Abbey, Berg, and Leopold: Three Lights in the Winding Path of Environmentalism

"The Last Eco Warrior..." Peter Berg

Bioregionalism is the concept that Peter Berg brought to life in the early 1970’s, which encourages people not to take advantage of the ecological systems in an irresponsible manner.

The respect and devotion for the natural surroundings that Aldo Leopold and Edward Abbey promoted at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, takes here a more realistic approach. Involving the communities, if the people within them get more involved in taking care of all, from air they breathe, the natural watershed boundaries, to the soil where they live in, many generations could still have a good life on Planet Earth.
Bioregionalists see humanity and its culture as a part of nature, because with an overcrowded world there is no way to go back, and the solutions to the problems of the exploitation of our environment by the industries need to be immerse in the characteristics of the bioregion. The society as a whole is key in Berg’s plan of action, which encompasses the importance of the communion with nature. In the other hand, Aldo Leopold is more a sharp critic of the relation of our civilization with the land, and there is no doubt that Leopold’s “biotic community” concept is not being honored in present times. In capitalism, the property of the land is seen from the mere angle of “private property,” and getting the maximum profit from it without entailing any obligations is the norm. As there is not a collective conscience in regards to the land’s ethics, people do not realize that degrading properties damages everyone and everything. We are just members of the biotic community, and we are entitled to live in harmony in this “club,” without harming or depleting the other members. Preserving the integrity of the insects, the plants, the water, and the air, is to work in favor of our own well-being and survival: “…In terms of human enterprise… the characteristics of the land determined the facts quite as potently as the characteristics of the men who lived on it” (Leopold, 2). Even though his thinking can be taken as a romantic approach to environmentalism, Leopold’s foundation has accomplished the prestigious LEED construction system, which proves that his dream can come true. More information at aldoleopold.org  

Again, Peter Berg’s bioregionalism is more proactive and realistic. He’s not the classical environmentalist who sees the industrial development as evil. As industries and populations are already having a dynamic economic relationship, the key is to focus on building a more positive and sustainable interaction with the environment. This is a more practical position because rather than a focus on preserving and segregating the wilderness from humanity, they need to coexist as a whole. I also can say that this concept contradicts the traditional view of Edward Abbey, who chooses to walk in the darkness without a flashlight in order to feel nature better: “Like many other mechanical gadgets it tends to separate a man from the world around him” (Abbey, 23). In his book Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, he goes much further in defense of Mother Nature: He wants to ban all kinds of improvements or expansion in the facilities in our National Parks, which today is not feasible. Although, Abbey has a point on regards of the dangers of the massive tourism for the environment because the high impact of millions of visitors in, for example, Yosemite Park and the Grand Canyon, are definitively eroding these natural treasures.

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But these are “Signs of the Times,” and at this point we need to work together to minimize the acceleration of the damage that our civilization is imposing to the environment. Technology and wisdom should get together with a solely goal: To preserve life, in all its manifestations in the world we live in. The importance of these three authors and thinkers is paramount for the new generations of environmentalist of America and the world.

 


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