How can we care enough?

Over the past couple of decades, as more people have given attention to environmental concerns, there has been a growing recognition of the value of stewardship. With the evidence weighing in from all sides and showing unmistakably the destructive outcomes of shortsighted and selfish uses of the earth's resources, many thoughtful men and women, as well as children, have begun to understand more profoundly the impact of their own conduct on the world around them. Many have begun to take direct action to be better stewards of the neighborhoods and communities in which they work and live. A popular bumper sticker advises "Think globally, act locally."

There's little question that more people are caring more deeply about the quality of life and the environment. But there seems so much to care about and so many things to care for that the prospects can sometimes appear daunting. There are the rain forests and giant redwoods, the lakes and streams and rivers, the oceans and their marine life, the many endangered species and ecosystems throughout the world, diminishing habitat for wildlife, the quality of the earth's atmosphere and the very air we breathe. And then there are other issues crying out for attention—the continuing regional wars and ethnic conflicts, the large areas of the world plagued by drought and hunger, the numerous victims of natural disasters and of crime in the cities. The list can go on. And even the most compassionate and most thoughtful of people may wonder how any of us can possibly care enough.

Wendell Berry, writing in Sierra magazine, recently contributed an article titled "The Obligation of Care" (September/October 1995). Mr. Berry contends that the quality of caring, as well as the ability to care, ultimately "rests upon genuine religion." He also argues that, because we live in this world, we need to be honest in recognizing that no one can escape using what is in the world. Even on the most basic levels of providing adequate food, clothing, and shelter, we must necessarily utilize the world's resources. Consequently, Mr. Berry suggests, "... if we want to continue living, we cannot exempt use from care."

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Supporting today's researchers
December 4, 1995

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