Righty: I’m tired of being lectured and bullied by naive ecology dweebs and former presidential candidates who have nothing better to do with their time (and ours). You’d think we were about to pave the entire planet with asphalt. The fact is that over sixty percent of the Earth’s land surface is wilderness. Sixty percent! Imagine all that land just sitting there, as virginal as a nun. Not exactly cause for alarm, is it? A vibrant economy requires the exploitation of natural resources. I’m not suggesting that we rape the planet, just harness it for the betterment of mankind. Is that too much to ask, Lefty? Or do you want to keep all that pristine land for yourself and your environmentally enlightened, tree-hugging, sandal-wearing upper-middle class liberal friends?
Lefty: You capitalist exploiters seem to think you can just keep taking and taking — without giving a thought to the consequences. Sure, the land might be sixty percent wilderness right now. But think about what that means, Righty (you’ll have to rev up your cerebral cortex for this one, I’m afraid). It means that one lousy species of enterprising ape has already plundered forty percent of the Earth’s land surface! What do you think our planet will look like a century from now if developing giants like China, Brazil, India and Indonesia keep chugging along the way the United States has done throughout its history? We need to enact global legislation to protect our vital rain forests, wetlands, watersheds and other fragile ecosystems from the ravages of greedy developers and other business interests. We need to act now, or there’s no going back. Think about it, Righty: what will you guys do when you’ve run out of resources to exploit? Oh, I forgot: capitalists don’t care about anything beyond the upcoming fiscal year.
The New Moderate:
We really can’t afford to take a moderate position when it comes to saving the planet. We have no choice but to save it, because the likelihood of interplanetary colonization seems pretty dim for now. The Earth’s resources are finite, and we don’t want to be caught short when we have all those billions of humans to feed, house and equip with cell phones. I don’t think we should cripple the driving engines of our economy with punitive legislation, but we clearly need to regulate their enterprises.
Where Lefty and I part company is over the matter of marketing style. Let me explain. The earnest ecologists who have dominated the environmental movement since the 1960s have tended to be wonkish zealots with a blind spot for the poetry of the natural world. They drain it of its inherent beauty and drama with all their insistent harping on carbon footprints, ecosystems, recycling and other well-intentioned puritanical hectoring. Sure, all these things are vital to preserving the planet, but nature can’t be (and shouldn’t be) reduced to a banal PowerPoint presentation. I fear that the zealots alienate more people than they persuade. Shrillness has never aided the mass acceptance of any worthy endeavor.
If we want to win converts to the cause, we need to inspire people with the romantic grandeur and incredible intricacy of the world beyond our suburban fringes. We need them to hear the wind on the prairie, the music of a rushing stream, the trumpeting of wild geese in flight. We need to remind everyone that nature is an indispensable, irreplaceable sanctuary and a source of continual awe. Eventually, recycling our bottles might seem like more of a privilege than a chore.
Summary: Of course we need to preserve and protect the environment, but let’s not drain it of poetry in our zeal to promote the cause. Tone down the shrillness so we can hear the music.