…There’s starting to be a sense now that there’s a moral issue about degradation of the environment, that there is something here that’s larger than us, something that’s given birth to all life forms and sustains us. And if we degrade that, it’s to the degradation of future generations. So there’s an inter-generational ethic here. And there’s a new emerging ethic of responsibility to people in other parts of the world who are suffering from our actions with things like climate change, which is affecting people along coastal waters.So where is the moral force going to come from for inter-generational ethics or ethical responsibility for people in other parts of the world? It’s going to come from longer-range thinking, and that’s what the religions can contribute.
With global warming pushing some animals and plants to the brink of extinction, conservation biologists are now saying that the only way to save some species may be to move them.
This strategy — which goes by various names including assisted migration, assisted colonization, and, most recently, managed relocation — only emerged in the scientific literature in 2007. Over the past two years it has attracted widespread interest. A number of scientists are now investigating how they can pick new homes for endangered species and move them safely.
I don’t know exactly what percentage of greenhouse gas we would reduce if everybody planted a garden, but it would be a percentage and it would be a help. If you go back to the victory garden moment in American history during World War II when the government strongly encouraged us all to plant gardens because we were reserving the output of our agricultural system for the troops and for starving Europeans — within a year or two, we actually got up to producing forty percent of our produce from home gardens.
The writer Wendell Berry was right a long time ago when he said the environmental crisis is a crisis of character. It’s really about how we live. The thought that we can swap out the fuel we’re putting in our cars to ethanol, and swap out the electricity to nuclear and everything else can stay the same, I think, is really a pipe dream. We’re going to have to change, and the beginning of knowing how to change is learning how to provide for yourself a little bit more.
We were having this conversation in the 1970s
But it was a simpler time.
We would give a lot for their crises right now. They look pretty easy to solve compared to what we face.
In the 80s, Reagan took the solar panels off the roof of the White House. Carter was belittled for his concern. It was a shrinking of the American horizon. The whole idea of limits was discredited by “morning in America” and the promise of unlimited growth once again.
Pollan: I don’t see myself as a writer of food and the environment. I see myself as a kind of nature writer who likes writing about the messy places where the human world and the natural world intersect. I’m much less interested in wilderness, where most American writers interested in nature writing go to think about nature, than I am in gardens and houses and diets. All these places where we can’t just look at nature and admire it, or deplore what’s happening to it, but we really have to engage, we have to change.
My writing all starts in the garden. My experience was entering the garden with a head full of Thoreau and Emerson, and finding those ideas, as beautiful as they are, do not prepare you for when the woodchuck comes and mows down your little crop of seedlings.
We’ve had in this country what I call a wilderness ethic that’s been very good at telling us what to preserve. You know, eight percent of the American landmass we’ve kind of locked up and thrown away the key. That’s a wonderful achievement and has given us things like the wilderness park.
This is one of our great contributions to world culture, this idea of wilderness. On the other hand, it’s had nothing to say of any value for the ninety-two percent of the landscape that we cannot help but change because this is where we live. This is where we grow our food, this is where we work. Essentially the tendency of the wilderness ethic is to write that all off. Land is either virgin or raped. It’s an all or nothing ethic. It’s either in the realm of pristine, preserved wilderness, or it’s development — parking lot, lawn.
So I think we’re undergoing a sea change. I think that environmentalists are recognizing that as important as wilderness is as a standard, as a baseline, sustainability is a very different baseline. I think our focus is moving from wilderness to sustainability. That’s not to say we have to destroy the wilderness to have sustainability. It’s just that, okay, we did that. That was the project that engaged us for 150 years. The project now is very much more the gardener’s project, or the farmer’s project, which is how to use nature without ruining it.