By John Anderson Lanier, executive director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation
This was originally posted on the Ray C. Anderson Foundation Ecocentricity blog.
Despite our best efforts, separating ourselves from nature is a fruitless endeavor. So long as we are made primarily of carbon, we are nature. So long as we breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, we are nature.
As I sit down to write this post, I think my mood can be described best by the following: feeling a temptation towards philosophical musings of the sort that would come naturally to you if we were sipping Earl Grey tea surrounded by many leather bound books. And here we go….
The spoken word can be truly remarkable, with its potential to inspire and motivate buoyed by the multiplicity of forms which it can take.
[He takes a sip of tea, then realizes that sentence was one of the most uppity he’s ever written]
Sorry, let me get ahold of myself and try again, with something comprehensible this time.
So this last weekend, I finished listening to the audiobook version of The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy. It might be my favorite novel of all time, and I found it as enjoyable now as I did when I read it in high school. I soaked up all of its 21 hours, inspired to be a better, kinder, more gentle man. To me, that’s the moral of the story, but the book contains an abundance of lessons (as most any good book does).
Then today I was reminded that a mere sentence spoken in about four seconds can be just as powerful. Especially when the person speaking it is Janine Benyus.
“So often, we forget that we are nature!”
Janine is one of my heroes, and I find that she can distill thoughts into the most elegant and understandable forms. With this statement, she once again succeeded. I found myself nodding and reaching for my pen to preserve this insight.
Think about it for a second, and I believe you’ll agree with Janine as well. If you watch any sport utility vehicle advertisement, nature is presented as something that we have to go to. We think of it as a destination and something other than ourselves. We draw lines around it and label it a “park” or “preserve.” We plan our vacations around it.
Despite our best efforts though, separating ourselves from nature is a fruitless endeavor. So long as we are made primarily of carbon, we are nature. So long as we breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, we are nature. So long as we find beauty in the pinks and greens of the spring and the reds and yellows of the fall, we are nature. So long as we are fortunate enough to be alive, then we most definitely are nature.
How, then, do we embrace this truth, rather than fight against it? I’ll ask you to wait a week for an answer, which involves the work of two other environmental heroes of mine: Bob Fox and Bill Browning. I probably can’t fit the answer in four brilliant seconds, but it won’t be 21 hours either, I promise.
John A. Lanier is Executive Director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, a Georgia-based private family foundation honoring the legacy of the late Ray C. Anderson (1934–2011), founder of Interface, one of the world’s first regenerative businesses. Ray Anderson was a globally recognized industrialist and pioneer for environmentalism, and Lanier continues his legacy today through Foundation programs that seek to create a brighter, more sustainable world by funding innovative, educational, and project-based initiatives.
Originally published at www.raycandersonfoundation.org.