We post below excerpts from an essay by Paul Kingsnorth titled "Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist," which appears in a 2017 collection of essays of the same title. Kingsnorth is a Brit and cofounder of the Dark Mountain Project, a global network of writers, artists, and thinkers in search of “new stories for a world on the brink.” We found the following words to be remarkably thought-provoking. Please visit Kingsnorth’s website and consider buying and reading his books. And let us know what you think!
“I became an ‘environmentalist’ because of a strong emotional reaction to wild places and the world beyond the human. . . . But these are not, I think, very common views 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. We are not environmentalists now because we have an emotional reaction to the wild world. In this country, most of us wouldn’t even know where to find it. We are environmentalists now in order to promote something called ‘sustainability.’ What does this curious, plastic word mean? <<continued . . . >>
Nick Haddad, previously a professor of ecology at NC State University and presently senior ecologist with the W.K Kellogg Biological Station in Michigan, recently authored a fascinating and thought-provoking book, The Last Butterflies: A Scientist’s Quest to Save a Rare and Vanishing Creature (Princeton University Press, 2019). His quest involved determining which of half-a-dozen butterfly species is most at risk of extinction—regrettably, most of them barely clinging to survival in southern U.S. habitats. <<continued....>>
Populations of the world’s wild animals have fallen by more than 50 percent in recent decades and humanity is to blame. The popular news magazine, THE WEEK, reported on February 22, 2019, that the swelling human population (now 7.5 billion and mushrooming) has already had devastating impacts on the Earth’s wildlife. We’ve driven thousands of species to the edge of extinction through habitat loss, overfishing and hunting, trophy animal collection, introduction of harmful invasive species, toxic pollution, and climate change. Over the past 40 years, the number of wild animals–mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and marine life–have plunged by 50 percent. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that populations of higher-order vertebrate animal species have decreased by an average of 60 percent since 1970. <<continued . . .>>
This year, with clear evidence that the Trump Administration is jeopardizing many U.S. environmental conservation and protection programs and policies, with hugely damaging consequences, Gary E. Machlis, former National Park Service science advisor (and Clemson University professor of environmental sustainability), and Jonathan B. Jarvis, retired NPS career professional and national director from 2009 to 2017, co-authored an important and inspirational book. The Future of Conservation in America: a Chart for Rough Water (University of Chicago Press) asserts that we are in a period of “rough water,” affecting many environmental assets and conservation programs. The authors identify three major environmental and social threats (and the dangerous irresponsibility of denying them) confronting America: climate change, species extinction, and economic inequality. Actions are required to navigate through the very rough waters facing us. It is essential to assure that the conservation movement is understood by Americans (and especially by young people) as critically relevant to public health and interest. A general re-commitment to environmental conservation and protection is necessary. <<continued>>
With ecological systems being altered and assaulted at unprecedented scale and rate, it is time to increase our focus on ecological restoration and renewal. Our fragile ecological systems in the southern U.S. and across the entire Earth are damaged and imperiled. Preservation and conservation are not enough; we need to work more intensively to restore abused ecological systems and natural habitats.
In an essay by conservation biologist and Aldo Leopold biographer Curt Meine, re-published in the summer 2018 issue of The Leopold Outlook, the author reminds us that the relationship between humans and the world is reciprocal. “As we work to heal the Earth, the Earth heals us.”
Meine recalls that Aldo Leopold, the father of wildlife conservation in America and pioneering figure in ecological restoration in the 1930s and 40s, noted that “Conservation, viewed in its entirety, is the slow and laborious unfolding of a new relationship between people and land.” Meine observes, “Conservation has evolved continually over the last century in response to the complex realities of social and environmental change. . . . Now, however, conservation finds itself caught in an intense and persistent vortex. Much of the debate involves our understanding of ecosystem change, the human role in affecting those changes, and the perils and potential of new technologies to respond to change.” <<Continued>>
Brendan Mackay, respected Australian ecologist, member of the International Union for Conservation, and science advisor to the Climate Change Commission, in his essay, “The Future of Conservation: An Australian Perspective,” offers some perceptive and stark opinions. Here we quote a portion of the essay and encourage you to read it in its entirety. It can be found in a collection of essays published by Island Press: Keeping the Wild: Against the Domestication of Earth (2014).
Do we need a new compass bearing? In the midst of what is now considered to be the sixth mass extinction in the approximately 4.5-billion-year history of Earth, knowing that the primary agent of biodiversity loss (the aggregate impacts of human activities) is increasing in reach and intensity, it is perhaps understandable that some conservationists have lost their way, have given up hope, or are now suggesting that the goal of conservation be abandoned and reinvented. The(ir) argument goes something like this: There is no longer any wild land, what we have left is in a seminatural state (the product of human management and impacts), so we should think of ourselves more as gardeners who have to manage the planet carefully, ensuring that ecosystems remain healthy and providing people with food, water, and other ecosystem services; in brief, we need to “domesticate nature more wisely.”
Conservation, viewed in its entirety, is the slow and laborious unfolding of a new relationship between people and land.
There is in fact no distinction between the fate of the land and the fate of the people. When one is abused, the other suffers.
From the President
SCP President Chuck Roe looked at land conservation along the route of John Muir's "Southern Trek."
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