There are several regular letter writers to our local paper who are convinced that human activity has nothing to do with global warming, climate change, or anything like that. There are several other regulars who are intent on instructing them so that they finally agree that human activity does have something to do with it. It’s like a perpetual motion teeter-totter. If nothing else, it provides a certain level of entertainment to readers of letters to the editor. It does, however, get a bit tedious. Teeter-totters involve a lot of vertical motion, but they never go anywhere.
I wonder if it would be possible for them to move in another pdirection altogether? For instance, most of us, I think, wonder how some people can live like pigs. They appear to show little respect for themselves, their property, neighbors, and others in general. There are timeless adages about how birds don’t dirty their own nests that are supposed to teach us basic rules of self respect and respect for our surroundings. I think I got that lecture a few times in my youth, and I know my children did.
If these are personal virtues, held in common by most of us, are they not also public virtues? Why would we, as a society, tolerate abuse of our water, land and air that leaves it more fouled than we found it? Why would we tolerate such poor stewardship of our resources that future generations would have to work hard to clean up our messes if they hope to survive with any sense of well being? Being good stewards for ourselves and for the generations that will follow is not only good common sense, it’s the morally, ethically right thing to do.
We are not without progress. Farming practices are far more respectful of the land and the need to preserve its sustainability than they were a century ago. It may have taken strong legislation, but we have cleaner water and air than we did fifty years ago. There are less destructive and more restorative practices in mining and drilling than there were in decades past. We are more respectful of wildlife habitat, and more aware of how disruptive water diversion projects can be. Despite a few glitches here and there, these are all good things, and most of us would not want to go back to the way it used to be.
Clearly there is more to be done. Individually and as a society we need to make pragmatically workable decisions about how we can do better as stewards of this fragile earth, our island home, not only for ourselves, but for the generations that will follow us. Some of those decisions are ones we can each make on our own. Some require coordinated voluntary action. And some require formal legislation. It all needs to be done, and my guess is that our regular letter writers on both sides probably have some good ideas about what needs to be done, and what can be done. Maybe they’ll share them with us if they ever get off their teeter-totter.