OR MANY YEARS, I called myself an ‘environmentalist’. I don’t use the word anymore, though the things that motivated me to do so are still important to me – perhaps more than they ever were.
I became an environmentalist because of a strong emotional reaction to wild places and to natural beauty. From that reaction came a feeling, which became a series of thoughts: that such things are precious for their own sake; that they are food for the human soul; that they need people to speak for them to, and defend them from, other people because they cannot speak our language and we have forgotten how to speak theirs; and because we are killing them to feed ourselves and we care about it, sometimes, but we do it anyway because we are hungry, or we have persuaded ourselves that we are.
These are not very common sentiments within the mainstream of the green movement today. Today’s environmentalism is as much a victim of the contemporary cult of utility as every other aspect of our lives, from science to education. You won’t hear many greens today talking about their emotional reactions to the wild world. Instead, you’ll hear them promoting something called ‘sustainability’.