“But they are harder to find now, those spirits. I look out across the moonlit Lake District ranges, and it’s as clear as the night air that what used to come in regular waves, pounding like the sea, comes now only in flashes, out of the corner of my eyes, like a lighthouse in a storm. Perhaps it’s the way the world has changed. There are more cars on the roads now, more satellites in the sky. The footpaths up the fells are like stone motorways, there are turbines on the moors, and the farmers are being edged out by south-country refugees like me, trying to escape but bringing with us the things we flee from. The new world is online and loving it, the virtual happily edging out the actual. The darkness is shut out and the night grows lighter and nobody is there to see it.” - Paul Kingsnorth, Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist
I’m not sure when I realized I was an ‘environmentalist.’ I always scorned being classified or grouped into labels, such as a feminist, liberal/democrat/conservative/republican. To me they were just names of boxes which we crawl in or are shoved into with labels on the covers. Once labeled, all personal thought and individual ideas are ignored. You don’t own yourself anymore.
I realized decades ago that my attachment; actually, my very sense of identity and place, with the non-human environment was an inherent part of me that can’t be ignored or pretended. I am a product of my environment. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Even as a scientist, a biologist, I am constantly reminded of the world around me and how it affects me. I wither and fade in cities. In the forests, the desert, near lakes and rivers, surrounded by a variety of flora and fauna, I am a child and wizened adult, a creative and loving force.
An environmentalist to me is to listen and care for the surrounding environment. To speak for them in a language humans can understand. To learn their stories and nourish their growth. To respect their inherent values and places in our complicated web of life. And to find a way to re-establish connections between people and their wild partners on this planet. Before we destroy it all, and in this way, destroy ourselves. I want to give back what it gives to me: life.
Yet it seems that 'environmentalism' has evolved into something else. Like those labeled boxes we are hide in, even the environmentalists are trading that early set of values for trendy and compromising chips, like playing at an environmental casino. It’s all about trading species in one place for another million hours of air conditioning in an overpopulated desert city. Or the sacrificial lamb in the name of ‘conservation’. Conservation of what? And for whom? This is not the ‘environmentalist’ that I am today, nor was before.
I’ve been called a ‘tree hugger’. So be it. Sometimes I’d rather hug a tree than many of my own species.
“We are environmentalists now in order to promote something called “sustainability.” What does this curious, plastic word mean? It does not mean defending the nonhuman world from the ever-expanding empire of Homo sapiens sapiens, though some of its adherents like to pretend it does, even to themselves. It means sustaining human civilization at the comfort level that the world’s rich people—us—feel is their right, without destroying the “natural capital” or the “resource base” that is needed to do so.” - Paul Kingsnorth