Which death is more troubling? (images: from NOAA, upper, Wikimedia, lower)
I am surprised at the visceral nature of the rejection of the term “environmentalist”. I had not realized it had gotten that bad. I don’t think I’d want to be one of those if that’s how people feel.
It also appears that the new preferred term is “conservationist”. But as I said, I don’t make those fine distinctions, so I’m not sure how that differs from the “e-word”.
So let me modify my statement, and say that I am a conservamentalist. I would define that as someone who thinks long and hard about the effect of our actions on the tangled web of life that surrounds us.
I was fishing herring in the Bering Sea one season. I heard on the radio that the annual killing of the Canadian Arctic fur seals had begun, along with the obligatory protests that seem to be required these days.
We’d caught about fifty tonnes of herring that day, killing on the order of a million living beings. I remember thinking how if some creature has big soft baby eyes, it gets lots of sympathy. But if a creature is slimy and has cold fish-eyes, its death doesn’t matter. People hated the seal killers for killing a few dozen creatures, while I killed millions of creatures and was ignored.
If I had to pick one word to describe my position on the ecological webs that surround us, it would be “realist”. Life eats life to live. I am not a man who eats the meat and blames the butcher.
I’ve worked a good deal as a builder. I build with wood. I cut down trees to make room for the building I live in. I grew up in the forest, my step-daddy was a timber feller, the royalty of the logging fraternity. I’ve worked killing trees on an industrial scale.
And I’ll also fight like crazy to see the logging done right. with proper roads and proper setbacks, and proper slope limits, and reforestation. I’ve seen what bad logging practices look like and do.
So for me, a conservamentalist is someone who has thought hard about and balanced the needs for wood and cleared land, balanced those needs with the way that wood is harvested. I grew up in the middle of hundreds of square miles of virgin forest. I have a deep and abiding admiration for that raw wildness. And yet, I cut down trees. I just want to see things done carefully and with forethought, see them done properly with respect for the consequences. I don’t elevate some mythical “Nature” above humans, and I don’t forget nature either.
I was a sport salmon fishing guide a couple years ago, on the Kenai River in Alaska, as I described here. Kenai River king salmon are magnificent beings, fifty pounds or more of powerful, glittering, awe-inspiring fish. When one of my clients caught a salmon, I always thanked the fish in a loud voice for giving up its life for us. Life eats life, beings die so that I can live, and I can’t ignore that. I don’t let it keep me from fishing salmon, but I won’t pretend that I am not killing a splendiferous entity. Some of my clients understood.
Heck, I apologize to trees when I cut them down. Yeah, I know it looks dumb, a grown man talking to trees. But it doesn’t stop me from cutting them down by the scores if need be, I’m a realist. Life eats life. Me, I don’t take killing anything lightly, be it redwood or herring or salmon. Someday, I’ll be chopped down in the same way.
So I’m forming the Conservamentalist Party, our motto will be,“Conservamentalists unite! You have nothing to lose but your minds”.
Now, back to the climate…