This is one of the mantras my daughter started using in 1st grade. I'm not sure if it is the new catch-phrase in school, or her distillation of the environmental and play well together messages she's learning.
But every time I read the news now, I think about this phrase. It's a very powerful, evocative, and lesson heavy phrase.
It kind of makes sense. Implications: use nature, explore, live in, learn from, manage, but don't hurt. It sums up pragmatic sustainable living in 3 words.
But taken too literally, it can become crippling. One has to define hurt. Like what do we do with the snakes that are eating our chicken eggs, and sitting in the egg box where little girl hands blindly reach up over their heads to grab eggs. I keep wanting to read her Lost Horizon and Shangri La - everything in moderation - to go with it. How do you explain best available technologies, food systems, supply chains, and economic impact studies or systems thinking to a 2nd grader? We can't even get politicians with degrees from Harvard to understand that?
The mantra raises all the fun big college philosophical questions of life. What happens when nature hurts you? 2020 nature decided to pull out the big guns. Fires, hurricanes, land hurricanes, Covid. You can't even blame COVID on climate change. That's just nature landing a right hook.
What are the boundary conditions of the mantra? Is she responsible for protecting all of nature, or just not harming it herself? What does she do when someone else has hurt nature, and it crosses our ranch or even national boundaries and affects you, or a third party, or future generations? What happens if it's a lot of too small to care hurts on nature that add up over time? Does she have to follow the precautionary principle? Who pays for it? The mantra encompasses the thorny core of the climate change issue.
And just what are the bounds of nature? Are our chickens nature? We eat them. And steal their eggs. And let the dog loose on the possums and raccoons bent on chicken killing and egg stealing. And of course buy $17.95 50 lb sacks of laying pellets for them manufactured in a not so sustainable process so they don't destroy the nature we have carefully curated in our yard. But we don't buy eggs from chicken farms shipped in on diesel trucks anymore.
What about the fish at the ranch? They live in a man made pond from the 1940s, nothing about it is "native". The pine trees were transplanted in the 1960s, the cattle are not native, but are not new. The Bass, Crappie, Bluegill were added. But it's definitely a sustainable healthy ecosystem now - designed originally to water cows, and perfect to give us fish to catch, but now serving a huge well developed ecosystem. So we discuss the circle of life, and food cycles, and outdoorsmanship, and agriculture.
All of that looks like nature to her - she doesn't differentiate.
And when nature gets personal. But what about fire ants? That same daughter is highly allergic, a big problem in Texas. So we use heavy duty annual fire ant poison. Trust me, that stuff is not good for nature, or my pocket book. Between $1,000 for ant poison, and untold dollars for allergy sessions, smacking nature down is getting quite expensive. But I'm not telling my daughter she can't play in her own yard.
Or mosquitos, where the main control mechanism is ecosystem smashing insecticides, that have saved countless lives. Are genetically modified mosquitos hurting nature?
And then of course, the Virus. (That's how my girls know it). It is very, very much Nature. And I'm definitely down for hurting the hell out of it.
We'll start with Don't Hurt Nature. But teaching ethics, economics and sustainable living in a world of climate change and COVID is not going to be that simple.