What Good Is Environmentalism?

The future and past of Boston, as drawn by John Bonner’s in 1722.

I’ll admit it: Ever since I was a really little kid I’ve been what many people condescendingly call an environmentalist. I picked up trash on the elementary schoolyard while my friends were swinging on the monkey bars. I was sad, even then, for the Earth and all that people have done to it as we dig and slash and pry and burn our way to modern-day manifest destiny. I captured my broken little heart in an Earth Day poem I wrote in fourth grade and read to the whole school. It was a proud moment.


Fast forward two decades. Earlier this week it came out that in a few hundred years, Boston will revert back to it’s Colonial footprint once rising tides swamp the built-on-landfill Back Bay, South Boston, East Boston, and everywhere else. I sank into an Earth-related depression, thinking, Why don’t we try to stop this? But then last night, walking my dog along soon(ish)-to-be-underwater Malibu Beach in Dorchester, I had an important realization. And that is: Who fucking cares?

My thinking, I realized, has been totally screwed up. How could I be depressed that we were destroying the planet when the planet is so big and powerful and full of hot liquid energy that the combined effect of the entire human race equates to keying the side of an Escalade stretch limo? People are part of a natural ecology, just like fire in forests. We’re the beginning of the cycle that eventually leads to billion-years-in-the-making renewal. Sure, we’ll open a giant gash in the middle of pristine Alaska, we’ll smoke out all the polar bears, and we’ll see to it that the sea is stagnant tank filled with jelly fish. And that’s okay, because that’s part of what we’re doing here.

Yeah, it will suck as it gets hotter and drier year after year, but it will only suck for people and this version of the planet. Meanwhile, the Earth will keep right on spinning, evolving, and not caring. And I aim to not care, too. But that still doesn’t mean I’ll become a Republican.