“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, ‘What good is it?’”
Don’t care about the environment?
Don’t care about the world around you?
Not interested in the things that give rise to your life and liberty, the ultimate source of all your choices?
Not bothered that the environment is your home, that it feeds, clothes and shelters us all freely but for the value we place upon it?
Don’t care that others don’t have your chances, that those others might be your children, friends or your future self?
If so, here is something to bear in mind.
While you are smugly pursuing your careless freedom, there are a lot of people trying to figure out and build the means by which you, and all of us, can carry on with liberty of making choices about our purpose, systems of government and economics in a fast changing and finite world.
Whilst the environment may appear to be either someone else’s problem or just something that will always be there, there are very real reasons to recognise that a healthy environment is a pre-requisite for quality of life. Environmental quality is decreasing globally and the pressures that we are putting on it are increasing. For a snapshot of these trends, take a look at the IGBP’s “Great Acceleration” planetary dashboards.
While an attitude of “I’m alright Jack” may feel like a bold, individualistic choice, there are a couple of fundamental facts of life to remember:
- The earth is the source of all value, its where we live, and where we get all our stuff.
There isn’t anywhere else to live right now. Ignoring the state of our planet is like ignoring the state of our house, we may not care now, but if the walls fall down and the roof caves in we might have to start caring, especially when there is no place else to go move to.
- Whether we like it or not – our lives are interdependent.
Unless you happen to be a self-sufficient hermit, everyone needs and uses things that other people have worked on. The societies we live within are the products of collective effort and cooperation. If you don’t want the benefits of this collective action then fine, but dont stop other people from trying to make the world a better place to live in.
All that environmentalists are trying to do is ensure that the value that we get from the planet is reflected in the priorities and decisions that are made by politicians, economics and markets, so that we might continue to have freedom of choice. Even if the choice of some of us is to treat the planet with disdain or ignorance.
This involves trying to figure out how to match the fundamental value that the earth has to our very existence as a populous planet with 7.2 billion people on it, all members of the same species, all believing in something good for their lives.
That 7.2 billion contains you, and me.
I don’t mind you having the chance to carry on not caring about the environment, just as long as you don’t get in my way, because I am trying to help myself and the world I live in, and that’s a good thing for you too.
This piece was motivated in part by recent global political events which seem to be unravelling any hope of a sustainable future at high speed. It was also inspired by some specific conversations with random people recently, who have with a (smug) smile on their face said that they “Don’t really believe in the environment and don’t care about what happens to it or anyone else”.