We're Going on a (WILD!) Environmental Journey
Updated: Apr 21, 2020
It’s our hope that your interest will grow after spending some time with us. Together we’re going to explore emerging areas of biological science, animal and wildlife rights, environmental justice, and the law. We’re even going to address faith (gasp!) as it relates to those subjects.
On the surface, our professions couldn’t be more different: One of us is a PhD. in biology; the other is a lawyer who represents people harmed by toxic exposure. One teaches college students; the other, law. Our first meeting was pure happenstance--we shared a classroom and exchanged passing hellos. Over the noise of students filing in and out, we eventually discovered a mutual love of the environment. That led to more extended discussions over coffee about conservation, biodiversity, or current threats to the planet.
We had a revelation.
Our professions intersected in a multitude of interesting ways. People, animals, plants, and the physical and legal ecosystems in which they operate, are complex. And they are oh, so fascinating. (Yes, we caught the interested glances of the eavesdroppers at nearby tables!)
Through Wild Faith, we want to explore these layers more directly. We’ll tackle conservation, biodiversity, peace parks, the ethics of using certain products, or the value of certain species. We’ll chat about wildlife refuges, owning exotic pets, and the connection between biodiversity and disease. You’ll learn some law, some science, and perhaps deepen your understanding on a spiritual level. Woven throughout our discussions will be this fundamental premise: we are stewards of the natural world, with all that that word implies (a lot).
So, let’s start with a challenge.
Have you ever thought about how you view the environment? Not just in a “use less, recycle more” kind of way, but more in the sense of “where do you stand in
relation to the rest of the natural world?” For example, which takes precedence, a person, or a river that sustains many people and
animals? Is a single woodpecker species enough of a reason to prevent logging? Should someone go to jail for killing an eagle?
See if this list helps you identify your thoughts:
⁕ Some view nature from a people-centered (or “ethnocentric”) perspective. They
believe that natural resources exist solely for the benefit of mankind. They evaluate environmental impact or risk in light of how it affects people. For example, they might advocate for the preservation of a tropical rainforest because its rare plants provide people with heart medicine. They might agree with razing a forest because a single, higher-value crop can be planted instead. Or, they may act to protect a specific marine environment because the demand for salmon is high. In this view, people are at the center of the resource equation. Taken to an extreme, people who hold this view might believe that since humankind is infinitely more important than the rest of the natural world, then humans can take whatever they want or need. One need only look at Netflix’s Tiger King series: how and why do these individuals justify keeping a wild animal in a cage? The wildlife exists solely for the benefit of the humans (exploiting them for access, selling cubs for profit, etc.),
⁕ Others view humankind as simply an equal part of nature, sharing the same limited resources. They argue that humans should reduce their consumption and exploit the environment as little as possible. People, animals, and plants are all in this together and they’re of equal importance. These arguments underlie a new push to establish human rights for animals. Taken to an extreme, this view could mean that a rat’s life has equal value to that of a newborn baby. Read this interesting discussion with Peter Singer.
⁕ Some take “equal” in a different direction. They see the entire natural world – including people -- as having a form of spirituality itself. They might revere the Earth and all of her inhabitants as one connected living organism. Mother Earth can protect herself (see Avatar and the sentient ocean and jungle). Humankind is an equal part of that living organism. Humans are not less or more important than the rest of the organism. See also beliefs in the Japanese Shinto tradition.
⁕ Some take a faith-centered view of the environment. They believe that God tasked man, the pinnacle of all His Creation and possessing the capacity for moral accountability, with the great responsibility to care for the Earth or act as stewards over the Earth. There’s a moral accountability for how we treat the environment. These individuals believe that, as people who claim to love God, they love the things God loves, which includes all of His Creation.
⁕ Still others have used this belief system to justify an extreme view that humankind is more important, and therefore entitled to exhaust all other resources. Other extreme views include the idea that the Earth will be renewed someday, and therefore we shouldn’t be too concerned now about conservation or depletion of the ozone layer. For a criticism of those views, check here.
⁕ Some believe that humankind is less than the rest of the natural world. They believe that humans are all wrongly motivated or greedy, and therefore their choices with respect to the environment are inherently suspect and should never take precedence over the needs of the natural world. Nature is safer without humans. Humans are the intruders; the natural world therefore has more rights.
We take stewardship seriously. It’s a multidimensional concept. It means responsibly using resources, protecting the natural world from indiscriminate waste or use, confronting environmental wrongs, recognizing the value of the natural world in and of itself, and conserving the species that existed before we did. (Conservation has been described as “a state of harmony between men and land.” Aldo Leopold, American Author and Conservationist.)
No matter your view, one thing is abundantly clear. The Earth’s biological and natural resources are vital to humanity’s economic, cultural, geographical, and social development, as well as for the maintenance of overall ecosystem health.
We need all the parts to work together. And to be functioning at their highest level. Just look at the beautiful interdependence of plants and animals in the process of photosynthesis. Plants use CO2 and water to make oxygen and sugar. When we breathe in, we take in the oxygen that plants made through photosynthesis. We breathe out the CO2 that plants use for the process. How much more interwoven can we get?
So that brings us to the purpose for Wild Faith. We want to encourage people to be intentional about their thoughts and actions concerning the environment. We want to inspire. To challenge. To prompt you to think about the reasons for the values you hold. To consider how you -- as a business owner, student, tourist, parent, consumer, animal owner, scientist, or lawyer --- make choices that are consistent with those values.
Let’s deepen our collective understanding of wild things.
Let’s be in awe together.
You may be motivated by a number of factors to explore your own thoughts about the environment. Perhaps it’s your faith. Your humanitarian values. Or simply self-preservation. Whatever your motivation, join us in this wild journey as we explore these realms!
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