Environmentalism Ezine #24
Are You Living in Harmony with Nature?
Many students of metaphysics find that as they study metaphysics they adopt an environmentalist perspective. Once you feel your connection to nature, you begin to feel a deep unconditional love for it. Nature is a wonderful tool to help you on your spiritual path, because of the love it can inspire into you. It is for this reason that I am a strong supporter of the environmental movement.
As defined by Wikipedia:
“The Environmental movement (a term that sometimes includes the conservation and green movements) is a diverse scientific, social, and political movement. In general terms, environmentalists advocate the sustainable management of resources, and the protection (and restoration, when necessary) of the natural environment through changes in public policy and individual behavior. In its recognition of humanity as a participant in ecosystems, the movement is centered around ecology, health, and human rights. Additionally, throughout history, the movement has been incorporated into religion. The movement is represented by a range of organizations, from the large to grassroots, but a younger demographic than is common in other social movements (see green seniors). Due to its large membership, varying and strong beliefs, the movement is not entirely united.”
For one of my Philosophy classes I wrote an essay on Environmentalism, which you may find interesting:
Environmentalism: Our Only Future
The problems with the environment must be addressed in order to allow future generations to experience life on Earth. Not only is the evidence of this environmental crisis abundant, but this evidence also makes humanity responsible for at least part of the problem. The environment is something that we must all be responsible for. As the economist E.F. Schumacher said, “Modern man talks of a battle with nature, forgetting that if he ever won the battle he would find himself on the losing side.” If we do not take action, future generations will not have the opportunity to experience life on Earth.
The environmental crisis exists for a variety of reasons. One of the main causes of this problem is ignorance. Many people are simply not taking enough responsibility. They need to realize that it is their problem too, because they also inhabit this Earth. If some of the people in charge are not taking responsibility, it is the duty of the rest of the people to do something about it. Lack of understanding and involvement has caused the environmental crisis that we are now experiencing.
The entire “balance of nature” is threatened by the way that humanity is using the environment. Since 1950, over half of the world’s tropical forests have disappeared. (Pye-Smith, p. 37) With the loss of their habitats, there has been the extinction of a large number of species. This disappearance of plants and animals has some serious consequences.
“An Inconvenient Truth” is a documentary about global warming. In this movie, Al Gore claims that the ten hottest years ever measured have all occurred in the last fourteen years. The hottest of all these years was 2005. Gore has been trying to show that this is no longer a political issue, it is now a planetary emergency. Gore would agree with Jerry Adler who said, “Science chipped away at the ranks of global-warming deniers, who have mostly been forced to concede that the Earth really is warming, and that industrial pollution is at least partly to blame.” (Moment of Truth, Newsweek)
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is the most senior and authoritative body providing scientific advice to global policy makers. In the years 1990, 1995, and 2001, the IPCC met in full session. According to the IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES), if we continue our present ways by the end of the 21st century, we can expect to see carbon dioxide concentrations that are anywhere from 75-350% above the pre-industrial concentration. For the future, “the IPCC projects a global temperature increase of anywhere from 1.4 – 5.8°C from 1990-2100”. (Source: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/globalwarming.html#INTRO)
Along with climate change, we are facing many other environmental problems. In 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that American water ways are getting dirtier for the first time since the Clean Water Act was passed thirty years ago. (Kennedy, p. 85)
The environmental movement has some solutions to these environmental problems, and it is gaining momentum. Environmentalism really took off for a while in the early 90’s, but then it began to fade away. But, in the past two or three years, climate change and other environmental problems have come back to the foreground. As Maggie Wood, an environmental designer in New York, said, “Green is the new black.” Also, the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”, mentioned above, was awarded an Oscar, which shows growing public interest in the environment.
Deep ecology is a philosophical branch of this movement. “Deep ecologists (like Arne Naess, George Sessions, and Gary Snyder) find an intrinsic value in all living systems, and condemn the human arrogance of anthropocentrism (human-centeredness). They are committed to “ecocentric” political action, such as the control of world population and abandonment of the goal of “increased standards of living” in areas where such an increase has already devastated nature.” (Palmer, p. 436) Deep ecologists understand that conservation is in the interest of human beings.
Deep ecologists point out that throughout human history, only a minority of humanity has held an anthropocentric view of the universe. They believe that something went wrong when humans were introduced as the center of reality and meaning (anthropocentrism).
Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess has said, “The earth does not belong to humans…Humans only inhabit the lands, using resources to satisfy vital needs. And if their nonvital needs come in conflict with the vital needs of nonhumans, then humans should defer to the latter.” (Sessions, p. 74)
“The environment is the third millennium’s universal issue of public importance.” (Pieters, in the Toronto Star) According to the National Environmental Trust, a half-dozen bills to control greenhouse gases have already been introduced or are being prepared for introduction to the Senate (Adler, in Newsweek). In Canada, last fall the Liberals elected a green leader. Back in mid-January, the Toronto City Summit Alliance identified the environment as the top issue among Canadians, with 26% respondents ranking in number one. (Pieters, in the Toronto Star)
Even some CEO’s for corporations are beginning to take part in this environmental movement. Hawken, an environmental consultant to corporations and an author has been quoted, “I sensed a shift about 24 months ago. Suddenly CEOs were expressing genuine concern about this issue, not just, ‘Can you get these people off our back?’”
