Protecting the environment isn’t just about saving the planet. It’s about saving ourselves. It’s about being responsible custodians of nature not just for its own sake (though that’s important too), but so we can keep relying on it…instead of sucking the life out of everything we can like there’s no tomorrow, leaving a world that’s too inhospitable for us to live on in any sort of comfortable civilization.
Tens of thousands of years on, the planet will recover from just about anything we throw at it, as long as we stop messing things up at some point (like, say, dying back to subsistence level as famines and wars over the remaining resources kill us off). It may take longer for biodiversity to recover, but it will happen eventually, as it has after each great extinction event — though always taking new paths to replace the possibilities that didn’t make it.
But I don’t have 10,000, 100,000, or a million years to wait for things to recover, and neither do you.
I miss the optimism of the 1990s, when the message I got was “Things are messed up, but we can fix them.” Remember when we were more worried about running out of oil than about the effects of burning it? Now the message I keep seeing is, “Too late! We’re all screwed!” Especially with large entrenched interests trying to not just fight the gains we’ve made since the 1970s, but actively roll them back.
Maybe we can’t solve the problem completely anymore. But at least we can try to mitigate it a little.
“Please sign this petition about X!”
“OK, I care about X, what’s the petition actually say?”
“It’s about X!”
“Right, but what’s the actual wording? Am I putting my name on supporting a specific action? ‘Cause I’d support some actions but not others.”
“It’s telling them to do something about X!”
“Yeah, I got that. What is it telling them to do?”
“Just look for solutions?”
“No, it’s telling them what we want them to do about X.”
“Sorry, but I’m not signing my name to a blank letter.”
“Why don’t you care about X?”
I’m totally willing to sign petitions when I can see the actual wording and it’s something I agree with.
But if the petition website doesn’t say what they’re actually delivering? I don’t want to put my name on something that might be advocating what that I consider to be a bad solution, even if I agree on the problem.
“Not loyal.” Two years in and the President still doesn’t understand (or more likely, doesn’t care) that officials owe their loyalty to the country, not to him personally.
I had a lot of problems with Bush, his policies and his priorities, but I never doubted he understood that the job was about the nation, not about him.
This guy? He’s never given me reason to doubt the opposite: that he thinks it’s all about himself.
You’re tired of skateboarders on your street, though there are a lot fewer of them these days than there used to be. Your city/housing association won’t build a barrier at the end of the block. A lot of people don’t think the skateboarders are as big a problem, or even a problem at all…
But this is an emergency! (Even though the numbers are already declining.) So you take your neighbors’ money and put spikes across the street and their yard. Nothing on wheels is going to get through!
Meanwhile, the skateboarders keep walking in on the sidewalks, carrying their skateboards, like they’ve always done.
You’ve misappropriated funds, violated your neighbors’ property rights, blocked traffic…and yet you haven’t actually addressed how the skateboarders are showing up in the first place.
“The Senate on Tuesday passed the most sweeping conservation legislation in a decade, protecting millions of acres of land and hundreds of miles of wild rivers across the country…”
It passed the Senate 92-8.
Weirdly, I’m on several environmental groups’ mailing lists and I’ve heard nothing about this bill from them except for one specific aspect of it: The Nature Conservancy has occasionally asked me to contact lawmakers in support of renewing the Land and Water Conservation Fund (both before and after it expired last year). On Wednesday they sent me a notice that the LWCF renewal had passed the Senate and asked me to contact my Representative when it goes to the House.
But they’ve said nothing about any other aspect of the over-600-page bill, which adds over a million new acres of wilderness, prohibits mining near Yellowstone, protects 620 miles of rivers, and expands and adds several national parks and monuments. And I’ve heard nothing at all — no news, no campaigns to support it, or reject it as a trojan horse, or amend it — from any of the other groups I follow.
I guess the fact that it’s non-controversial enough for a conservation bill to pass with over 90% bipartisan support even during this administration means it wasn’t a priority for activism. Especially with all the attacks on environmental protections from the executive branch to tackle on one side, and the Green New Deal to talk about on the other.