In general, we need to increase participation in the outdoors to lend greater weight to conservation work. Many of us are more attached to the work-spend cycle than to any natural cycles. In order to develop a strong environmental ethic and to create lasting and effective natural resource management policies, we must go outside.
As the late Edward Abbey wrote,
“Be as I am—a reluctant enthusiast…a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land: it is even more important to enjoy it.”
Sure, there are solid critiques of that quote, but we need to love and appreciate and enjoy being outdoors in order to fight harder for conserving it.
Hunters have been some of our great conservationists, but do we understand hunting now in a way even comparable to the way our species used to? Do Americans act on any of their outdoorsy fantasies? We are losing habitats, and with the loss of those habitats, losing their hunters. It seems counterintuitive, that losing those who hunt can also result in fewer of a given animal, but it is that personal participation in the habitat that requires attention to the overall health of the habitat. Without a healthy habitat, there will be no hunting for that particular target species.
Hunting is but one way to participate in nature. Many Americans live an indoor life: houses in suburban developments were designed so that you can drive straight into your garage and walk into your house. No interaction with weather or neighbours necessary. We have come to a point where we do not need to take natural cycles into consideration in our day to day.
Usually, it’s frowned upon to hunt in an urban environment, although I have heard good things about the urban squirrel hunting in Chicago.
So how might a person participate and appreciate nature without the squirrel hunting? Biking or walking to work makes a person pay closer attention. If it’s raining or cold, you dress accordingly. Even the closer contact with the sidewalk that you get might make you notice little things like ants working on some dropped ice cream. You notice the little plants growing through the sidewalk cracks. These may not seem comparable to the more dramatic participatory experience of hunting, but they add up.
Go outside. Garden. Walk. All of us need not go on long backcountry hikes to appreciate what we have. Most importantly, we need to integrate the natural world into our day-to-day life, somehow, to better understand the motivation to keep our air and water clean.