“However destructive may be the policies of the government and the methods and products of the corporations, the root of the problem is always to be found in private life. We must learn to see that every problem that concerns us as conservationists always leads straight to the question of how we live. The world is being destroyed, no doubt about it, by the greed of the rich and powerful. It is also being destroyed by popular demand. There are not enough rich and powerful people to consume the whole world; for that, the rich and powerful people need the help of countless ordinary people. We acquiesce in the wastefulness and destructiveness of the national and global economics by acquiescing in the wastefulness and destructiveness of our own households and communities. If conservation is to have a hope of succeeding, then conservationists, while continuing their effort to change public life, are going to have to begin the effort to change private life as well.
“The problems we are worried about are caused not just by other people but by ourselves. And this realization should lead directly to two more. The first is that solving these problems is not work merely for so-called environmental organizations and agencies but also for individuals, families, and local communities. We are used to hearing about turning off unused lights, putting a brick in the toilet tank, using water-saving shower heads, setting the thermostat low, sharing rides, and so forth – pretty dull stuff. But I’m talking about actual jobs of work that are interesting because they require intelligence and because they are accomplished in response to interesting questions: What are the principles of household economy, and how can they be applied under present circumstances? What do people already possess in their minds and bodies, in their families and neighborhoods, in their dwellings and in their local landscape, that can replace what is now being supplied by our consumptive and predatory so-called economy? What can we supply to ourselves cheaply or for nothing that we are now paying dearly for? To answer such questions requires more intelligence and involves more pleasure than all the technological breakthroughs of the last two hundred years.
“Second, the realization that we ourselves, in our daily economic life, are causing the problems we are trying to solve ought to show us the inadequacy of the language we are using to talk about our connection to the world. The idea that we live in something called ‘the environment,’ for instance, is utterly preposterous. This word came into use because of the pretentiousness of learned experts who were embarrassed by the religious associations of ‘Creation’ and who thought ‘world’ too mundane. But ‘environment’ means that which surrounds or encircles us; it means a world separate from ourselves, outside us. The real state of things, of course, is far more complex and intimate and interesting than that. The world that environs us, that is around us, is also within us. We are made of it; we eat, drink, and breathe it; it is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. It is also a Creation, a holy mystery, made for and to some extent by creatures, some but by no means all of whom are humans. This world, this Creation, belongs in a limited sense to us, for we may rightfully require certain things of it – the things necessary to keep us fully alive as the kind of creature we are – but we also belong to it, and it makes certain rightful claims on us: that we care properly for it, that we leave it undiminished not just to our children but to all the creatures who will live in it after us. None of this intimacy and responsibility is conveyed by the word environment.” - “Conservation is Good Work”