I no longer wanted it. As I tried to do so, she would again say, “Madison, the world doesn’t revolve around you, my dear. The poor birdie’s tummies will hurt.” Where were these other people’s parents growing up to tell them? Maybe if our current administration had a mom like mine, our world would at least be able to acknowledge the difficulties we are putting it through.
I also have to wonder if these people that are ruining our environment, or simply not choosing to acknowledge and change their ways are oblivious or just do not care. Either way, both sides of the spectrum are just as horrifying. This isn’t a new idea that just presented itself. As Guha pointed out, this is a global problem that has been around for centuries. The industrialization era kick started the fall of our environment. Although this was the start of something great, and we can credit much of what makes our lives “easier” or more electronically enjoyable, there are ways we could have avoided the myriad of pollution.
The questions Guha provokes about if environmentalism is a social justice issue or a question of the rights of the animals and the plants is a challenging thought to ponder. He clearly leans towards the rights of the animals and the natural world. I agree with him, but I think that since humans are responsible for most of the destruction, there needs to be a social movement to change the what they are doing and the way they are thinking.
Seeing the world and ourselves as one may help cohesively blend the two ways Guha said you can view environmentalism. That may sounds a little too “crunchy” to some people, I can admit while writing it, I chuckled a little bit. When trying to think of another way to word it, I couldn’t. We have no more rights to be on this Earth than the animals and trees, that for the most part outlive mankind. We need to not see ourselves as better than them, but be thankful to them for everything they provide us.
It is infuriating to hear people say that we don’t need to worry about global warming, and those who think killing off an entire forest to build a parking lot is okay. So how do you get the message across to them and our society that we need to make a change? We need to get it involved in our culture. Many artists, writers, and film producers have done an excellent job spreading the message through their work. From Cash to the Chili Peppers to Springsteen, mainstreaming this movement is the key to its success. The people need to get involved and a social culture brings many different people together to start the fight.
Some places have made a great effort in trying to help the environment and communities as a whole that believes in the power they have to contribute to the movement, should be made examples of. I spent this weekend on Martha’s Vineyard and it was eye-opening to see how well they lived off the land and the alternative power sources they utilized. There were solar panels everywhere, and only one main grocery store because so many people used the farm stands and local markets instead. They also limit the number of cars on the island at once and have made ordinances in certain towns about how much land one person can own to avoid the large useless mansions. The schools work on land conservation projects and work to help keep the island and the beaches clean to help the animals that live on and around it. They also make art work to hang around the island supporting environmentalism. It was incredible to see how involved everyone was.
Being a woman in my twenties I know I am most susceptible to hearing things that will directly impact me and the community I live in. Seeing examples like the Vineyard help show me it is possible. It builds a connection between the issue and myself. When a member of the community is going through a hard time we work together to help them out. We are all a member of one large community, the Earth, and it’s time we help her out. Getting a larger social media push, getting college students interested and eager to help make a change would be a strong start. Although environmentalism should be important to all, there are those that don’t feel a push, there are those who hear the music being made and the films being released, but walk away from them. I think closing the gap between and idea and an action will be crucial in helping this movement grow.