We must sacrifice to preserve | AspenTimes.com

We must sacrifice to preserve

Dear Editor:

I’d like to share some thoughts from Tom Wessels’ book, “The Myth of Progress.” These thoughts are relevant to the Hidden Gems Wilderness area proposal being made to preserve public lands for our future.

I support this proposal because I believe we need to preserve, protect and support the last great places that can genuinely be called natural, for the present and the future.

Wessels points out that, “Not only do our leaders fail to see … how different problems are interrelated; they also refuse to recognize how their so-called solutions affect future generations. From the systemic point of view, the only viable solutions are those that are sustainable. The concept of sustainability has become a key concept in the ecology movement and is indeed crucial. Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute has given a simple, clear, and beautiful definition: A sustainable society is one that satisfies its needs without diminishing the prospects of future generations. This, in a nutshell, is the great challenge of our time: to create sustainable communities …” 

The Hidden Gems Wilderness area proposal is an opportunity for the citizens of this fine nation of ours to collectively work together to create a new vision for the future. As I see it now, the vision for our nation’s future can be seen in the over-consumption and wants of a minority. Can we afford to keep progress tied to consuming more goods, more land, and more resources? Or, in Wessels’ words, can we turn “toward fostering community, strong connections to place, traditions that link community to place, and reflective practice to generate understanding and eventually wisdom”?

In October 2007 the Yale Forestry and Environmental Science Department hosted a conference in Aspen, with more than 50 renowned environmental science, social, humanitarian, and academic leaders from around the nation, titled “Toward a New Consciousness: Values to Sustain Human and Natural Communities.” As a result of this conference Anthony A. Leiserowitz and Lisa O. Fernande have written “A Synthesis of Insights and Recommendations.” What resulted from this conference was not only a better understanding of our current paradigm regarding man’s perception about his partnership with Earth’s living systems, but “New Narratives” to help man create a paradigm shift which allows him to embrace his partnership with earth’s living systems.

When I attended the June 3 Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign forum, hosted by Congressman Jared Polis, in Edwards, the majority of speakers prided themselves in the fact that they have lived in Colorado their whole lives, even some for generations. Their history in Colorado roots them to these public lands. I can understand this point of view. As a native Vermonter, I love the fact that Act 250 – established to set the natural environment of Vermont above business – still exists today to protect and preserve Vermont’s landscape, farming industry, and culture of sustainability. I will be there in a week, and I know that in spite of the preservation efforts it is as natural, economically viable and social as it was when I moved west to Colorado in 1991. 

One narrative from the summary of the 2007 Aspen conference stands out and speaks directly to all of us. I would like the native Coloradans whose ancestors struggled to make it to this new frontier, and others who have done it themselves, who oppose the Hidden Gems Wilderness area proposal that evening to see if this speaks to them as it did to me. The need to “Sacrifice for a purpose greater than one’s self has a long, deep, and rich cultural history. Human beings have long been willing to sacrifice their comfort, possessions, and even their lives for freedom, for equality, for God or for country. History demonstrates that human beings are often willing to endure hardships, bear burdens, and make sacrifices in pursuit of a greater good. How can we reclaim and harness this force for the common good” of preserving the land proposed in the Hidden Gems Wilderness area?

I’m proposing that we look at the Hidden Gems Wilderness area campaign as an opportunity for us all to look at our own personal comforts, possessions and desires, and ask ourselves if they’re more important than the needs of the greater good, and for the future of our children and earth.

I once heard a mother respond to her young daughter as she was crying and pleading not to have to go back to school, “It’s not about what you want, honey.” This conversation reminded me of the fact that when we feel we have to possess nature, she’ll resist. She’s much more willing to give us what we need when we nurture and care for her.

Our survival is dependent on our cooperation and creativity. When I say “our,” I mean all organisms that make up the living system called Earth. There’s no time left to fight about, argue and debate the issue. The time to act is now.

A final statement from the summary of the 2007 Aspen conference urges us all to understand that “it is imperative that environmentalism cease being viewed as a special interest. What is required is a systems shift, a new holistic view of the world we live in. In this sense, policy is the cart, not the horse.”

Mary Russell

Glenwood Springs

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