With Earth Day upon us, I decided to pause and give some thought to what it really means to be an environmentalist. For I believe that the protection of the Earth is the single most important challenge of our times. Issues of the environmental impact texture every decision I make. While I enjoy many of the perks of 21st century American society, I never do so without my eyes fully open to the potential environmental detriments of choices, nor of the opportunities to make choices—often meaning choosing *not* to consume—to improve rather than degrade our world.
So what does it mean to be an environmentalist?
The whole “environmentalist” label means a lot of things to me, a whole heck of a lot more than some of the pompous talk show host types would lead one to believe. To me being an environmentalist means things like buying locally, tending to the bike over the car, reducing consumption, eating low on the food chain, eating organic, wondering when growth became the goal of every human endeavor, wondering why we push for development at all costs, wondering how one can put a value on a wild rose or a moose calf suckling its mother or an old growth tree, wondering if anyone ever feels like crying when they see positive profit reports the way I do when I see a rainbow in the Rockies, questioning those who believe nature is only important in the context of how it is used (and abused) by man, questioning divine destiny, fighting to let nature control herself, fighting for wildlands, fighting for the critters who can’t fight for themselves, wondering who got to decide for me that I want electricity more than salmon or irrigation more than grayling or cows more than wolves and grizzles, wondering when knowing stock prices became more important than knowing your neighbor, reducing / recycling / reusing, eliminating the superfluous (isn’t so much of it superfluous?), shooting my TV (seven years and counting), questioning my government, questioning corporations, questioning why those that run things so often are friends with those that ruin things, wondering why people kill in the name of religion, wondering when “growing the economy” became a religion, trying to minimize my footprint on the earth, looking at altruism as a positive attribute, seeking out only positive influences, dreaming—really dreaming—about the way things could be and then allowing myself—even for the shortest moment—to believe.
In a time of toxic waste and water pollution and global warming and habitat loss and growing world population, potection and improvement of our Earth is the single most important challenge of our times, not just for those who are willing to call themselves greenies, or environmentalists, but for all citizens of the planet. In this I believe.
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