Trapped recently in an airport lounge where there was no escape from television, I saw an advertisement that showed a husband and wife in an electronics store rushing from one gadget to another, their eyes agog with desire, their mouths curled into rapturous grins, while a chorus of voices chanted, “I want it all, and I want it now!”
This expression of unbridled appetite, neatly combining gluttony and impatience, might stand as the motto for our commercial culture. The same impulse prompts children to throw tantrums when their parents refuse to buy them candy or sneakers or toys. Most of us, I suspect, think of such children as spoiled. Yet the ad implies that once we are grown up and equipped with charge cards, we no longer need to throw tantrums, for we can have everything we want, without pain or delay. Politicians echo this appeal to our gluttony by promising to cut taxes while offering us more handouts and services. Technologists indulge our impatience by peddling gadgets that will let us do everything faster, regardless of whether what we’re doing is worth doing at all. Merchants and media, pollsters and pundits, agree in defining us as consumers, as if the purpose of life were to devour the world rather than to savor and preserve it.
As an antidote to this culture of consumption, extravagance, and waste that dominates America today, we need to imagine a culture of conservation. The reasons are manifold. Whether one considers the disruption of global climate, the tattering of the ozone layer, the clear-cutting of forests, the loss of topsoil, the poisoning of lakes by acid rain, the collapse of ocean fisheries, the extinction of species, the looming shortages of oil and fresh water, the spread of famine and epidemic disease, or dozens of other challenges, it’s clear that our present way of life is ruinous for the planet and for all Earth’s creatures.
How might we shift to a more durable and responsible way of life? What models do we have for a culture of conservation? What changes in values and behavior would be required to bring it about? Where can we see it emerging in practice? This book seeks answers to those questions.
"Sanders's A Conservationist Manifesto is a book to be savored--for its language, its stories, its sense of place, and for how it reminds us of the profound relationships with nature and each other that can inspire us to change how we live on this planet.... A must read for all of us who are wrestling with the future of conservation and searching for how to express the values that will take us to a greener and more sustainable future." --Will Rogers, President, The Trust for Public Land
"A seasoned professor and writer of fiction and nonfiction has given us the benefit of his journey in the worlds of literture, natural history, and religious philosophy. But A Conservationist Manifesto is more than that. Scott Russell Sanders's elegant writing reminds us once again that it is, above all, through style that power defers to reason." --Wes Jackson, President, The Land Institute