Reconciliation Ecology: Reconnecting People with Nature

Eric - Mazama, Washington
Entered on May 20, 2008
Age Group: 65+
Themes: humanism, nature

I believe that native people were the gardeners of Eden, and that the beautiful myth of “pristine wilderness” will, like Santa Claus, eventually yield to the realities of the need for restoration ecology, and that wilderness management is not an oxymoron.

I believe in the reconciliation of nature and people, and that we are still part of nature, and still co-evolving with it, even though “nature deficit disorder” and depression are obviously chronic and widespread.

I believe there are encouraging signs that diverse segments of the political-religious spectrum are beginning to see that green is good, instead of only “seeing red” or blue. Jimmy Carter’s book urging the re-separation of church and state may prepare the way for biological literacy to be taught, in ALL our schools. Simulataneously in the secular realm, Michael Rosenzweig’s “Win-Win Ecology: How earth’s species can survive in the midst of human enterprise” has introduced the concept of “reconcilation ecology” to green activists stuck in the discouraging quagmire produced by environmental fundamentalism’s mistaken attempt to separate people and wild nature.

I believe that “attention deficit disorder,” which afflicts the media and politicians as much as children, can be cured by reconnecting people with nature. I’ve spent a long career in our National Parks, Forests, and ski areas, where I witnessed the power of wild nature to heal over-civilized human nature. In all three venues I saw how user friendly development could ease overstressed, over-wired and especially wireless victims of destructive development, overpopulation’s crowing, and poor wild land management.

Trails that gently entice people to walk, paddle, run, swim, ski, or snowshoe are examples of good development. Grooming snow for skiers, or grading and brushing hiking and snowshoe trails eases the way for newscomers to self-propelled recreation. Simply getting people out of their cars and away from their computers is the first challenge. I believe this all too obvious task is too often overlooked. Like methadone for heroin addiciton, or nicotine patches, there are many other developments that ease healthy transitions. Gracious National Park-style lodgings and visitor centers are second only to trails, and need to be combiend with trails. Trains, shuttle buses, bike paths, gondolas, and chairlifts are also required. I’ve seen all of these work miracles for that first crucial withdrawal. In our age of the obesity pandemic, all these tools are needed.

I believe that fun and easy ways to reintroduce wild nature are better than preaching environmental gospels, lawsuits or demonstrations, and certainly better than monkey wrenching. I believe positive strokes are better than confrontation, and that laughter soothes tears.

I believe “Gardeners of Eden” by Dan Daggett, and subtitled “Rediscovering our importance TO nature” is the recently published book that more than any other I’ve seen reconciles the too often seperate social and environmental movements. Aldo Leopold’s “Sand County Almanac” certainly is now the old testament of conservation, and I believe “Gardeners of Eden” compliments it as our new testament.