Biophilia is what biologist Edward O. Wilson calls it. We all have biophilia; even those who live in fear of being called a “tree hugger.”
It is the love of the natural world – the love of other living systems. We satisfy our love in many different ways – hiking, swimming, hunting, fishing, walking the golf course, walking the beach, diving, biking, watching a sunset from the back porch, skiing, camping, snorkeling and climbing into a cave or up a mountain.
We love the environment and we are dependent upon it. To survive humans need clean water, clean air and food. It all comes from our environment. So why would anyone bridle at being called an “environmentalist” or a “tree hugger?” We have to maintain the resources that maintain us. That is not hard to understand. Hugging a tree is a good thing.
Two and a half centuries ago we had 1 billion people on Earth and now there are more than 7 billion. Those numbers are dramatic and deserve concern, but that is just the beginning – cars, computers, jets and pesticide and fertilizer runoff are all relatively new to the environment.
What is happening? The United Nations is predicting that by 2025, two-thirds of the world population will be facing fresh water shortages. Just this week the local newspapers wrote about the rising ocean levels in the Caribbean. Energy costs are reaching a point in the Virgin Islands where people have to turn off their electricity. Our coral is being covered with an ugly, unnatural green algae.
Yet where do we see any concern for what is happening to our environment? Certainly not the people in Washington, D.C., and, then again, not many regular residents seem too concerned either.
In an essay, It’s Not Easy Being Green, Gillen Wood discusses the concept of normalization. Normalization is not necessarily wrong. Wood describes it as a human way of adapting to a changing world. But sometimes it goes awry; society can accept something as normal that actually defies reality. We have made it normal to disrespect the environment that nurtures us.
We can put plastic in the sea, carbon in the atmosphere and explode the bedrock a mile beneath the surface without a thought of consequences. It is convenient to do this and we make it seem normal. It is normal for 50 people to each drive separate vehicles down the same road to get to the same place at the same time. Well that has not always been normal and maybe it should never have been normal.
As an example of normalization gone wrong, Wood talks about slavery. The globe was dominated by slavery in the 17th and 18th centuries. One could argue that slavery made the colonization of the New World possible. The idea that one person could hold complete dominance over another is loathsome to us now. Yet slavery was seen as normal then. It was even looked at as normal by people who thought of themselves great humanitarians. It took a lot of effort by a lot of people to change that outlook.
Is it normal to stay cocooned in a room staring at a computer or TV screen? For 10,000 years it was not. Should we be concerned about that normalcy now? I am not sure.
However, I am sure it is normal to stand at the third tee at the Buccaneer Golf Course or the 14th tee at Mahogany Run and enjoy the scene of the clean sea waves breaking on the rocks and the fresh breeze, free of particulates, pushing a palm tree and rustling its fronds.
We have to make it normal that we take care of the environment in which we live. When we hear the words “environmentalist” or even “tree hugger,” we all have to stop fighting and say yes. Our children and grandchildren deserve to be able to enjoy their biophilia.
Don Buchanan is the former editor of several publications in the states and the Source. He has lived on St. Croix for 10 years.