Apropos of nothing:
The other night I was lying in bed, being held hostage by my daughter Isabella who insisted she would only go to sleep if I stayed there with her.
She was mad that I had made her go to bed at all. She said, “I don’t like you anymore, Daddy.”
So we’re lying there in the dark and she reaches out with her foot to touch me. I ask her, “If you don’t like me, why are you touching me with your foot.”
“I don’t like you anymore,” she says, “but my foot still loves you a lot.”
A friend and Zen teacher once told me a story about a peace activist during the Vietnam war. The peace activist considered it his job to convince everyone he met that the US should end the war.
One day, this activist was on a plane on his way home from a talk he gave, and he got chatting with the guy next to him, who turned out to be a dairy farmer (or a beef farmer, I’m not sure which).
“And what do you do?” the dairy farmer asked.
“Oh, I’m a peace activist, and I’m trying to end the war.”
“Yeah, it’s an ugly mess,” the dairy farmer said, “but that’s the cost of the good fight.”
“A lot of soldiers are being killed, though,” the activist said conversationally.
“Yeah, it’s awful, but it’s the price we have to pay.”
“Did you know about the kids who are dying?”
“It makes me what to cry, but still…”
“What about the forests being burned down? Did you read about that?”
“Yeah, that’s awful, too, but you have to accept that war is an ugly business.”
“You know about the villages being wiped out?”
“Yeah, so sad.”
“And you heard about all the cattle getting killed?”
“WAIT! THEY KILL THE COWS?!”
Sometimes, you have to bring issues home to people in the way that gets to them most.
That’s why sometimes I talk about human health, security and happiness instead of environmentalism. It’s not that I disavow environmentalism when I frame the discussion that way. It’s not that I refuse to wear the environmentalist mantle (even though, honestly, I doubt I’ve been discussing it long enough to deserve it).
I believe that “the environment”–endangered species, icebergs, and all of it–are valuable and should be saved for their own sake, not just because of their utility to humans. But not everyone believes that, and I don’t care if they believe it.
I just want us to find a way to get us all to agree to save these things, whatever our differing reasons may be.