Winning Hearts and Minds
One man leaned forward and said something to me that really hit home. He said, speaking of all these rules, “What does it matter? It’s just nature.”We lead off with an article by Chris Carlson, a professed Republican Millennial.
As a young man, I find myself a college graduate working in a warehouse; side-by-side with America’s working men. Checking my vim and vigor at the door, I have settled into a post-graduate experiment, operating a high-reach forklift in America’s post-industrial economy.
My coworkers, whom I studied as a grandchild studies a grandfather, would shoot the breeze in the lunch room and in the cross aisles between the fifty foot pillars of industrial strength racking. A common topic of interest was their love of fishing. I entertained the subject because I understood the tranquil qualities of standing on the bank of a trickling river or sitting in a boat adrift atop the still waters of a quiet and hidden pond. It’s something all men, trapped among the hurry-up and noise that tests men’s nerves, can lose themselves in.
On one occasion they started talking about the regulations one faces when fishing for swordfish off the coast of Florida. Now, of these regulations, I know very little — but, the topic of protecting juveniles and egg bearing females was a point of debate among the men with whom I had become acquainted.
“It’s just nature”: a call for the end of pointless trivializing conversation about regulations and a return to the important issues: which lake or brook would they be going to this weekend, and is there any chance they could get their hands on a boat. One of the men offered a half-hearted counter, trying to highlight the need to protect domestic swordfish populations — but, he had not the voice to persuade and the others had not the ear or desire to understand.
I was privy to a perspective that we, the ambitious conservationists and romantic eco-warriors, must understand if we are to reach out in order to change hearts and minds. It’s important to understand that to many nature is not a jewel to be cherished, it is a resource to employ. This perspective is one that we must empathize with and understand if we are to truly consider ourselves planetary stewards. We have an obligation to protect not only our environment, but the people with whom we share this environment, who are equally worth our time and effort.
These men, who work 12-hour shifts in the bitter bite of winter and the humid heat of summer, are our base. The people who consider nature to be unlimited resources are our movement’s room-to-grow. In their daily routine they are confined to a building with no windows, no fresh air, and no natural aura — but, they sustain their spirits and supplement their health through their connection with the natural world. During the week they are by the clock, for the dollar, and weary. But, on their time, they are men of nature, venturing into the uncultivated land to relish their environment and their place in the world.
All across the United States there are people burdened by hardships and the plight of modern life in the hustle and bustle of the 21st century. And these people take respite in the small victories that conservation and environmental awareness has already begot. Parks, nature reserves, and conserved areas are places in which working people are most likely to come into direct contact with the ideas that we are trying to elevate — above partisan politics — to a state of universal agreement. Reducing carbon emissions, re-constructing our infrastructure, halting off-shore drilling and trying to turn the tide of climate change are all vital to our movement.
Unfortunately, these obstacles and their difficult solutions do not reach American workers — these points alienate and so are not the ground on which we should construct our platform of commonality.
I believe that we must not allow our movement to become pessimistic; we must not allow ourselves to be a cynical generation, full of fear and guilt. Instead, we must raise a banner of positivity and celebrate the victories our movement has already had.
“It’s just nature” is our target. The idea that our environment, our nature, and our ways of life are devisable is our target. And, building momentum through outreach to our movement’s skeptics is how we are going to be able to take the abstract of “nature” and replace it with the reality of home. Together, we can lay the ground work that will allow those who come in our wake the right to celebrate the ultimate victory: a planet and population that lives in sustained harmony.