We Are The Environment


I ran across this poster (get your own from the Environmental Advocates of NY). I browsed on, but kept coming back to it.

It resonates with me. Why?

Just curious: How does this four-word statement strike you?Is this New-Age tree-huggery? Is it pagan idolatry? Pantheistic blasphemy? Liberal new-speak?

Does it say anything to you at all, or is it just me?

Does the graphic inform your perceptions of the words?

The concept portrayed here so minimally and effectively points towards a crucial rethink to our future as a species and our relationship to the planet.

The century-long brain-wash has been thorough. Man and his economy are no longer part of or beholding to Nature or Nature’s economy that imposes limits, boundaries or tipping points.

So then, we are free do treat nature as Other, to gather golden eggs without limit with no need to ever consider the state of the goose.

There’s “out there” and there’s our inner kingdom and personal wants and entitlements that “the environment” must supply forever. Dominion, supremacy and control are human rights. It’s all about us.

Relationships to nature, place and global community have been broken as we’ve come to see ourselves not embedded within and beholding to “the environment.”

How myopic. How fatal and distorted this misconception. We ARE the environment.

It is what we eat. It is what we breathe. It is the physical source we draw from. It is not a god. It is not divine. But its health is our health. Its future is our future. As it goes, so goes the story of man.

It is worthy of more respect and reverence, honor and stewardship than we’ve given it in my generation.

So to my politically and religiously “conservative” brethren who are ruffled by this poster, I’d remind you that Adam comes from the word adama–of the earth; and that the word human comes from the same root as humus and humility.

I suggest we might use this simple graphic as a mantra, a thought-focus, a teachable moment.

You ARE the environment, no matter what color the state you’re in.


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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. I like it a lot! It’s very holistic. That word most likely dates me, but it is a serious concept in regard to the environment that most people don’t seem to get. Dare I say “Gaia”? That would brand me as hippy-dippy for sure. This manages to communicate the concept without going there in words. A similar line logo I really like is one I’ve seen used on UNCTV (PBS) to illustrate NC from mountains, through cities, to the sea. I’ve searched the Google to find for a link, but without success.

  2. “We ARE the environment. It is what we eat. It is what we breathe. It is the physical source we draw from.” These words of yours make it the clearest to me. Being an environmentalist, I could read the rest of what you wrote without taking affront, but you are preaching to the choir with that tone, in my opinion. Everything you said is true, but too harshly stated to worm its way into the minds of those who are defensive of our current ways. The graphic is good, but the words of yours I put in quotes above say it best, I think.

  3. Very well said, Fred, and I loved that you anticipated the argument from the political and religious angles, which I always find curious because it’s hard for me to understand NOT supporting earth-friendly practices.