As explained on the “Our Framework” page of our website, our method of practicing nonviolence is framed by four foundation components. These components are Educate, Grieve, Celebrate, and Sustain Life. The one we will be looking at today is Sustain Life. This component addresses the economic needs of individuals, like being able to put food on their table, pay their rent, and all around financially maintain the basics of living a normal life. This is traditionally viewed through a narrow lens, but today I would like to challenge the scope of that lens. While social and economic phenomena greatly impact this component, I believe it is environmental phenomena that we are overlooking.
Does being environmentally conscious positively contribute to sustaining life, or is environmentalism a privilege for those more fortunate who have the luxury to live a more sustainable life?
And if environmentalism does really have something positive to contribute to sustaining life, how can the roots of the environmental movement help us achieve (and maintain) this goal within our nonviolent, beloved healthy community?
To provide some historical context, the birth of Environmentalism was coined the Conservation-Efficiency Movement, dating back as early as the 1890’s, long before the “tree hugging hippy” archetype. The Conservation-Efficiency movement was a reaction to severe resource exploitation in the early 1800’s, the need for materials to rebuild the south, and develop the west during the reconstruction era after the American Civil War. In essence, the conservation efficiency movement was a rational planning effort by the government to promote efficient development and use of all natural resources.
While 2019 may be a far cry from 1890, the need for conservation then is arguably similar to the need for conservation today. The difference here being found in the fact that the US’ relationship to our natural resources is much different now than it was in America's infancy (this is of course thanks to advancements in technology utilized to harbor these resources.) Also, because of climate change, the consequences of government not prioritizing the sustainable development of natural resources are much more dire now than they were over a hundred years ago. The environmental concerns of then were typically surrounding limited amounts of “good timber” for masts of large sailing ships, and the environmental concerns of today are eroding shorelines, melting ice caps and unsafe drinking water.