Modern Environmentalists instead seek for a balance

Modern environmentalism
challenges various widely accepted ideas and practices of the industrialized
society, that being the predominant anthropocentric worldview.

Environmentalists instead seek for a balance between human needs and the
protection of nature. However, the ideas within environmentalism have changed
over time, as people are becoming more aware of the current situations within
the environment and being able to anticipate potential future outcomes.

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Consequently, to gain a substantial understanding of modern environmentalism,
the ideas conveyed by these environmentalists must be carefully examined.

            The poem
“The Last One” by W.S. Merwin, criticizes the anthropocentric attitude present
within the process of deforestation, also signifying how mankind cannot exist
without nature. As suggested by the title, the last one is representing the last branches of tree left in the natural
world. The other trees were cut down by the humans who considered the trees to
be their property “because they thought so”. The humans failed to foresee the
consequence of cutting the last one and
when the tree was removed, shadows began to manifest from it. The shadow
symbolizes a distinct organism seeking for vengeance towards “them”. The humans
were unhesitant to use every available natural resource to protect themselves
and this moment emphasizes their indifference towards nature. Ultimately, the
humans are blinded and murdered by the shadow. Their mistreatment of nature
could be deduced that their actions were influenced from modern economic
thinking. Thereby, the poem demonstrates the dangers of being unsympathetic
towards nature, as such attitude would not only be destructive to nature but
also to mankind itself.

Durning’s How Much Is Enough? assesses
the everyday consumer lifestyle and the risks associated with overconsumption.

The contemporary society is affluent in material goods and Durning claims that
the more goods an individual consumes, the more they will desire for. Moreover,
Durning believes that the satisfaction gained from consumption is only
temporary and will simply increase one’s gluttony, which Durning does not consider
as a form of “happiness”. Durning’s critique presents a dilemma between
consumerism and environmentalism, as an individual’s everyday lifestyle is
capable of damaging the environment, even if the individual did not intend to
do so. This predicament is exemplified with the case of an ordinary man by the
name of Sidney Quarrier, who calculated the amount of commodities consumed by
himself and his family. These appliances ranged from household energies such as
electricity, heat and water as well as human necessities such as food and
clothing. Quarrier eventually calculated the essential resources for the
production and delivery for each object in his list and realized the sizeable
amount of consumption by his family. Quarrier’s family was considered as a typical
middle class household but when he learnt this truth about his family’s
consumerism, Quarrier stated, “what frightened me was that our consumption
was typical of the people here in Connecticut.” From this case, the
dilemma of living an ordinary life and an ecological life is evident within
today’s world. However, Durning suggests an “ecologically sustainable way of
life” to solve this dilemma for people to adjust their consumerist lifestyles.

This lifestyle involves the adjustment of consumption level for those in the
“consumer” class, regulating the level as equivalent to those in the “medium”
class. Through this regulation, the amount of consumption will reach to a
sustainable level and thereby people can live an ecological lifestyle for the

the essay “The Tragedy of the Commons”, Garret Hardin analyzes the issues
associated with overpopulation and the act of breeding becoming a “common”. The
metaphor “commons” refers to the natural resources shared and owned by numerous
individuals and Hardin demonstrates this theory with a case of herdsmen at a
pasture. The herdsmen have an ownership of the “common”, which in this case is
the grassland and they would attempt to gain the most benefit by trying to
maintain as many cattle’s on the “commons”. 
Although an additional animal will be favorable for the farmer, there is
the risk of overgrazing where the other farmers also have to face. This theory
of “commons” is applicable to the subject of overpopulation, as a couple could
perceive the birth of another child to be a fortunate event, whilst there are
ecological disadvantages too.  Hardin is
opposed to the appeal to conscience as an answer to overpopulation, believing
that it will not convince enough people to stop producing children. Hardin
instead proposes the idea of “mutual coercion mutually agreed upon” as a
solution to overpopulation, which imposes a strict regulation that prevents the
freedom to breed.

