But There is Hope

IMG_1323MayApple240I’ll be meeting today with a group of retired folks, Methodists mostly, who will attend a retreat at Camp Altamons, a mere stone’s throw from home. My part is to share ways I’ve come to consider that we, and maybe especially those longest among us with the most experience and wisdom–might reconcile broken relationships. 

Here is the 300 word summary:

I learned in the summer of 1970, as a new zoology grad student, that many of the planet’s species and habitats–in fact, entire classes of animals and whole biomes–were under threat from our growing numbers and resource demands now referred to as our ecological footprint. 

More than that, I became aware of an alarming indifference to nature’s grave condition, beyond the youth and some older academics of that day. It was as if the planet’s matter and energy were believed to be inexhaustible and her working systems too big to fail. I saw this as the most epic of conflicts in which I was a character, a story that would shape the state of the world that my unborn children would inherit. 

Now four decades of biology-watching later, limits and ecological boundaries continue to be ignored–often in the name of profit and power. I have come to believe that reconciling essential and broken relationships–to nature, to place and within our human and non-human communities–must be the chief focus of our energies if we are to leave a legacy of hope and healing for those who come after us. 

But there is hope. Our nature apathy and ignorance can be reversed by renaturing our selves and our children, defeating “nature deficit” and its physical and spiritual consequences. Placelessness may be reversed by a renewed discovery of “sense of place.” In so doing, as Eudora Welty said, “one place understood helps us know all places better.” Out of these therapeutic responses may finally evolve eco-empathy–a personal, ecological, stewardship ethic. With that understanding, we might then come to use our technologies and guide our economic engines with a seven-generation view of their consequences. If we are successful, mankind may yet foster resilience and balance on a planet whose health our well-being will continue to depend.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. That would seem to be a receptive audience for yor message, Fred. I hope everyoneinvolvedgets something good from it.