Until the lions have their own historians,
the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.
- Chinua Achebe
The stories we tell ourselves about what is possible create the maps by which we live. In recent years there has been a lot of talk about ecological ‘hot spots’ – pristine, endangered areas that conservationists seek to protect. The strategy is to identify places that are close to 90% degraded then seek to protect the beleaguered remaining 10%. The assumption seems to be that this is all we can hope to achieve, that we’ll be lucky to attain even this meager success.
But when we’re talking about saving (as if it were up to us) the natural world, is it even correct to ‘strategize’? The definition of the word strategy derives from military activity: Strategy (Greek "στρατηγία"—stratēgia: from stratēg (ós) military commander, general (strat ( ós ) army + -ēgos noun derivative of ágein to lead); meaning, A high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty (Source: wikipedia). Secondary definitions refer to strategy in the context of business or games.
Do we really want to depend on a military approach to healing our relationship with the natural world? Saving small percentages of the whole does not necessarily save or even protect what remains. Even the most passionate and well-educated researchers do not know the environmental tipping point that might cause Gaia’s demise. More important, we do not understand the deeper function of such things as oil, uranium, gold, diamonds, copper, and other buried substances that surely are neither random nor inconsequential and so presumably have a larger purpose, though we have not bothered to wonder what it is. Decisions and actions arising from short-term thinking do not consider long-range consequences nor do they perceive long-range possibilities and therefore cannot be argued to advance long-term goals. None of us knows what level of restoration is possible if we set our hearts to it. Technology is the hardware of restoration. Human devotion is the software - expressed through gratitude, reverence, and alliance with the Natural World.
Now more than ever is the time for a wildly expansive, un-practical vision of a natural world fully restored, within an epochal, perhaps millennial time frame. Infinitely better to spend our creative energy initiating the first 500 years of an unabashedly passionate vision of full, unimpeded and uncompromised global ecological and cultural restoration and to offer ourselves to an inclusive global dialogue that will create a global vision of restoration to inform and sustain us through multiple generations of effort. Remember that 100 years ago, commercial air travel, computers, and the Internet seemed impossible. Extinctions on the scale we’re seeing now seemed impossible, too.
As an example, the Healthy Climate Alliance, born in 2017, is a consortium of scientists and activists dedicated to restoring the climate to 300 ppm by 2050, ie to what it was when this generation’s elders were children. The initiative includes mechanical extraction of carbon from the atmosphere and repair of the ice sheets; economic incentives to tax pollution and support sustainability; and carbon sequestration through regenerative farming, reforestation and other natural means. The Vatican and the UN have embraced the idea.
Modernity demands that we sever our connection to the natural world and pledge allegiance to the things that money can buy. We are told that the impoverishment of the soul can be healed by consuming the things that corporations make for us, including buying the stories they tell us about Nature’s latest diminishment or the inevitability of the wars that bring profit.
If we surrender our vision of comprehensive global ecological restoration and settle instead for the struggle to protect tiny percentages of marine and terrestrial habitat, we allow corporations (and the culture which gives them primacy) to set the terms by which nature and nature lovers must abide. Do we really want to tell our children that the best we can manage is to save 10% or less of what remains of the intact natural world, though we don’t know whether that will be sufficient to keep Life on Earth viable? We’re talking here about the ‘surround’ upon which life depends. We’re talking here about life forms that have their own inalienable right to survive and thrive.
Within each of us is a passionate love for some place or being in Nature that will open our throats once again to the daily cooing of gratitude for Life. Once found, that gratitude is our most reliable guide to right action. All is not lost. Let us sing the natural world within and around us back to its original fullness.