So I recently obtained an internship answering questions at www.GreenAnswers.com, an environmentally focused social network which allows people the opportunity to answer whatever they wish. I like the format, and I’m spending an increasing amount of time wrapped up in some of the more significant questions. The title to this blog is one such question, on which I would like to commend the user for creating an interesting dialog. So far, no one else has posted a response, but seeing as many of the people on the site do not seem to have a strong ecological background, I’ll be curious to see if anyone else has a reaction. My answer:
I personally do not (nullifying your second question). There has been a great deal of research on the importance of time spent in nature and the influence people who spend such time in nature can later have in preserving those same areas. It is difficult to gain an appreciation for something if you have not ever spent time with it (or in it). For example, had Ansel Adams and John Muir not immortalized Yosemite in their works of art, perhaps it would never have become the preserve that it now is. With that said, Yosemite is also at capacity for tourists and is probably a good example of “endangered nature” and exemplifies why the members of EF! believe that such legislation is necessary.
Getting back to my original point though, I highly recommend Richard Louv’s “Last Child in the Woods” for an example of why nature is so essential to the human psyche. The EF! standpoint makes the assumption that humans are not naturally a part of wilderness themselves. To each his own, and I fully believe in the right to free opinions, but to exclude one from wilderness seems quite extreme, and how would one define that? I, for example, have lived with several generations of my family on a ranch in the San Francisco Bay Area for most of my life, and this same ranch is where my appreciation for nature and desire to preserve it was most fully cultivated (not in school, or at a local park, or in work as an environmental scientist) so would we to be excluded from the ranch, simply because it is mostly wilderness? If so, how do you tell a 75 year old man (my grandfather) that he has to spend the last years of his life somewhere other than his home because an eco-motivated group said so? (It should be noted as well, that my grandfather planted himself a circle of trees, called it tree-henge, and that’s where he spends most of his time. He has done a great deal to increase the trees per capita at this end of town).
And even further, how and where would we produce the food on which all of us rely for sustenance? Although many of the founding principles in EF!’s arguments were meant for good, I still can’t help but question the overall motivation of the statements. One of the primary services of nature, in my opinion, is the beauty that it provides to humans. I guarantee that many in my field would tell you the same; that not only do we as scientists wish to preserve the environment out of common sense and the need to, but also because we appreciate nature for its ability to rejuvenate us and keep us motivated on a regular basis. Take that away from us, and what’s the point of trying to save it, and essentially, the point of our day to day lives (since most of us are economically bound to preserving it)? That legislation is definitely one for which I could never get on board.