Two wrongs don’t make a right. September 5, 2009Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: environmentalism, our beautiful world, Teddy Roosevelt
This week, our friend Ben and Silence Dogood have been enjoying, courtesy of Netflix, a documentary on Teddy Roosevelt called “TR: An American Lion.” Our friend Ben took marked exception to one historian who remarked that Teddy Roosevelt was the greatest character who ever inhabited the White House—I think she forgot that other “Lion in the White House,” Andrew Jackson—but both Silence and I were awed by the millions of acres of land Roosevelt managed to set aside as national parkland during his seven-year presidency.
For animal lovers like us, who tend to think of Teddy Roosevelt not as the man who spared that pathetic roped-up bear from the gun, inadvertently creating the beloved “teddy bear,” but as the big-game hunter who redecorated the White House with moose heads and leopardskin rugs, it’s not an easy jump to envision him as the founder of our national park system, the preserver of wildlands and wildlife, of natural beauty, for future generations. But he deserves the credit for that, and it’s that act of environmentalism that earned him a place on Mount Rushmore with men who many would think are much greater than he.
Our friend Ben and Silence share a belief that we, that all of us, are the inheritors of an earthly paradise. Half a century of space exploration has failed to reveal anything even vaguely resembling the beauty and bounty of Earth. If there is one cardinal sin, to us it would not be the spoiled-brat, childish jealousy of Lucifer’s defiance of God, but rather our desecration of the Creation gifted into our care by a loving Creator. We didn’t always know better, but now we do. So why don’t we do better?
We can’t all be Teddy Roosevelts, setting aside land for the public good. But we can all transform whatever land or balcony space we have into productive, diverse, wildlife-welcoming space, through organic gardening, through creating a bird or butterfly garden, through setting up an earthworm composter or a martin house or bat house or container water garden, through adding more native plants and nectar plants in our beds and borders. Through refraining from dumping unending chemicals on our sterile, appalling lawns and automatically spraying anything that moves.
No, most of us aren’t environmental heroes; we’re just ordinary people, trying to live our busy lives as best we can. But any of us can put up a bird feeder or plant some herbs or flowers. Any of us can refrain from grabbing the pesticides when we see a caterpillar that might turn into a monarch butterfly. Any of us can set out a bird bath with some pebbles in it so birds and butterflies can perch and drink.
Okay, fine, you may be thinking, but what does any of this have to do with the title of this post? What two wrongs are you talking about? Good point. In ironic counterpoint, Silence and our friend Ben finished watching the documentary about Teddy Roosevelt, the man who did more than anyone to preserve American wildlands, last night. And this morning, our local paper was full of the news of a “radical environmental organization” called ELF, the Earth Liberation Front, and how it had knocked over two radio towers in Washington State and possibly pulled over a third here in our own Pennsylvania. (ELF has claimed responsibility for the Washington attacks but not the Pennsylvania tower, as far as I’m aware.) The ELF press statement said, in effect, “Washington State doesn’t need two more sports radio stations.”
To us, folks like ELF are what gives environmentalism a bad name. We have yet to find one instance when vandalism and violence accomplished anything good. We believe with all our hearts that good custodianship of our world and its resources is, at this point, the most reverent and sacred act a human can perform. But defacing and destroying another person’s property is not the way to go about it.
ELF members should take a lesson from Mahatma Gandhi in ahimsa, nonviolence. Find actors who will speak up for our beautiful, endangered world. Find religious leaders who recognize the blasphemy of destroying the Creator’s great gift in the name of gain. Find producers and directors who will document life’s beauty and diversity. Find writers and poets and musicians and artists who will rage, rage against the dying of our global light. Get the message out.
But please, don’t compound the problem with your childish, irritating misbehavior. Two wrongs have never yet made a right.