By James Bishop, Jr.
April 17, 2012
I love nature because she is not man, but a retreat from him
Time to remember the words of John Quincy Adams in 1821 when he praised America: because “she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” For arguable reasons, America has gone abroad –at great cost to our fighting men and women, not to mention resources. Historians will remember it all differently but from this pilgrim’s perspective facts about current concerns don’t exist simply because they are ignored. With so much focus on monsters abroad, do we also have monsters in our midst?
As Earth Day looms Cactus Ed Abbey’s words loom like high billboards, “sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.” Little by little, environmental protections, which were signed into law by Dick Nixon in the early 1970s, are being chopped up like a woodsman with a hatchet, not by monsters from abroad but by the men and women we elect to office. But there’s more, consider a character from Shakespeare’s plays, the unrecognized kinsman. Yes, the latest buzzword is sustainability. From Sedona to Prescott, VOC to Clarkdale, and coast to coast, more and more people are excited about climbing on the sustainability bandwagon. What does that word mean? It is becoming increasingly clear that what it does not mean and that is defending the non-human world against the advances, ever larger, ever more powerful, ofMan.
Nowadays traditional enviros now stand with fossil fuel leaders and talk of reducing carbon to combat climate change. Fading fast is the ecocentrism that powered the first Earth Days—the love of place, the humility, sense of belonging in wild nature, the feelings, being in a place and standing up for it such as the Verde River, those who love trees just because they are trees. Lost in the changes whirling us are the words, ecology and economy. Once again powerful voices are telling the people that our choices cleaner air or joblessness, more electricity or more coal mining safety rules. Once again, as was the same effort in past years ecology and economy are being pitted against each other. What a shame! Eco is the world for house. Ecology is about learning about our house—the Earth—and economy is managing our house. Thus when Man destroys nature for profit, he is also attacking himself for he is part of nature, a player in life-giving ecosystems.
As for some good news, all the while people are damaging nature scientists are discovering some of nature’s creatures are wiser than Man. Take butterfly wings. They are not just beautiful. They are sophisticated collectors of solar energy that help butterflies stay warm. A Chinese company is creating a solar device inspired by butterfly wings. Best we save some butterflies.