As popular a theme as “save the planet” may currently be, Rae-Wynn Grant, PhD in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Science, says that it is the wrong approach.

Her reason: The mentality behind this mantra is dissociative and results in people viewing the planet, climate, and nature as distant entities.

“If we really want to save the planet, then we need to rethink how we’re part of it,” Grant says.

Distancing Ourselves From the Planet

Distancing Ourselves From the Planet (1)
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According to Grant, this way of thinking comes from the belief that the planet is nature, and nature is disconnected from the human world.

This thought process is problematic as it prevents us from seeing that we as humans live in these environments and that change would have to start here (wherever that is for you).

“It allows us to distance ourselves from our responsibility to the places where people live,” Grant explains.

We Need To Start Rethinking Our Place in Nature To Save the Planet

Saving the Planets Starts With Rethinking How We Are Part of It
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California’s Six Rivers National Forest is an example of an area considered pristine and as close to raw nature as the outdoors will ever get. 

But this is not entirely true. The local indigenous people nurtured the park’s one million acres of eco-diversity for centuries.

They made controlled fires to open spaces in the canopy so the daylight would shine through and the life on the forest floor would thrive.

Another example of human intervention was the reintroduction of wolves to the Yellowstone National Park in 1995.

Every Living Thing Has an Impact

Everything Thing Living Creates an Impact
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The wolves set off a chain reaction by trimming deer populations and influencing the behavior of other large herbivores. In doing so, certain patches of flora were restored to their previous states.

Aspen and Cottonwood trees started growing to their full heights, beavers reappeared and trout flourished in the dams they built.

Because trees, grasses, and other plants were allowed a chance to resurge, soil erosion decreased, water courses like rivers changed routes, and the microclimate of the park assumed new patterns. 

The effect these wolves had on the area is an example of how every living thing – whether wittingly or unwittingly – impacts their surroundings.

How Should We Change Our Surroundings?

How Should We Change Our Surroundings
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Given that we cannot help but affect our environments, we should not ask “if” but rather “how” we should change our surroundings.

The human race has proven adept at the latter by building dams to store water, channeling rivers for irrigation, and blowing holes into mountains to extract the minerals inside.

Another example is cities. The mined minerals are processed in factories, assembled in plants, and transported to these megapolises, and there, they make up everything from bricks and mortar to circuit boards in desktop computers.

Why then, is it so hard to see the environment in everyday life?

Human’s Dissociation From the Natural World

The Dissociation of Humans From the Natural World (1)
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“The separation of humanity from the natural world is a long-standing tradition in Western culture,” Grant says.

Individuals are taught to view nature as the original version of the world “out there” that we visit when we want to escape life as we know it.

“Meanwhile, we ignore how we change our environments in here,” Grant continues.

She claims that the pioneers of environmental advocacy channeled their efforts into keeping the untouched parts of nature pristine when they should have addressed issues like pollution in cities.

How Are We Changing Environments Currently?

How Are We Changing Environments Currently
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“With ongoing deforestation, fossil fuel burning, industrial agriculture, and the increasing impacts of climate change, we are not changing environments [for the better].”

One of the bigger issues of our time is industries using the cheapest methods in their pursuit of the highest profits. This includes the use of cheap labor and dangerous processing methods. They then discard toxic waste with the same goal in mind: Profit.

Now that the world is hyper-aware of their impact on the environment, factories simply hide their waste in marginalized communities with no economic or political sway.

Not only does this pollution affect nature around us, but poisons us as humans too. So much so, that US federal government data shows air pollution along with cancer rates to be beyond acceptable levels.

Despite this evidence, the state of Louisiana is among a few entities that believe otherwise.

Overcompensation Is Destructive

Overcompensation is Damaging
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The powers that be erred when they did not realize that people, like animals and plants, will inevitably affect environments – and that the impact of early humans more times than not was conducive to the health of their environments.

One example is the Six Rivers National Forest which was relatively recently designated off-limits for any human interference.

What was forgotten was the indigenous people who occupied the land previously prevented the forests from becoming too dense (and a fire hazard) with their cultural burns.

The Way Forward

The Way Forward
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The Six Rivers National Forest authorities are currently working with native nations so that they can continue their cultural burns. In doing so, they keep their traditions alive while helping preserve the area.

The park’s management may have seen the light but the bulk of humanity still sees nature, environment, and sustainability issues as a world apart.

As a result, it affects what we do to save the planet because conservation, like charity, begins at home.

Source: YouTube/PBS TERRA