Ideas that Endure… and keep us going
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
The early 1960s U.S. civil rights movement, led by Martin Luther King, Jr, pre-dates the environmental movement by about a decade. But King’s vision and his way—of leading peacefully, standing for justice in a sea of violent opposition, seizing the “fierce urgency of now”—inspired people who came after him to pursue environmental justice, protection of wildlife and nature, and laws that would ensure every American the right to clean water and air. On the heels of civil rights legislation came the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, among others.
King showed people how to see possibilities, not just immediate problems, and in doing so, revealed hope. And it is having hope that inspires people to act. He combined over-arching calls for justice, fairness and possibility, with immediate and passionate action in the streets, schools, and workplaces. It worked, and civil rights became irrefutable. (And it still works. Consider the current campaign for marriage equality, for example. Campaign leaders have effectively combined legal arguments based on constitutional fairness, with social media-fueled photographs of couples seeking licenses, state by state, courthouse by courthouse.)
Today’s environmental champions and conservationists can also choose to focus on possibilities, not just problems, to reveal hope and inspire action–action that can lead President Obama or members of Congress to protect a place sacred to Native Americans; hope and action that brings people together to talk about hunting, roads, and access to public lands—and find compromise; just enough hope to cause a handful of people to help write what may seem like a tedious resource management plan, but one that stops a bad mining project, or protects habitat for migrating birds.
The Conservation Lands Foundation’s particular focus is to protect, restore and expand the National Conservation Lands. Our job as conservationists is to reveal hope for ourselves and for a broad swath of Americans—that inspires big and small actions that will make protection of these lands irrefutable. We are joined by many other organizations, including 58 groups in the Friends Grassroots Network, who are committed to doing the same thing. It’s no small job, but Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others before us have shown it can be done.