by Jacy Good
My environmental journey has been easy. Growing up in the agricultural landscapes of southeastern Pennsylvania, it was nearly impossible not to feel some kind of connection with the earth. I basked in the long hours of summer when I got to spend every day outside wading in the creek and helping pull weeds from the garden. I always knew what I wanted to do when I grew up, because to me nature was always the most basically important aspect of life: if we didn’t have breathable air and drinkable water, there would be no accountants or teachers or movie stars.
I’m not sure when it dawned upon me that not everyone felt this way. The first time I saw someone litter was a traumatic experience; it was difficult for me to understand that not everyone could share my love and respect for nature. I realized not everyone grew up playing in the dirt, and not everyone grew up with a perfectly pastoral backyard. Because my drive to protect the planet was so essential in shaping the person I turned out to be, I think it is important to cultivate this instinct in others.
The environmental impulse is intrinsic in almost every living being. It is never too late to find a connection with the earth, but it is not an easy path to take. Spending time outdoors is central to making and maintaining a connection with the earth. Even for avid environmentalists, it can be all but impossible to make time for enjoying nature. With our frantic lives of jobs, meetings, and errands, we have to remember to take time out to enjoy the splendor of the world. We must also learn to live by example. Trying to live a green lifestyle can occupy all of your thoughts, but when it does, it is unbelievably satisfying to feel what a difference you can make. Walking instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or turning off the lights when you leave a room will inspire everyone around you to do the same.
At some point in my life, social consciousness began to blossom in tandem with my environmental awareness. Learning about landmines in faraway countries in Sunday school impacted me at a young age. I remember learning early on about the rainforest being cut down and the indigenous people it was affecting. It seemed to me that if the environment could be protected, so too could these people. The issue of ultimate convergence of environmental and social justice has been the conflict in Darfur. While I do not wish to play down many of the extenuating circumstances, one of the main reasons for the genocide occurring in Sudan has been a lack of resources. This has only gotten worse with time as unsustainable farming practices have caused increased desertification. This means less food and water, which in turn results in more competition for the few resources available. The issues of environmental and social justice are inextricably intertwined and solutions must be found with that in mind.
We must begin to understand that we are all in this together. In our globalized world, everything we do affects not only the people around us, but also the people on the other side of the world. Almost every decision we make has an environmental impact, and therefore, an impact on human rights. Environmentalism must penetrate all of our thoughts and actions. Although not everyone grew up with my childhood, I believe that all human beings have a natural bond with the world and the people in it. This bond means that inside of every person there exists the little kid that is enamored with animals and loves playing in the dirt and picking up bugs. We must all strive to bring out that child in ourselves and in everyone around us.
In the words of Chief Seattle: “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”
By Jacy Good
Jacy is a senior at Muhlenberg College [class of 2008] majoring in International Studies with a concentration in Environmental Issues. She was a campus sustainability intern last year and has been the president of the Environmental Action Team for the last three years. She is originally from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
(Originally published in the Alliance’s 2008 Directory of Organizations That Promote Sustainable Communities.)