Purple is my favorite color. Until today it hasn’t held any significance. Today, I realized that purple is the color for Alzheimer’s Awareness. So now, I claim purple for my Grandma. Whenever I drink from my purple mug at work, use my iPad with the purple cover, or wear something purple, I will think of her. I miss her every day and pray that someday we find a cure for this horrible disease.
On the surface one might think that the terms conservationist and environmentalist describe the same being. It would make sense to think that, because one wishes to conserve the environment, the two would be the same. However, I’ve found that that is just not the case.
Conservationism developed in the first half of the 20th century as a response to the degradation of the landscape that resulted from deforestation and agricultural settlement. It comes from a rural, agricultural perspective and is founded in a pragmatic view that humans need to restore and manage the environment in order to sustain the economic benefits that accrue from it. Under this philosophy the word conservation is usually defined as “wise use”. A conservationist plants trees but also cuts them down. A conservationist restores wildlife habitat but also hunts. A conservationist’s favourite book is probably Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. Conservationism’s implementation philosophy is largely based on voluntary stewardship. Conservationism is explicitly human centric and could probably be best described as protecting nature for humans.
Environmentalism, on the other hand, emerged in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It was responding to the destruction of the natural environment caused largely by pollution from the industrialization of the landscape and comes from a more urban perspective. An environmentalist might plant trees, but would likely protest against logging them. An environmentalist would protect wildlife but would certainly not hunt. An environmentalist’s favourite book would likely be Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Environmentalism’s implementation philosophy is largely based on regulation. Environmentalism is nature centric and could probably best be described as protecting nature from humans.
Understanding these differences and putting them into practice in the correct circumstances is an imperative that we all need to understand. In the world in which we live, the land must be used in order to feed and sustain our huge populations. But in doing so, it is necessary to understand the concept of conservation and be stewards of the land as we put the plow to the earth and extract her nutrients in the form of grain and produce. The farmer understands that in order to continue to farm the land year after year, he must put nutrients back into the soil. If he is in an area where run off from heavy rains could occur, he should plant his crops in such a way that the plants capture the water and hold the land in place. In doing these things, he is being a steward of the land in order to ensure that the land continues to give back to him.
It is also important to understand that is possible to practice both conservation and environmentalism. One of the best example of this exists in South Alabama. International Paper consistently plants trees, harvests them to produce paper, and then replants them. This practice is conservation at its best. However, International Paper also recognizes the importance of preserving the past in certain circumstances. The company owns a 60-acre tract of land of old growth longleaf pine that it is currently preserving. The Flomaton Natural Area, a 60-acre tract owned by International Paper, is the only reported virgin stand of longleaf pine remaining in Alabama . . . The average diameter of the mature longleaf pine is approximately 15 inches and the oldest longleaf pine that has been aged is 287 years old.
Understanding these differences, it becomes apparent that its not enough to identify as just a conservationist or and environmentalist. A person who truly wants to be a steward of the land must be a little bit of both, recognizing when each concept is appropriate and applying its principles as necessary to preserve this earth for generations to come.
Edit: Since originally publishing this post, I’ve learned that the Flomaton Natural Area changed hands and was commercially clear cut. We’ve lost a treasure that could’ve provided countless generations with a glimpse into the past as well as a habitat that had provided much information for the Agriculture School at Auburn University.
I don’t have kids, but I think I still have a dog in this hunt, so to speak, since I prefer an educated citizenry to an uneducated one.
I don’t have any statistics or links to back anything I’m about to say. I’m just going on observations, having lived in several different places and having several family members who are teachers.
Regardless of how much money is spent per student, if there is no support at home from parents and family members who care whether or not the child learns, the teacher will spend his or her time baby sitting. The parents who take advantage of vouchers and charter schools are typically the ones who read to their kids when they were little, made sure they learned their colors, their abc’s and how to tie their shoes before entering first grade. The presence of these kids in public schools is supposed to help some of that “caring about learning” rub off on the other kids, although I’m not sure it does.
In any case, I’d prefer that my tax dollars go to support a public school system rather than to a for-profit or religious school. I don’t think most for-profit private schools have the best interest of the students at heart. They’re too concerned about the bottom line, like a business should be. And, although most religious private schools provide a good education, I don’t think public money should be going to fund the schools. They usually offer scholarships to less fortunate, deserving kids anyway.
Just my two cents.