Conservation and Sustainability: A Sensible Approach

My interest in humanity occasionally extends to things outside my own personal space, to observe how my habits compare to others, to gauge how different or similar they are than what I see others doing.

I’ll preface this post with a confession. I’m a tree hugger. I brake for squirrels (which is useful to know, if you’re behind my car). When I lived in the South, I once pulled over to pick up a large hard-shelled turtle that was certain to become roadkill by the time it made it across a simple two-lane road.

Sometimes I pick up garbage in the street, if there’s a receptacle nearby. If I see an empty bottle of whiskey lying in the street, I’m just as likely to come back at some point and pick it up than let it be, even though it’s not mine. It’s what I do.


Our Relationship  With the World

This does not preclude I care about the world or what’s in it any more or less than anyone else, only the vague hope that you’ll do the same for me the next time I’m driving down the road, with something else on my mind than what’s in front of me.

I also believe in karma, the notion that everything’s connected, indefinite and malleable somehow, in the grand scheme of things. I don’t propose it’s easier to do good things or re-think your actions than it is to let it lie, as Homer Simpson found out in Time and Punishment (a portion of the Treehouse of Horror V episode).

Consider the impact of the annual Burning Man event on the environment, or the fact that some animals’ very existence (including man’s) is potentially hazardous to the planet’s health, and you begin to see how saving the planet for future generations can be a perplexing situation that leads to lots of head-scratching indecision about “the right thing to do.”

That said, I don’t think we should be all bat-shit crazy about Mother Earth dying tomorrow. Maybe more conscious about its general decay and life-expectancy, as an over-civilized planet, sure. But not all, “I can’t eat anything wrapped in paper or processed in any way, because it creates environmental waste and (eventually) generates fossil fuels.”

The slippery slope this line of reasoning implies would leave us too petrified to do anything but stay home, forever locked in a death-grip of denial, lest we add to the “gross national debt” of life on earth.



What Are Your Intentions?

Personally, I only know one thing for sure. It’s worthwhile to cautiously consider how our habits shape our destiny, and why I propose we (should) care about conservation, and adopt a sensible approach to sustainable living.

Humor me with an experiment. Take a look around your neighborhood or walk down a few streets close to home. Take in the amount of trash you see as a marker to the well-being of your local environment, long before you subscribe to sensational highlight reels on news broadcasts that rally around the world’s sad state of affairs.

For most of the world’s inhabitants, efforts to preserve our habitat and conserve our resources should begin in our own backyards, far removed from goodwill gestures and notable volunteer work that looks good on a resume. I further propose the difference between being reactive and proactive involves motivation, in every sense of the word. Heads up on this one.

There will always be things to be upset about. It’s in our nature to be affected by the things we see on television or read about in the news – we wouldn’t be human otherwise. What we do with this information, however, makes all the difference in the world.

As an advocate of sustainable resources, recycling, and “green living,” be cautious of who your interests serve when considering reasons to get involved in local, regional, or national conservation programs. I don’t watch the news much, but if you’re smiling like the devil when you inspire others to take action or your sound bites seem more self-serving than altruistic, I’m already suspicious of why you care about the planet.


Common Sense Conservation

We shouldn’t whine, then, about how the world’s going to hell in a handbasket until we’ve walked a mile in a conservationist’s shoes, blisters and all. Don’t assume your efforts at leaving less of a destructive footprint are any more important than the other guy’s, especially if you’ve never spoken to each other. Translation? Step out of your comfort zone and join hands – that’s when the real work gets done.

Secondly, don’t blame previous generations for being callous or ignorant about saving the planet and increasing your personal burden as a living member of the 21st Century – that’s just counter-productive. We’ve learned what we’ve learned about saving the planet (for the most part) in the last 100 years, and if you’re more than 50 years old, your parents and grandparents, sadly, didn’t know any better.

Conservation wasn’t common knowledge when our forefathers were busy signing the Declaration of Independence, wasn’t trendy or profitable in a way that eager British refugees could foresee or comprehend. Evolution and compassion are seldom synonymous – there’s no clear trajectory between them.

Friends, I don’t deny the scientific evidence that substantiates our bad report card as careless inhabitants of a living, breathing planet with a finite life span. To use political language in an election year, mistakes were made. Treehugger spells out a number of sobering statistics on how we as humans contribute to our own planetary demise.

I also don’t pretend that my advice about picking up trash around town or walking to work every day will slow Earth’s steady, inevitable decline. My only hope is that how I feel about my surroundings becomes an infectious, and more importantly, habit forming ritual for those who smile when the sun shines in the morning.



Final Thoughts: Putting It All in Perspective

What’s the point of the conversation then? What’s my proposition for making a difference on the longevity and preservation of the planet, setting aside (momentarily) the convenience or humanity of the effort?

Well, here are some simple truths. One – most people want to do the right thing. Two – conservation starts at home. When you’ve raked the pretty pebbles and picked out the cigarette butts in your own little corner of the sandbox, then and only then should you attempt to care what your nearest neighbor or neighboring country is doing about…whatever it is they’re doing.

Do something. Doesn’t have to be momentous or valid or tax-break friendly. If spring cleaning within your ¼ acre feels good, happy birthday. Approach future concern about “the environment” on a sliding scale of depth and breadth accordingly. If you get to the state level, consider yourself fortunate to have a heart, and let time and interest be your sole mistress for progress.

Then, talk about it with someone you trust to care, because I am certain about one thing. It’s only when we start comparing notes about whose efforts are more important that we become less than productive as a species. Compassion and momentum is progress, and in this case, it’s all good.

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