Ecospirituality and Activism
Out of the various key ideas we have studied concerning ecospirituality and activism, I’m taking a closer look at four that I believe can act as major solutions to our ecological crises. These are the teachings of Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Barry Lopez, and the animal rights movement. Spanning the last century & a half, these following beliefs independently stand out strong in their views, and together round out to a more whole perspective. Collectively they motivate me on a daily basis to reconnect with nature.
Henry Thoreau was an extreme naturalist of his time in the mid 18th century, and still today would be considered so. He intensely practiced what he preached about immersing oneself in nature. His lifestyle demonstrated the core message of seeing nature as extension of one’s identity. Doing so enabled him to make a deeper connection with the environment. Mr. Thoreau was an avid critic of the scientific analysis of nature, and warned that it intensified the feeling of alienation of oneself from his surroundings. He found more joy in owning less rather than too much junk. “He wrote in his journal: “It is fouler and uglier to have too much than not to have enough.” (Kinsley p 147)” He didn’t believe it was morally moral right to exploit nature as mankind saw fit; just as animal rights activist fight exploitation of animal’s rights. I am moving towards reducing my belongings to a minimalist collection. This helps me maintain a clean and organized home, which I find quite calming.
The animal rights movement has continued to grow and evolve, recently picking up large support in Western society. A main practice is vegetarianism, and ultimately veganism. Now living in a society where nearly all of the meat consumed comes from factory farms, people are more easily accepting that abstaining from consuming animals makes more ecological sense now. The message of this movement goes beyond what we choose to eat. Years ago when I went vegetarian it was because I felt sorry for the animals. Now my reasons have expanded into a wider ecological reasoning. Activists also point out that an animal’s freedom is exploited when they’re confined in entertainment, animal testing, pets, etc.
Aldo Leopold raised ecological awareness for many by expressing that whether we like it or not, man’s relation to nature is interdependent. He warned that to attempt to live independently from the web of life leads to detrimental actions. He encouraged people to regard the environment as one organism; to damage one part hurts the rest, including ourselves. A symbolic example I think of is how bamboo grows; numerous shoots all connected by their roots. He also wanted citizens to stop leaving out nature in what they defined as their community. He wanted to erase the separating thought between a community of humans and their environment. I like to feel that I am networking with nature; a mutual beneficial relationship, rather than parasitic. Today, Barry Lopez says the a man like Mr. Leopold “could be characterized as a keen observer, a field biologist who understood a deeper connection (or reconnection) with nature, but also as someone aware of the role wildlife science had begun to play in politics. (Lopez p.118)”
Barry Lopez’s perspectives aid humanity in the direction we need a new democracy to act for all. I agree with him that no one other than native people better understand the ecology of their land. I having been born and raised in Oregon, have first-hand knowledge here. An environmental scientist visiting Oregon for the first time would be able to figure out a lot based on their education, but they’d still be missing the deeper perspective of a long time observant resident. Globalization allows unaccountable people, who’ve never even stepped foot in the forest, approve its cutting and clearing. Studying to gain knowledge is beneficial, but we not forget to actively participate in the world.
In conclusion, the theme I see here is extending my identity to include the world around me. Thoreau accomplished this by not being afraid to get dirty by earth’s soil. As I learn to consider other’s needs and freedoms, I learn to give respect to all animals. As Leopold points out, I have begun to respect that humanity has an interdependent relationship with the world; harming others (including animals and plants) ultimately comes back to harm us. Lopez reminds us that we are participants in the world we live in, and urges us to become involved in the politics that are shaping our planet.