Diamond’s “Twilight at Easter” portrays the destruction of Easter Island caused
by the island’s environmental problems, which in reality was due to human
actions. Although the island had an unstable environment, the ecosystem was
capable enough to maintain a large civilization. As the Easter society
developed, the population of the island grew and simultaneously, human impact
toward the environment increased too. These actions were deemed as necessary
for the survival of the ever-growing population and the citizens of Easter did
not anticipate the consequences of their actions. The main cause of the fall of
Easter Island was deforestation, in which the inhabitants consumed an excessive
amount of woods and other natural resource to fulfill the demand for
necessities. As the amount of food within Easter had decreased, a societal starvation
occurred and eventually the citizens resolved to cannibalism and ultimately
this lead to the fall of Easter. The island also had a tradition of building
tall Moai statues and these were constructed in a competitive manner amongst
opposing clans. It could also be inferred that the collapse of Easter Island
was resulted from the construction of these statues because the clans were
caught up in their rivalry and quickened the deforestation. As Diamond
describes this downfall as “a worst-case scenario, for what may lie ahead of us
in our own future”, it is undeniable that the current world could face a
similar consequence to Easter Island and thereby the people living n today’s
world must choose meaning decisions in regards of the future of the Earth.

environmentalism has a common faith in conservation of nature, the
environmentalist’s attitude towards the environment could be varied. This
difference within viewpoints is demonstrated in Wallace Stenger’s “The Gift of
Wilderness” and William Cronon’s “The Trouble with Wilderness”. Stenger
expresses the need to conserve wilderness and describes the interaction with
wilderness as a blessed experience. In contrast, Cronon is critical of the
romantic conception of wilderness and how the contemporary world perceives
nature to be separate from human civilization. Cronon asserts the
interconnectedness of wilderness with human by claiming it as a product of
human cultures, as people can interpret wilderness based upon their mindsets.

Therefore these two contrasting attitudes of environmentalism demonstrate that
there are numerous ways to think ethically about the environment.

Alexie’s short story “Green World” challenges the orthodox ideas imposed upon
windmills, expressing the difficulty of balancing technological advancement and
ecological thinking. As the consumption of fossil fuels is constantly
increasing, windmills were invented as a substitute for these finite fuels.

Whilst windmills are able to produce energies without relying on fossil fuels,
they are also slaughtering countless birds with its whirling blades. By
demonstrating this issue, the story is questioning the environmentalist
assumption of viewing windmills as an environmentally friendly invention, when
it is actually damaging the ecosystem by killing the birds. Thereby, the
narrative effectively shows that even if one’s action was intended for good
will, negative consequences can occur at the same time.

            I personally perceive nature as
something that humanity inevitably has to rely on to survive but at the same
time, preservation of nature is necessary. Within our daily lives, we use
countless resources from nature as commodities and due to this, we are always
somehow connected with nature. An appropriate way of approaching the natural
world would be to have an ecological lifestyle by not mindlessly using
technologies that function from fossil fuels. Upon reading the give texts, my
understandings of environmental issues had changed significantly. I initially
was not fully aware of the hidden dangers of an extinction of a particular
species, and always thought that pests such as cockroaches or flies must be
exterminated. Although the context was different, reading Aldo
Leopold’s “Thinking Like a Mountain” allowed me to learn how the death of a
certain species can damage the entire ecosystem. Numerous species of animals
have gone extinct due to human actions and as this negatively affects the
ecosystem, we must not interfere with it. Regarding the future of the earth, I believe that we should
maintain a pessimistic view. As most of us should be aware of some of the
current environmental issues that the world has to face, having an optimistic
view about the future will not help but only increase our ignorance about the
environment. Having a pessimistic view is not necessarily equivalent to despair
but rather understanding that if the world continues as the way it currently
is, the future will not be pleasant for us. Thus, a pessimistic viewpoint will
allow us to think critically about the environmental issues and establish a
world where both mankind and nature can coexist.