By Connor Rockett
On Monday, Margaret and I headed out with two volunteers to assess a bridge at the Skolfield Preserve. It was great to connect with the volunteers, who were enthusiastic about the work of the Land Trust and environmentalism in general, and we had a wide-ranging discussion about society and its relationship with the natural world. At the start of our visit to the preserve, one of the volunteers said to me “You see,Connor, the more you do this kind of work, the more you see that everything is connected.” I told him he had an ecologist’s perspective and was glad to hear him share this idea, which is at the heart of so much thinking on the environment and on approaches to reshaping our relationship to it. From there, I knew we had similar interests and on the way back from the visit we began discussing them. We touched on quite a few issues, from the environmental and social consequences of industrial farming carried out by state planners, to the relevance of Karl Marx’s ideas about the influence of wealth on democracies and the distribution of power. Pretty heavy stuff!
As we were wrapping up, one of the final comments the volunteer made was, “I’m attracted to Marx’s idea that, of all the things that influence human societies, the economy is a big one.” Without making any particular claims about the final importance of the economy over any other factor in shaping our actions, this to me is an important insight for solving the environmental problems we face today. If our behaviors are destroying the natural world, then we should reflect on the determinants of those behaviors (in the example offered by the volunteer, one of the most important determinants being the economy) and how we might go about changing those determinants in order to produce healthier behaviors across our society. The question to think about is then how do we transition to an economy that is conducive to environmental sustainability, that causes us to have a closer, healthier relationship to the natural world? What would this economy look like? This is certainly nothing new, plenty of environmental thinkers have made arguments about these ideas in the past but I too am convinced of the importance of developing a land-friendly economy (as well as other cultural, social, and political forms) whose structural influences will help us to live in greater harmony with our surroundings and in better health. It was from the conversation with the volunteer that I started thinking more about the importance of a land-friendly economy.
Having these discussions and being in the community of environmentally conscious people at the Land Trust have been wonderful aspects of this job. It’s uplifting to be around people who are thinking seriously about how we can get from where we are to where we want to be, with respect to the environment, right here in Brunswick. I’m glad and thankful to be connected with and learning from those people. Ultimately, the more of us that connect over these ideas and goals, the sooner we’ll be able to make something happen!
Once we got back to the office, the volunteer said, “I’ve lectured too much!” For me, I could’ve spent the rest of the day listening to him and am looking forward to having more conversations like the one we had.