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Respect for Nature

To celebrate its 60th birthday, the United Nations has been drafting a "Statement of Principles," renewing its commitment to improve living conditions for all the world. Next week they meet to finalize it. John Bolton, as his first act as US Ambassador to the United Nations, vetoed much of the draft. It wasn't just "respect for nature," which Senator Patrick Leahy censured him for discarding. But that's a good indicator of Bolton's general attitude.

Washington insists on weakening the UN's commitments, as well as its authority to act — as though the US will benefit most from protecting our power to impose our will. The world's mushrooming environmental problems show how this thinking fails. Global warming, loss of biodiversity, pollution of air, water, and the gene pool, rising disease from chemicals, ... only true international cooperation can address these problems.

It's not easy, getting past habitual self-centeredness. Yesterday I bought a bottle of Pygeum africanum, an herb with powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and an increasingly threatened supply. I turn on the air-conditioner when the heat gives me a headache — and manage not to think about the ozone hole then, although I carefully cover up in the sun.

When my town has set water restrictions, I get absent-minded about turning off the soaker hose at the end of the time allotted. I still grow dame's rocket although I know it spreads too well, and crowds out native plants.

When I fell in love with an endangered pipsissewa, I found myself rehearsing what I'd say if anyone caught me digging it up in Howard Park: "It's in the path, I'm rescuing it from getting trampled." I almost convinced myself. But in fact I then proceeded to kill it by overwatering. On the edge of the path where it had been, it was not really in much danger, and the slope down into the path kept the plant dry, the way it likes. My selfishness blinded me to the real needs of a delicate plant.

Respect for nature means respect for the larger reality of our interdependence with the whole planet. If we can't respect that part of nature we used to think of as separate from us, how can we respect the nature of human beings — the needs we have to meet, in order to live together? When I pay better attention to respecting nature, I have more respect too for other people — and for myself.

© Copyright 2005 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 9 September 2005

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For more information
  • What Senator Leahy's office posted (From the report in The Washington Post of Leahy's reaction to Bolton’s bid to strike "respect for nature" from the draft U.N. Statement Of Principles)
  • The US and the UN - details of the situation, posted by High Country Citizens for Peace and Justice (including text from the UK newsdaily The Independent)
  • Bush Snubs UN's Birthday Party in SF - a news report from the June 24 San Francisco Chronicle, giving background of the present situation