In deciding which quotations to use for today’s blog post, I spent several hours going through and organizing the material I’ve accumulated in my ‘saved quotations’ drawer. The last time I did something like this, I believe, was back on August 5, 2014. This time, however, I am aiming to do something a little different. I am using these quotations as the “skeleton,” for a meatier, more meaningful post. One that is more than a mere collection of quotations; and I am hoping you will find it thought-provoking.
First off, I want to make the point that one of the biggest problems we face is the fact that genuine, deep concern about the environment (ironically, I don’t think there’s even a word for this), is so exceedingly rare. I’ve always felt that a certain Henry David Thoreau quotation (which I’ve presented below, in a somewhat altered fashion) neatly makes this point:
It would seem to me
Don’t care for Nature
And would sell their share
For a stated sum
Or perchance even
For a glass of rum.
Again, I’ve altered the original quotation, (shortened it, added three words, and given it a poem-like appearance), but I love how Thoreau puts it, which is basically: Most men, do not care for Nature; and would sell their share. Isn’t that what’s going on, all around the world? People selling “their” share — not that it was ever really truly theirs to begin with.
I often do fact-checking before I begin composing a blog post. And while fact-checking a quote which uses the phase “the environmentalism of most greens was actually very shallow” (see quote below) I wound up on a Facebook page belonging to Sandy Irvine — the main body of writing begins with the words “Biographical Sketch.” I recommend that you read it. While it may look off-putting, the fact that there are no paragraph breaks between the paragraphs, he does raise some fine points. I found the point he makes regarding people who have been born with “rather big silver spoons” in their mouths intriguing. After seeing the phrase “silver spoons,” by the way, I jotted down (in my notes): “We’ve all been born with silver spoons in our mouths.” There’s so much even the ordinary person takes completely for granted, every single day. So much!
He also makes an interesting point in his lead up to where he concludes “More seems to mean less in all kinds of ways.” Indeed. Not to romanticize the past, but reading what he wrote got me to wondering what effect being born, instead, today, would have on someone like a William Shakespeare. How would he be different? Irvine continues (this is the passage I specifically wanted to include in this blog post):
“However the realization was dawning that the environmentalism of most greens was actually very shallow. Their agenda was a human-centered one, at whose core was a belief in expanding entitlements. The Green Party quickly distanced itself from any serious stance on overpopulation and soon began to put environmental issues on the back burner.”
Irvine hits the nail squarely on its head! It’s not to put people down. It’s simply to state things as they are. Most people don’t care much for environmentalism (in a deep sense). In fact, as Irvine also writes (as a continuation of the passage above), “I was amazed, for example, when, not long after joining the Green Party, I was told by one of its then co-chairs that the party went on too much about the environment.”
This reminds me of someone I briefly exchanged thoughts with while at that People’s Climate March in New York City that I wrote about on this page years ago (see the 10/6/14 blog post below). I don’t remember whether I mentioned this in that blog post or not, but I met someone there who introduced himself as a Green Party candidate (in a local race) and yet couldn’t even name all of the ten tenets that define the Green Party. He was searching his mind, but coming up empty. Which I suppose proved my point better than anything I could’ve said. My point was simply that environmentalism (for lack of a better word), needs to be something much more substantive than simply relegating it to just one item on a list of ten or so things. It’s what, after all, makes that list possible, in the first place.
Anyway, that is one reason why I have never considered myself a Green. But I also have never considered myself a humanist. While “humanist” is increasingly becoming a fashionable term, for one thing, human-ist sounds an awful lot like anthropocen-trist. We always place human concerns front and center — always! — and I think that basically leaves out a major part of the equation: we need this planet, more than this planet needs us! Nature doesn’t care if the ice caps melt, if sea level rises fifty feet, if storms become ferociously stronger, if the present makeup of species is wiped out and replaced with something very different. Nature doesn’t care whether it ushers in an Ice Age, or we usher in a Fire Age. Nature doesn’t care if Nature ceases to exist. But we should. And the quality of our lives — both long-term and short-term — depends upon, I believe, the quality of nature that surrounds us; and this is true whether we realize it or not (and whether we’re capable of, as a species, realizing it or not). Now here is the quotation I want to include next:
“Humanism displays a certain arrogance, as if we are somehow separate or superior to nature.” — Arne Naess
Those are the words of the man who coined the phrase “deep ecology.” Deep ecology refers to the outlook that there is an intrinsic worth to Nature that is not quantifiable in terms of dollars and cents and that is completely separate from man. As David Orton has stated in his writings (according to Wikipedia), “The soul of deep ecology is the belief that there has to be a fundamental change in consciousness” in terms of how we “relate to the natural world.” I do strongly believe we need a fundamental change in human consciousness; and I don’t see how anyone can argue with that.
Now, in rapid fashion, let me present the remaining quotations that I’ve chosen to include here:
“I don’t want to protect the environment, I want to create a world where the environment doesn’t need protecting.” — Unknown
“Our awe of nature, and the silence we must observe when we watch wild animals, hints, I believe, at the origins of religion.” — George Monbiot
“Anyone who doubts that environmentalism can make a complete and perfectly satisfactory religion should have grown up in our house.” — John Muir
Nearly half of the 250 schools in the Nairobi slum of Kibera are religious schools, teaching one brand of Christianity or another. Why isn’t there even one environmentalist school? — Erik Assadourian
Indeed. But rather than ask “Why isn’t there one?,” why not ask “Why aren’t they all?” For if “environmentalism can make a complete and perfectly satisfactory religion,” then perhaps that’s the way to go about weaning people who feel that they need religion, off religion; while, simultaneously, taking us one giant step closer toward saving the planet. It’s not a question of whether that can be done — of course it can be done — it’s a matter of how best to go about trying to achieve that goal.
One issue I have with religions is that they involve deep foundational beliefs. This is not something that can be equatable to ” ‘X’ is my favorite color, what is your favorite color?, but comes down to believing in things like Creationism, Heaven, angels, divine intervention, miracles, the power of prayer, souls, karma, and so forth …
As a brief aside, one idea that I have — and this is something I think religious people would actually enjoy and appreciate [in fact, I think this is something Richard Dawkins might actually enjoy, as well] — touches upon this topic. It’s not something I’m particularly interested in being involved in myself. It’s just one of my many ideas, that could (with financial backing) blossom, if given the chance.
But I’ll end with this. On that Facebook page I referenced above (that of Sandy Irvine), I particularly like Irvine’s final paragraph. It’s powerful, to the point, and well-stated:
“I often feel that we have collectively passed the point of no return. The juggernaut of destruction now seems so big and is moving too fast to be stopped before vast and irreparable damage to planet Earth has taken place. The industrialization of countries like China and India is probably that final straw which will break the proverbial camel’s back. I do hope I am wrong! I have to keep reminding myself of the dictum that it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” — Sandy Irvine