Tuesday, December 4, 2007

City Boy Environmentalists

People come to environmentalism from many paths. One thing I have noted is that the really crazy environmentalists seem to all be city people.

I know plenty of people concerned for the environment who also seem to be practical, down-to-earth sorts.

But the crazys, the deep environmentalists, the Earth-Firsters and the PETA types are nearly always big city people. Why should that be?

The Earth is a city park writ large. Parks have boundries, neat paths, flower beds. They are never large enough to have anything approaching a true natural ecosystem, and are usually full of non-native species of plants and animals.

City people learn, at a deeply unconcious level, to relate to the environment via their childhood parks. Places to go and play and watch squirrels and feed pigeons. Parks have rules. Don't walk here, don't touch that flower.

Flyover country. That term sums up their feelings about the rest of the world. But actually to fly over the US and look down and what do you see? Well, mostly you see city, because the jets fly too high to see anything unless you are taking off or landing.

So you have to actually get out and take a drive through the country, off the interstates, to get a real feel for how big, empty and green the US actually is. Get out and walk. I watched four fox kits playing this summer, off a small rural gravel road. Magical.

Environmentalists fly somewhere, look around for a while, then fly home, convinced by the presence of a Starbucks and MacDonalds near their resort that the whole world is just as bady damaged as their own home towns are.

It is a lack of vision, a constrained mental universe that creates the green outlook on life. People who grow up in the country have a different world view. The world is large, unbounded, and intensly green (if you grew up in the desert you may contest that last point). Animals abound, more now than for the last 100 years and more. Forests, cut down for farmland in the 1800s are regrowing or regrown so that except for a fallen-down fence or a lonely foundation you would never know anything had ever been different.

The world is new and full of life and beautiful. I am willing to work to keep it that way. There are problems needing resolution. We need to keep a beady eye on companies and governments to keep them on the true.

We also need to keep level heads. Look up and see the world as it is. And it isn't your seedy city park.

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