Happy Earth Day, everyone! What a perfect day for me to begin blogging again!
Earth Day was pioneered in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson, making April 22, 2012 the 42nd observance of Earth Day. I love Earth Day because it is the one day each year that everyone else is almost as concerned about the environment as I am. People do conservation and clean-up projects, they donate money, and they turn out lights and reduce fuel use. I love it, and I am the first to say that small actions really do add up. I know that individuals can make a real difference with their own actions and commitments to conservation and sustainability. I only wish that this interest and dedication lasted all year.
Interestingly, I was reading The Wall Street Journal last weekend, and I happened across an interview with British philosopher Roger Scruton, who discusses a similar viewpoint. Mr. Scruton postulates that environmental conservation cannot be left to the government; it must instead come from individuals who are willing to make relatively small sacrifices to drive major change. In order for the environmental movement to work, individuals must feel a moral obligation or an allegiance to local and national wellbeing. This reverence to our surroundings and love of our home is termed “oikophilia,” and it is this feeling that is mostly like to motivate us to take care of our surrounding environment. We often look to the government to make us do these things, but we must instead look to ourselves to limit our appetites and to originate change.
I couldn’t agree more. I think so often the idea of conservation and sustainability can be overwhelming. Not only do we hear alarmists telling us that we are destroying our planet, but we then face the daunting realization of just how big the planet is. That’s a lot of planet to save; how can we be expected to do that? Scruton takes a different perspective on the issue – one that is more dependent upon but also empowering to the individual. His theory is that the environmental movement can only be kickstarted by reminding people why they want clean air and water and green land in the first place. And, he believes that this reminder will come in the form of patriotism – a loyalty to one’s own country or hometown and a concern for its prosperity and security. Get every individual working toward this goal, and you can have a very real effect on the Earth.
Sure, there are plenty of us tree huggers out there who wish to save the planet because we think it is in danger and is worth saving. But, in order for the environmental movement to gain a larger following, we will need to connect with people in a different way. In America, I know that patriotism runs deep, and I believe that national pride could motivate many to take action.
So, show America some love. Reduce, reuse, recycle.