Often times people get confused because conservatism and conservation share the same root, but seem to be opposites. This only occurs because the Left took over popular environmentalism long ago, converting it into a vehicle for “social justice,” at which point conservatives fled.
People forget what deep ecology means, which is to live within the order of nature. This does not mean mud huts, but only that we figure out how ecosystems work and how we can construct a human life within them without damaging them.
This does not mean that we will not partially displace them; obviously, any land we take for ourselves will no longer be a natural ecosystem. However, we can make our human structures more compatible with the needs and benefits of nature, as seen with the anti-lawn movement:
According to NASA, there are 40 million acres of turf grass in the United States — lawn, in a sense, is our largest crop. Individually we spend, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 hours a year mowing our lawns; and as a nation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, we pour 9 billion gallons of water daily on those lawns. Nevertheless, in the past two decades, according to the U.S. census, the average new home has grown 21 percent, even as the average parcel of land it sits on has shrunk 400 square feet.
In a 1989 New York Times Magazine essay about the lawn, journalist Michael Pollan, noting the zombielike cycle of refreshment granted by fertilizers and pesticides, wrote: “Lawns are nature purged of sex and death. No wonder Americans like them so much.”
Many on the deep ecology side point out that planting the space where your lawn would be with native plants allows that space to support local creatures and take part in the life cycle of your area. Of course, if you are on a busy street, you might not want to draw in local creatures.
In a broader sense however we are drawn to consider whether humans want to live in nature-like dwellings and places, or human-contra-nature places like glass and chrome boxes, suburban retreats, concrete and plastic condominiums, or even cities themselves.
This brings us to the primal question of our role with nature. Are we here to dominate it, coexist with it, or nurture it through some kind of enlightened stewardship? The latter takes work and therefore is unpopular, but we can fake it by buying EnergyStar appliances and quinoa.
While undoubtedly not all of us are fans of religion, perhaps we should consider this simple formula:
Genesis 1:9-13 And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
Genesis 1:20-23 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
Genesis 1:24-25 24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
In a book about the battle between good and evil, it tells us that God sees nature as good. He enjoys creating its flora and fauna, and takes delight in its beauty. Then he passes on the word to the rest of us that what he has done is good, and that this is an archetype of good for us.
Later this is more thoroughly explained:
Psalm 19:1-4 The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.
Night in this case serves as a metaphor for our subconscious, the order of Heaven, and the afterlife. In the day there is activity, and in a spiritual sense, we understand from that “knowledge,” or wisdom of what is real.
In this way, the Bible argues for an essential role for nature, and reminds us that nature is part of good, and that from this good, we must learn a process. Perhaps that life uses complexity to renew itself, and that nothing is ever lost, only going through a cycle between knowledge and speech.
This ties with what we know: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1). The world was created, and is part of God, and from this we can learn fundamental patterns — like Plato’s forms — that become our metaphysical knowledge.
Much as this seems vague, it makes a case for the necessity of nature for the growth of our souls, and for the divinity of nature in the eyes of God. In parallel, even atheist humans can ascertain that nature shows us how the order of the universe works, and is beautiful in its own right, therefore worth preserving.