David Gessner offers a modest 'Green Manifesto'
Nature writer David Gessner argues that we must first fall in love with nature before we will fight for it.
Talk about the environment is full of apocalyptic disasters – giant problems like the Gulf Coast oil spill or the scariest of them all: global warming.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Nature writer David Gessner wants to keep his manifesto for the environment modest, simple – and local. “Maybe the most important wilderness is the one closest to home,” he says.
While academic research is important, more support for environmental causes will be won by getting people out to actually experience nature than in all the charts, graphs, and position papers in the world, he argues.
“Don’t throw out the contact with the animals and the places. Because for many of us that’s where it starts. We wouldn’t be in this battle at all if we didn’t have that,” he said in a visit to the Monitor newsroom last month.
In a journey by canoe down the Charles River, which begins in central Massachusetts and twists its way through leafy suburbs into the city of Boston and finally Boston Harbor, Gessner found a watery world since filled with beauty, even if the hand of man is nearly omnipresent.
“[T]he world is still lovely, even when it is limited and somewhat un-wild. In other words, for all of environmentalism’s cries of doom, there are still places like this river, teeming with life and flowing right through our backyards,” he writes in “My Green Manifesto: Down the Charles River in Pursuit of a New Environmentalism.”
He was amazed on the first day of his journey to find just how wild the Charles could be near its headwaters.
“There were moments where I could close my eyes and ... [have] been in Belize,” he says. As the human population increased, he saw backyards with canoes and rope swings over the water. He thought how each of these ordinary suburban houses, at least as seen from the street side, held a “watery secret” in its backyard.
Farther in, humankind's hand was even more evident. “You see the Coors Light cans floating and the old shopping carts," Gessner says. But he was amazed at the abundance of nature also around him as he rousted a great blue heron from its perch into elegant flight or watched as a sharp-shinned hawk swooped low across the water.