One of the challenges of the environmental movement is blending a concern for the great problems of global warming and scarce natural resources with the appreciation of the nature that’s personal. Of course we all want to save the planet, but that’s not as vital as saving that litter of bunnies that erupt from their burrow in our yard every spring. We all want to do the right thing, but it seems so difficult to save the entire ecosystem. Too big for one little person or group to manage. But if we all tried to save the little bit of the planet just around us I think we’d be successful. If we took true ownership of the piece of land that we buy when we buy a home, or the vacant lot next to us, or the rooftop garden, or wherever, we could each do something tangible to save our corner of the environment. Picking up litter, and natural gardening, and recycling or reusing things thay come into our homes, things like that, when everyone does them, would have a huge impact. And no one person or group would need to feel responsible for saving the entire bioshpere. We’d just take care of our little piece and make decisions based on what’s sustainable and friendly to our little piece of nature.

How to get people to do that is another problem altogether. The focus of the environmental movement has been whole Earth for so long. They are trying to influence corporations and governments. Here’s the thing though, corporations and governments are largely reactive. If people demand sustainable practices and products, corporations and government will respond with solutions. So, if each person demanded what is sustainable for their piece of land, it’d add up to huge demand for sustainable practices and products. Even Walmart has responded to the increased demand for organic and local products in the last several years. As individuals we have the ability to influence the piece of the world we come into contact with. If we do what’s right for it, we will, cumulatively, save the planet.

It seems like too much pressure to put on people – save the species of bird or whatever. Instead, save the nest in your yard and maybe set out a feeder. Educate people on how to have healthy lawns using natural products. Encourage organic gardening with nationwide information networks that are well publicized. The cooperative extensions are amazing in the US, but hardly anyone knows about them! During World War Two, it was a patriotic duty to have a garden, let’s make it an environmental duty now. Even I can coax a few tomatoes from a plant in a pot.

There will always be a need for organizers and people to disseminate the information and share their knowledge with the rest of us poor, clueless souls. Environmental groups should absolutely continue to lobby for corporate and governmental change. But I think most people don’t think of themselves as activists. Most people want to do what’s right as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them too much. Taking care of their yards is something they do anyway, teach them how to do it without chemical fertilizers and such. Solutions like that shouldn’t be the purview of the select few who go seeking them out, they should be common knowledge! Vinegar kills weeds. You don’t need chemicals.

I think this type of environmentalism would appeal to most people. It’s that “me first” kind of thinking that most people practice (for good or ill) anyway. “If I take care of me and mine, the rest will take care of itself.” You can’t change that thinking. Everyone practices it to some extent. We are biologically programmed I think to look out for our own survival and well being first. So why shouldn’t we work within that framework to elevate everyone? By all means, take care of yourself and your piece of nature first. The more altruistic can fight the bigger battles while we each fight the battle of the backyard.

It may be nonsense. But I wonder if shifting the thinking only that little bit might not help the movement.

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