Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Looking Toward Future Can Give Hope to Environmentalists

If you have been reading these pages since May 2013, you may recall the last time my name appeared here at the head of a sign-off column in which I questioned the hopes of the environmentalist movement, my own commitment to it and the progress of mankind. I concluded that there is no purpose to the movement as it is, that fossil-fuel masterminds have already doomed us to an unrecognizable future and that the role of an environmentalist in the modern age is to undertake a personal contemplation of their place in that future.

I was wrong. In a Moving Forest first, I am eating my words. My assertions in that piece came from a place of doubt and uncertainty and were off the mark at best. Environmentalism is more important than ever, the world is ours to shape and we will keep fighting as long as the last scrap of the Earth we hold dear remains.

Don’t expect this to become a regular thing.

Some might wonder how this about-face came to pass; I assure you, I wasn’t coerced. I spent my previous semester working aboard a sailing school on the Caribbean Sea. S.S.V. Corwith Cramer studies the changing ocean habitat, transmits data to the National Weather Service and visits foreign ports. In the modern age, her crew sails under wind power and navigates using the stars.

As I watched the crew members’ conviction, something dawned on me. People like these sailors will keep the global economy alive as fossil fuels become scarcer. Sailing ships are driven by the only alternative energy that has been refined again and again for the last 3,000 years. Because a small number of people refuse to give up the past, a second Age of Sail seems within reach.

My epiphany didn’t stop there. I realized the same logic could be broadened to the entire environmentalist movement: why would those who sail planet Earth give up their power to preserve hope? In that moment, I understood that what I wrote in May wasn’t brave or iconoclastic––it was garden-variety surrender. Introspection has its place, of course, but the more I retreated into it, the more it dulled my fire.

I can’t live that way anymore. There’s a chance for Earth, and I want my stake in it.

So, I’m rejoining the movement. However, there is one point from my last column that I’m sticking to, and that’s that environmentalism contains a necessary thread of selfishness. Everybody who wants to save the world in some way wants to save a part of it for themselves, a planet on which their own future can play out. There’s nothing wrong with it; self-preservation is human instinct, as is our love for the places that nurture us, and this self-preservation can produce beautiful results.

Where am I going with this? My destination is a theme this column will pursue for the entire semester: futurism. After sailing led me to consider the world to come, I wondered if there are environmentalists out there who, like me, are ashamed to admit they worry about the future, since saying so implies their work is self-interested.

I’ve decided to offer them succor. Each week, I plan to consider a scenario and its possible results. What if everybody divests? What if we continue on our present path? What if we stop burning fossils today?

In doing so, I want to offer inspiration that there will always be a chance for the human race to reach equilibrium. That will be the premise I argue: in every scenario, hope for a peaceful Earth will never completely die. Keep checking these pages throughout the semester!

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