This month’s issue of National Geographic focuses on the existence and pitfalls of tribalism by belief. In communities where membership is granted by birth but lines are drawn by worldview, many find themselves socially trapped in inflexible, unrealistic mindsets, unable to contemplate otherwise obvious problems for fear of alienation.
Nat Geo focuses on misunderstandings between the scientific community and wider world. There is a similar conflict concerning conservation and human advancement. The concept that civilization and humanity are locked in an unshakable, zero-sum battle is present in both the conservation and opposition camps. This dichotomy is false, but it is so deep and widespread that I can’t find an unbiased word for someone who isn’t a conservationist. Anti-environmentalist? This implies the foolish desire to destroy your own surroundings, something I don’t think anyone is in favor of. “Conservation” or “environmentalism” have the opposite problem, in many circles these labels are code for self-hating hippies who want to demolish cities and turn back to the stone age.
Worse than the lack of language is the reality of the tribes that have formed.
Human advancement is not inextricably tied to environmental degradation, but the very consideration of environmental factors is taboo in prominent communities all the way up to the governor’s office, where the very word “climate change” has been banned from use. The same mistake is made by environmentalists when they protest practices vital to our survival, like the use of many fertilizers and pesticides to meet the population’s food demands, without providing an alternative.
The absurdity of the situation is that we all agree on what we really want.
We all want a safe, technologically developed world, without, to use a taboo word, an ecological crisis.
While moving towards that reality, we need to find our own voices, and stop ostracizing opposition. Usually, when there are two bad choices, there is a more satisfactory third one waiting to be considered.
Tribalism has no place here.