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Reasons for Caring
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by Warren Anderson & Jimmy Orth

Warren Anderson and Jimmy Orth present their reasons for why everyone should care about the environment.

Why do we as humans consistently live our lives and make decisions that are in conflict with common sense and good judgment? We know that the earth is warming and we are partially to blame. We know that we are in the midst of the next mass extinction of species, and for the first time in the history of the planet, human activity is the primary cause. We know that we are depleting our precious limited natural resources, and yet we continue to use them inefficiently and exploit them without conscience. In terms of critical thinking capabilities, we are the most intelligent species on this planet, and yet we continue to make decisions that are in direct conflict with our own long-term interests, those of future generations, and those of the planet. Why would we cut our own throats for short-term pleasure and convenience and compromise the futures of our children?

There are probably many reasons, including our blind faith in science and technology to solve our problems, religious beliefs relating to the rapture and dominion, self preservation and survival instincts, a lack of political leadership, greed, and corruption. However, the reason that I believe is most critical is our disconnection from the natural world. We have simply lost our way. We live as if we are separate from nature, and in many cases, as if we are more important. We do not embrace and celebrate the fact that we share this world with all of the other plants and animals and have an obligation and responsibility to honor our role and our limitations. We have been separated from our mother and are now demonstrating the dysfunctional behavior that one would expect from a child who has not developed and sustained a healthy parent-child bond. We are fugitives on the run because we have thumbed our noses at the natural laws of our earth, refusing to live by those rules that have governed life on this planet for the millennia. One of the symptoms or causes of this disconnection is that most of us have lost or never even developed a sense of place. We have not put down roots and gotten to know the place that we call home.

The author and bioregionalist, Kirkpatrick Sale, uses the Spanish word querencia to describe this concept, a term that can be translated as " love of home." However, Sale contends that the word goes beyond this simple definition to mean "the deep sense of well-being that comes from knowing a particular place on Earth; its daily and seasonal patterns, its fruits and scents, its soils and birdsongs."

Wendel Berry simply says that "you can't know who you are until you know where you are." Berry calls himself a "placed" person.

Wallace Stegner describes the characteristics of the displaced person: "As a species, he is non-territorial, he lacks a stamping ground. Acquainted with many places, he is rooted in none. Culturally he is a discarder or transplanter, not a builder or conserver. He even seems to like and value his rootlessness, though to the placed person he shows the symptoms of nutritional deficiency, as if he suffered from some obscure scurvy or pellagra of the soul. " Stegner proclaims that we must "acquire the sense not of ownership but of belonging. 'The land was ours before we were the land's,' says Robert Frost's poem. Only in the act of submission is the sense of place realized and a sustainable relationship between people and earth established."

The geographer J. B. Jackson contends that "it is place... that gives us our identity."

We need to understand those things that define the rhythms of life in the place in which we live. We also need opportunities to celebrate our connection to place.

Pollsters tell us that an extraordinarily high percentage of us say we are concerned about the environment because we love nature.

But to love nature EVERYWHERE, we have to love nature SOMEWHERE.

We are blessed, right here in Northeast Florida, to be surrounded by extraordinary beauty in our land and waters. Furthermore, our beautiful surroundings have a rich and fascinating cultural history. We must honor our home's great antiquity.


· The oldest known living site on our country's eastern seaboard is a shell midden site called Spencer's Midden -- near the intersection of the St. Johns River and the Intracoastal Waterway. Archaeologists have radio-carbon dated the site to be over 5500 years old. Timucuan Native American sites are all over our area -- and archaeologists are busy digging and studying here so we can better tell the history of our ancestors. · Jean Ribault was the first European to wander into our area. As he observed the mouth of the St. Johns River -- what he named the River of May -- he was overwhelmed by the beauty, declaring it to be the "fairest, frutefullest, and pleasantest of all the world."

· In his book, Travels, the famed naturalist William Bartram described the St. Johns River watershed as a "blessed land where the gods have amassed into one heap all the flowering plants, birds, fish and other wildlife of two continents in order to turn the rushing streams, the silent lake shores and the awe-abiding woodlands of this mysterious land into a true garden of Eden."

· Charlie Bennett, our revered and beloved Congressman for over 40 years, established the magnificent Timucuan National Preserve in the northeast portion of our community in 1988. One has to see this area by boat to get a true sense of its majesty -- the sweeping tidal creeks, the big sky over the saltmarshes -- famed Florida nature writer Herb Hiller summarized the experience: "Charlie Bennett understood the idea of endlessness."

· Visionary John Delaney, influenced by a peak experience while boating on Sisters Creek in the Timucuan Preserve just north of the St. Johns River, established Preservation Project Jacksonville, which forever preserved over 50,000 acres of Old Florida, saving these properties from being concreted over and developed.

Yes, we have a home we can be proud of; a place we can connect to and honor.

We have a duty to know about our place, to be able to identify and name certain parts of our home -- like the primary shorebirds we see all the time; the main fish that feed our community; we need to teach our children about how the tides work, teach them to identify certain scat they can always see hiking our trails in the morning; they need to know the differences between a slash pine, a live oak and a sycamore.

We also must simply experience our home and allow our senses to be stimulated and enticed by the smell of the salt air, the feel of a warm moist breeze in summer as it brushes over our cheeks, the sound of a barred owl on clear crisp fall night, or the sight of pelicans gliding gracefully within a razor's edge of the lapping waves just below their outstretched wings. We must learn about the culture and history of our region. Visit Kingsley Plantation and learn about Anna Jai Kingsley. Take a trip to the Jacksonville Maritime Museum or MOSH. Read Bartram's Travels or Patrick Smith's classic, A Land Remembered. Attend the Florida Folk Festival and enjoy to the sounds of the diverse music and the demonstrations of Florida folklife that are part of our cultural fabric.

We are, here in our home of Northeast Florida, surrounded by water, surrounded by beauty, surrounded by a rich cultural heritage. This gives us a sense of place, where we live and move and have our being, it is where we belong.

How can we not try to protect our home and what we love? How can we not use common sense and good judgment when we weigh the temptation of short term financial gain -- which would harm our natural world -- against the duty we have to our children and future generations to protect the natural world for them? After all, by protecting our environment, we are protecting their home and their birthright to a place that nurtures their souls and helps define who they are.


Copyright Sierra Club Northeast Florida Group