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Jessica Stiles

ENG 311
29 September 2015
Defining Environmentalism
Environmentalism is multi-faceted. It involves a compassion and a listening to
the environment that surrounds one, but also incorporates practices of
environmental respect and consciousness in everyday life. For if we didnt care for
the earth, pretty soon we wouldnt have anything to appreciate. On a larger scale,
which regards the world community as a unified whole and not just distinct
individuals, it involves a knowledge and an acceptance that we are inextricably tied
to what we call the environment and nature, and we must not be ignorant of the
fact that the fate of the earth is the fate of our species.
The earth is constantly speaking to us. It tells us what it needs what it has
too much of and what it lacks. Aldo Leopold in his San County Almanac uses the
example of the relationship between predators, higher on the food chain, and prey,
lower on the food chain. When we eliminate the predators or the prey, we disrupt a
carefully balanced relationship. For example, exterminating all the predators, such
as large wildcats, might seem like the best thing to do economically, because it
leaves more deer for the hunters. However, what happens in this situation is an
overpopulation of that taxon, which in turn leads to diseases of the species, because
of competition for resources, and a tax on the land, because there are so many
specimens reaping its resources. So when I speak of being attentive towards the
land, I mean that we should not ignore what we see in nature. If more fires are
occurring, if storms are more frequent, if temperatures are higher, if the smog is
thicker in the air and the waters are thick with sludge, it is the earth communicating
a lack of well-being. And it needs our help. The earths sickness can only be cured if
we bother listening to its messages in the first place. Otherwise our own ignorance
could be our end.
Secondly, regarding the environmentally conscious practices in everyday life,
this is my opinion: that every conservation effort, however seemingly minimal,
matters not because we are seeing immediate or significant changes to the
condition of our earth, but because it is a sign that we care. And caring is the most
instrumental factor in successful environmentalism. As Leopold wrote, Obligations
have no meaning without conscience (282). We can change our practices to be
more environmentally conscious, such as not wasting water, using low-impact,
environmentally friendly sources of fuel, avoiding unnecessary and harmful
procedures such as fracking, etc. etc. But having faith in the process is what really
makes it work, because once we dismissively start to say were not going to save
the Earth anyway, then it is already lost. The development of environmentally
friendly practices still has a long way to go alternative sources of fuel and power
are being developed, more products are becoming recyclable or compostable but
the trick is that we need to be willing to give a little, and the returns we will see will
be tremendous. When I speak of giving, I do not just mean the mechanical process

of feeding the earth; giving our time, and our patience, and our willingness to make
changes is just as, if not more, important.
And finally, we must engage with what Leopold named The Community
Concept, the concept that we are members of an intricately interwoven natural
community, and not overseers of some distant nature that is beneath us. When
we think of ourselves as being separate from, and superior to, the usable,
expendable earth and its rocks and trees and creatures, we fail to see the
interdependence that exists and will always exist between us and the rest of the
natural world. And it is definitely a fight, in our modern times, to see those so-oftenobscured connections between ourselves and the natural world. We are separated
from it by multiple degrees, or middlemen, as Leopold puts it. We rely on the
synthetic quite a lot. But to disregard natures role, and what it contributes to
making our accustomed way and quality of life possible, is ignorant. Even in ways
that we cannot see, the earth serves us. And even in ways that we would prefer not
to see, we are highly dependent on our environment for our prosperity. But we must
admit this interdependence, because otherwise, one day, when we have stripped
the earth bare of everything that is useful and necessary to us, we will finally realize
that we can create and what we maintain without the aid of nature is very little, if
anything at all. But this realization will have come late in the game, and because we
will then have drained the earth of its regenerative capabilities, it wont be able to
save us.