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
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
· 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
· 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.