Mary Roper, Green Purchasing Intern Today marked the final day for discussing Scott Russell Sander’s work A Conservationist Manifesto. I began reading this work with an open mind, and I finished it with a changed one. Now, that is not to say that I have completely altered bad habits; if this could be done within the mere three weeks my classmates and I spent reading one book, our world would not be faced with the environmental issues it faces today. What this does mean, however, is that I can feel my thought process begin to shift towards a more conservationist mindset. One aspect of this mindset, stillness, was addressed today by the author himself.
At the end of A Conservationist Manifesto, Sanders provides insight on how we might best care for the Earth so that future generations will be able to enjoy the same nature that we did. The beginning chapter of this section, “Wilderness as a Sabbath for the Land,” resonated most with me. It highlights the things in our world which may be trapping us, preventing us from enjoying the simple beauty of the wilderness around us. Said Sanders, “We are in a constant struggle for find quiet time and stillness.” He explained that the reason that we are unable to attain the stillness and calm that we desire is because “we are organisms operating at the speed of nature who have wrought damage on the Earth because we are imposing on it technology that operates at the speed of sound.”
This square-peg, round hole example seems like a simple explanation of the current state of our environment: the vast depletion of natural resources, the extinction of various plants and animals, and the drastic effects of climate change. While it makes for a simple solution (read: return nature to it’s own speed), it does not stop mankind from forcing on nature a speed that it cannot sustain.
As organisms, we, Sanders pointed out, are part of nature, too, and if are unable to return to nature’s own speed, we will burn out. “This is why we are calmed by going somewhere natural,” Sanders said, nodding his head wisely, “It is a way for your body and mind to return to a speed at which it has evolved.”
However, many times the social dimensions of our lives do not allow us the luxury of returning to nature’s speed. If it’s not ten unread emails, it’s three new text massages, six phone calls, and a new voice mail that we have to spend our free time answering. We have Facebook friends to make, tweets to send, and are constantly walking with our heads down, scrolling through our feeds, far too busy to notice the beauty of nature surrounding us. It wasn’t until I read this part of the book that I realized that this situation is a daily occurrence in my life- not just for me but for my friends, parents, and professors, too. Unless something changes, we are on the brink of burning out.
There is hope. In order to get back to a more natural state, we can change our habits so that we will “unplug and unwind” once a day. The thought of turning my phone off and not being able to access the virtual world is a little daunting. Spending an evening where I do not check my emails or watch t.v. seems intimidating now. However, I know that this lifestyle change will enable us not only to find stillness in our lives, but also to begin to shift to more conservationist behaviors as we become in sync with nature’s speed.