From the Publishers

Source of action?

by Chris Klein
'm always interested in what has individuals be in action for the environment. Being informed and concerned is important ... but action is what makes a difference in the real world.
Conversations with friends, family, Earth Day volunteers and ET readers seem to indicate three fundamental motivations for getting involved. The first motivation I'll call "pragmatic." This is largely an appreciation for specific, quantifiable factors associated with ecological issues: how much will this oil spill cost, or how much will that toxin increase my chances of getting cancer.
The second motivation is ethical/moral. This seems to be different for each individual, based on their upbringing and beliefs. Personally, I feel a moral charge to leave the world in better shape than I found it - or at least no worse.
The third motivation is religious. While I make no claims of scholarship, it seems that all of the world's major religions have injunctions to preserve and care for Creation. Those who feel this stewardship strongly are moved to act.
All this makes perfect sense ... but something is missing. All of the above are intellectual exercises. And as I learned in school, you can find intellectual justification for just about any position. If you attend to the media coverage of Congress, you know this is true.
Something deeper is at work, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. That "something" is related to experience; there is a feeling that informs the intellect. It's a little bit like the difference between talking about love and being in love. Where does the being come from?
Clearly, it's not information. We have all the facts we can swallow, and they don't (necessarily) generate action. Everyone knows what makes a healthy diet; if all it took was facts, we'd all be healthy, fit and trim. But just look what's walking down the street.
Our lead article this month, Cultivating Biophilia: our love for the family of life, suggests some deep insights into this question that gave me a real "ah ha!" experience. It describes work by Edward O Wilson, Harvard biologist, Pulitzer prize winner and authority on biodiversity. Without recapitulating the entire article, Wilson presents the case that man has a natural affinity for life and other living organisms. The article suggests that a direct experience of nature can (re)generate the relationship needed to preserve it. This validates my own experience: after a trip into the wilderness, I definitely feel a renewed commitment to ecology. But I had always thought that the outdoor experience was just validating my position; the truth was, it was generating it!
So, one prescription for action is clear: experience the natural world directly. If you feel your environmental commitment slipping - or if you don't think you have one - try getting out into nature. Our Earth-Friendly Events calendar has dozens of outings within a half-hour drive of downtown San Diego.
Later this month, my wife and I are going on a wilderness rafting trip on the Salmon River in Idaho. I am looking forward to getting my ecological batteries recharged.