Hawken defines “sustainability” as the quest for new social and technological systems that don’t require endless and increasing inputs of finite resources. Next, he raises the very interesting question, “Who has a greater stake in sustainability than the world’s biggest corporations?” (Source: Moment of Truth by Adler, Jerry in Newsweek)
Although sustainability seems like a worthy goal for everyone, there has still been some opposition to the environmentalist movement. Some anti-environmentalist groups simply claim that global warming does not exist. Groups like the Blue Ribbon Coalition promote driving internal-combustion engines anywhere they want, claiming environmentalists “don’t want anyone, anywhere, doing anything.” (Papciak, in Sierra Magazine) Many anti-environmentalists see the planet as one big free market, which can be exploited. The problem arises when people keep taking things out of the Earth without putting anything back. They claim that “environmentalists see “a world of problems” while conservatives see “a world of opportunity.” (Papciak, in Sierra Magazine)
The opposition to environmentalism is not just composed of anti-environmentalist groups; it has also been known to include the Bush Administration and many corporate capitalists. Robert Kennedy, one of America’s most prominent environmental attorneys, wrote in his book “Crimes Against Nature”, “Almost all the top positions at the agencies that protect our environment and oversee our resources have been filled by former lobbyists for the biggest polluters in the very business that these ministries oversee.” (p. 129) Kennedy goes on to say, “George Bush and his administration have eviscerated the laws that have protected our nation’s air, water, public lands, and wildlife for the past 30 years, enriching the president’s political contributors while lowering the quality of life for the rest of us.” (pg. 133)
Kennedy believes that true free market capitalism would actually be perfect for the environment. But as Jim Hightower has been quoted, “The free market is a great thing—we should try it some time.” (Kennedy, p. 103) In a real free-market economy, you would make yourself rich by enriching the community. But, polluters have become wealthy by making everyone else poor. Corporate capitalists don’t want a true free market; instead they want dependable profit, so they crush their competition by controlling the government. However, the world is in deadly danger now; we cannot play this power game anymore.
The good news is that as the environmental movement has gained momentum, and going green has become easier. Today, most houses that meet the US Green Building Council’s definition of a “green” home are indistinguishable from regular homes, yet they use less energy, fewer natural resources and fewer toxic chemicals. According to Energy Star, a joint program of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy, the typical house loses 15% to 20% of its energy. Energy conscious-construction can significantly reduce this waste. (Max, in Money Magazine).
ClimateCrisis.net is offering a free download on ten ways to take action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions which is available for download here: http://www.climatecrisis.net/pdf/10things.pdf. Based on this “Take Action Flyer PDF”, here are three things you can do now to take part in the environmental movement. First of all, recycle more. “You can save 2, 400 pounds of carbon dioxide per year by recycling just half of your household waste.” Second, avoid products with lots of packaging. “You can save 1, 200 pounds of carbon dioxide by cutting down your garbage by 10%”. The third thing you can do is to plant a tree. “A single tree will absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.” (Source: ClimateCrisis.net)
In order to end humanity’s current path of self-destruction we must mitigate the effects we have on our planet. The environmentalist movement is gaining momentum, and although we have come quite a long way, it is still up to us to keep this “green” movement going. We are all inhabitants of the Earth, so we are all in this together. Without the environment, humanity would not exist. Throughout the world, all kinds of people are rising up to challenge of building an eco-friendly world. The time to act is now. If we want our children to have the opportunity to experience life on Earth, we must build a sustainable future. Our only future is a sustainable future.
Pieters, Gary. Colour New Millennium Green, Toronto Star. (April 19, 2007). From: http://www.thestar.com/article/204685
Muzychka, Martha. Keeping it Real, The Telegram. (April 18, 2007). From: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rch&AN=6NW6NW3345035369&site=ehost-live
Max, Sarah. It’s Easy Being Green, Money Magazine. (January 2007). From: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/moneymag_archive/2007/01/01/8397399/index.htm
Adler, Jerry. Moment of Truth, Newsweek. (April 16, 2007). From: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032084/
Palmer, Donald. Does The Center Hold?. Boston: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2002
Kennedy, Robert Francis. Crimes Against Nature. New York: HarperCollins, 2004
Papciak, Mike. World On The Web, Sierra Magazine. (July/August 2000). From: http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/200007/mixedmedia1.asp
Pye-Smith, Charlie. World Conservation. London: Macdonald & Co., 1984
Gore, Al. An Inconvenient Truth (Movie). (2006). Paramount Vantage and United International Pictures, Theatrical Distributors
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Global Warming: FAQs. (Online) http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/globalwarming.html#INTRO, March 29, 2007.
Naess, Arne. The Deep Ecological Movement: Some Philosophical Aspects,” in Deep Ecology for the Twenty-First Century, ed. George Sessions (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1995).
Show love to yourself, by loving the planet.