Deep green fire
Publication date: 11 June 2018
If you hold a DEEP GREEN WORLDVIEW, then you will know the profound sorrow that comes from wilfully exposing oneself to all the bitter details of life's destruction. This idea was expressed by the hunter-turned-conservationist Aldo Leopold in his seminal work, A Sand County Almanac. He wrote that a penalty of "an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds." But while this is perfectly stated, it is not perfectly accurate. For we are not alone.
Unity comes from the deep green fire burning in each of us. Deep green fire is what helps us turn grief into action. Deep green fire is also what gives us the courage to speak out when we know that there are those who do not wish to hear our voice. And deep green fire is what motivates us, even knowing that the odds greatly favour Earth's destroyers, to keep on fighting for what we believe is right.
This metaphor – as well as being valuable, I hope, in its own right – purposely honours the imagery used by Leopold in A Sand County Almanac where he describes the pivotal moment in his transition to full-blooded conservationist. As a young hunter, he was part of a deer-stalking party that watched an old female wolf greeted by a half-dozen grown pups with "wagging tails and playful maulings" as she returned to her pack after fording a turbulent river. The hunters – being taught that wolves were bad for deer and thus bad for their hunting too – unleashed a torrent of lead, maiming a pup and killing the old female. They reached the old wolf "in time to watch," as Leopold wrote, "a fierce green fire dying in her eyes."
For Leopold, "green fire" was a higher awareness of the wolf's role in her ecosystem – an idea that grew through many years of reflection into his famed Land Ethic, in which humans are transformed from "conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it." The notion of human supremacy that Leopold challenged back in the 1940s has held strong and it continues to be used as justification for destroying life on Earth, but there are those of us who will fight it for as long as it remains, driven by our deep geen fire. ■
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"A lyrical mix of backyard naturalism, Do-It-Yourself rewilding, eco-philosophical exegeses, and reflections on 'the storm of now', Joe Gray's work is a grounded meditation on how we can meet the present-day Earth calamity. May humanity awaken to the love and awe that unassumingly flow from every page."
— Eileen Crist, author of Abundant Earth: Toward an Ecological Civilization
"With Thirteen Paces by Four, Joe Gray has written a new classic of ecological literature. In its own unassuming way, it stands alongside the work of Aldo Leopold, Edward Abbey, John Muir, Annie Dillard and others in the same class—but especially, perhaps, that of Henry David Thoreau."
— Patrick Curry, author of Enchantment: Wonder in Modern Life