On World Environment Day, Changing the Way We Think About Nature

Today, June 5, is World Environment Day.

And guess what? You’re celebrating it, right now, as you read this blog post.

man on bike in city

© istockphoto

Don’t get me wrong. I know today’s holiday lacks the je ne sais quoi of, say, Earth Day. (Or Halloween.)

But the energy you’re using to run the device showing you this blog post? That comes from the environment. The food you’ve eaten today? From the environment. The water you drank, the air you breathed, the clothes you’re wearing, the stable climate we enjoy — all nature’s bounty.

So if you exist, you’re celebrating World Environment Day. That’s just the way it is.

A Shift in Thinking

But wait, you’re saying, this is so obvious.

Is it, though? I don’t know about you, but my own education tried to teach me that nature was something apart from humanity. It existed on a different plane. It was a place where you went to get away, à la Thoreau, instead of a place where you always are.

That matters. If we think about nature as something separate, as a vacation home we escape to when the “real world” overwhelms us, we, the species Homo sapiens, are cooked — because the incentives to protect our natural world won’t be strong enough. And then we’ll lose our sources of water, our soils for food, our stable climates, our building materials …

Really, we’ll lose everything. It’s that serious. We’re either on a suicidal path, or we’re not.

And the only way we’ll get on the right path is by changing the way we think.

Good News: The World Is Getting It

That’s why it’s so gratifying to see that the world is really starting to get it.

In the last few weeks, no less august a publication than The New York Times has written about this needed shift in thinking. Twice, in fact:

First, the Times’ Green blog interviewed our founder, CEO and Chairman, Peter Seligmann. In the interview, Peter explains how CI itself had to undergo a radical shift in thinking — mostly because our old way of working, of protecting nature for nature’s sake, simply wasn’t getting things done.

Peter also talks about the remarkable success of the Summit for Sustainability in Africa, where 10 African nations agreed to value nature in their everyday decision-making and their national accounting. That truly is staggering. There are days when my girlfriend and I can’t even agree on pizza vs. Indian food, and 10 African countries agreed on this? People are getting it.

Second, our friend and Pulitzer winner Tom Friedman wrote a column about the intersection between conservation and human well-being. “Once you show what healthy ecosystems provide for people, ‘conservation’ takes on a whole new meaning,” writes Tom. He adds:

“… [H]ealthy farms depend on pollinators, healthy rivers on the forests that filter the water and prevent soil erosion, healthy fishing grounds on preserving the coral reefs where fish spawn, healthy coastal areas on the reefs and mangroves that blunt storm surges, healthy hydroelectric power on water from cloud forests. Good stewardship of natural infrastructure = jobs, security, food and water.”

This is an idea whose time has clearly come.

Our Only Home

It can be humbling to think that our Earth is, in the words of the astronomer Carl Sagan, “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” We are but the most miniscule part of a mighty cosmos.

But we’re also special. We exist. And we exist alongside, and as part of, an incredible natural bounty.

This World Environment Day, let’s not forget this incredible opportunity. Let’s change the way we think. And let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Chris Coletta is CI’s social media coordinator.


  1. Pingback: The End of the Earth | The News Movement

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *