I need a short name for what is lacking; I call it the ecological conscience. Ecology is the science of communities, and the ecological conscience is therefore the ethics of community life. I will define it further in terms of four case histories, which I think show the futility of trying to improve the face of the land without improving ourselves. Aldo Leopold in The Ecological Conscience (1947)
You Got To Know Sin To Preach Against Sin
I know that humans don’t like being preached to, and I apologize if I come across as doing just that. However, I’m at a loss as to how best to get my point across concerning escalating environmental degradation because, whether you know it or not, there’s a real sense of urgency on your part. You humans have a nifty maxim that goes something like, “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”. I hope you realize that that word your means YOU…each and every one of you, not just those labeled anti-enviros and climate deniers!
Yes, I’m even talking you environmentally-minded types because I’m not so sure how many of you fully understand what living a life of sustainability really means! And I’m more than a little angst-ridden to have to say this, but even some biologists are not totally in-tune with the precarious predicaments of my fellow fauna. Down below I’ll show how even my good friend the fish biologist exhibits some human traits that are indicative of the challenge that lies ahead for those of you who are trying to make a real difference.
The reality is that because of your poor planning, lack of political will, or whatever you want to call it, there is an emergency on my part as well as many of my fellow critters. The loss of biological diversity is out of control; many species are dropping off the scene like contestants on The X Factor. I know that this is hard for you to put into perspective, but conservation biologists estimate that the current extinction rate is nearly 1,000 greater than if humans weren’t part of the equation. Trust me and please heed my warning – there will be a day of reckoning for your kind if that trend isn’t reversed.
You want to know what’s frustrating to us non-humans? No matter how good we “lesser organisms” are at planning or working together, we can’t do a damn thing about our demise. You humans have got to come together, collectively, and get your act together and not put off for tomorrow what you must do today.
How, you might ask, can you do that? If you haven’t noticed, this blog is a continuation of Blog 2: The Human Race Must Get In Charge Of Itself Psychologically In Order To Avert Ecological Calamity. Subsequently, the answers to all your problems are rooted in psychology; hence and the fitting quote above by Mr. Leopold.
Aldo Leopold was a true visionary, as noted by that quote from over 60 years ago which he incorporated into his final essay before passing away. Not only was he a scientist, forester, writer, and one of the earlier ecologists – he was a pseudo-psychologist (I don’t mean that in a demeaning way; he was right on as far as his assessment for the need for Homo sapiens – “the wise ones” to get your act together).
Now on to my fish biologist friend – as much as I respect his passion and zealousness to do right by my finned friends and me, he exhibits way too many anthropoid detrimental traits.
Now he wouldn’t admit this, at least not publicly, but he’s guilty of several of the biases and behavioral shortcomings that Gifford and Bazerman described in Blog 2. Now don’t tell him, but one of his worst traits is his propensity to project his maladies on to others. To show you what I mean, let’s start out with some definitions of projection in regards to psychology:
1) A defense mechanism in which the individual attributes to other people impulses and traits that he himself has but cannot accept. It is especially likely to occur when the person lacks insight into his own impulses and traits.
2) The individual perceives in others the motive he denies having himself. Thus the cheat is sure that everyone else is dishonest. The would-be adulterer accuses his wife of infidelity.
And then there is neurotic projection – something that my biologist friend exhibits all too frequently (I certainly hope that he doesn’t read this blog, or he might cease to confide in me if I keep divulging his deepest and darkest secrets):
Neurotic Projection – Perceiving others as operating in ways one unconsciously finds objectionable in yourself. (I plan to expound on this subject in great detail in a future blog – in fact, this may be my flagship example that, if given assistance by some of your influential types, may kick start a worldwide ecological conscience like Mr. Leopold strove for)
Besides those psychological neuroses my friend exhibits, he’s a terrible procrastinator…and he knows it. I won’t go into it here, but he’s got more excuses to justify his dawdling than Hillary Clinton has for her questionable use of her personal e-mail account.
My friend has been working on a book for over a decade, one that he hopes to make a real difference with in regards to how each and every one of you see yourselves and your place in the environment. During several reviews of drafts by those with more of a penchant for prose than he, a common criticism was, “Show, don’t tell.” I think he was also told that he wasn’t supposed to preach!
Although his mind doesn’t quite work in a way that readily evokes action and emotion (he is a scientist after all), here’s an excerpt of his efforts taken from his personal experience:
It’s mid-February and twenty degrees below zero outside. A strong north wind is slashing angrily at your loose fitting windowpane that’s missing that chunk of caulk you neglected to replace. It’s 3:30 am and you’re snuggled up under your goose down comforter with the electric blanket setting set on high. Because you’re energy conscious, you’ve turned the thermostat down below the 60-degree range before crawling into bed. Although it’s toasty under the covers, if you move your leg six inches you can feel the stone cold sheet brush against your lily-white sensitive skin. Now your bladder is beginning to remind you that you shouldn’t have had that last cup of decaf coffee while watching The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.
How much discomfort are you going to endure before you force yourself out from your heavenly haven and answer nature’s call? Each time you’re about to peel off the covers, you think about how cold the frigid hardwood floor will feel on the balls of your tender feet? The damndest thing is, it only takes three minutes in a situation like this to solve the pressing, distressing concern – yet you’ll endure agony for much, much longer! Although as each and every minute ticks by, the cliché – pay me now or pay me later – reinforces itself, you’ll do no different the next time.
As far as his neurotic projections and the fact that he is, himself, occasionally guilty of actions that may not have the environment’s best interest in mind, an old Forest Service crony once chided him, “You got to know sin to preach against sin.”
He’s hoping that by stating some simple concepts like this that he’ll be able to show you all some of the behaviors that you’ve got to work on. He so wants to show you folks what it is that you’re up against – then he hopes you’ll act on it.
He believes that most things are only a matter of scale, and that mankind’s pressing environmental crises are only several notches above an individual’s personal quandary on those cold nights. The ultimate question is, “How much discomfort will you endure before the hand writing on the wall articulates that it’s time to get off your collective duffs and act?”
The more contemporary question may actually be, “When will it too late?”
It’s a scary thought, but if Mr. Leopold was right it might already be too late…or at least time will expire before you change course. Here’s an excerpt from Ecological Conscience: I have no illusions about the speed or the accuracy with which an ecological conscience can become functional. It has required 19 centuries to define decent man-to-man conduct and the process is only half done; it may take as long to evolve a code of decency for man-to-land conduct. In such matters, we should not worry too much about anything except the direction in which we travel. The direction is clear and the first step is to throw your weight around on matters of right and wrong in land-use. Cease being intimidated by the argument that a right action is impossible because it does not yield maximum profits, or that a wrong action is to be condoned because it pays.
I’ll let you chew on that until the next blog; and that blog will show how even the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service neglects the fishes they espouse to revere. Talk about the need for some psychological adjustment!