Some years ago, while I was still a new convert to the deep green worldview (Gray, 2017), I was chatting with an old aquaintance in a pub in London. She is one of those rare friends who will respond to your questions and thoughts with deeply honest answers and challenging comments. This can be annoying at the time but it is (I have now learned) generally of benefit in the long run. So, after I ran through a manifesto's worth of things I wanted to change in the world, with my delivery punctuated only by gulps from a pint of bitter, she popped my bubble of enthusiasm with the following pin-prick (recounted to the best of my memory): "If you really want to make a difference, you're probably going to need to choose just one thing, and then pursue its achievement doggedly for the rest of your life."
Dispiritedly changing the topic, I chose to add this suggestion to a mental list of ideas that I would be ignoring. A few years later, though, after continuing to spread my efforts wide and thus thin, I could no longer deny the wisdom of her advice. I was trying to force a thousand doors open with a thousand toothpicks, and nothing was budging. I needed to focus my efforts into mallet form. So I thought about what I wanted to be my thing.
Ecoforestry was my first thought, for it is an area where I have some academic training. With so much biodiversity at stake in forest ecosystems, it certainly offered a very worthwhile cause to pursue, but I was averse to my single thing being so narrowly focused. The history of environmentalism is one of piecemeal progress, with each generation experiencing success in a genuinely important but isolated area (acid rain, ozone layer depletion, and now, perhaps, plastic pollution). Yes, these causes are each vital in their own right, and I am immensely grateful to those who have fought and continue to fight such problems, but the overall health of the Earth remains in steep decline, and focusing on another piecemeal addition seemed to run counter to the ambitious nature of my planetary hopes (the aformentioned 'manifesto').
My next focal candidate was thus something with the potential to span many issues: gaining representation for non-human nature (e.g. by human proxies) in political processes. As important as I believe this to be, it took only the briefest of reflections to see that it would not work in anything more than a contrived way – and would thus be ultimately ineffectual – without a corresponding shift in cultural mindset. Specifically, there needs to exist a broad respect for the intrinsic value in the more-than-human world. Thus it was to promoting the deep green worldview itself that my attention turned. My vagrant ambitions had found a home, and this website (deepgreen.earth) quickly started to assemble itself, without its construction seeming to be a conscious choice.
While I will be unable to resist chipping away at various 'doors' (including the thick one blocking fully ecological practices in forestry), it does feel spritually settling to have just one thing on which to properly focus. It is likely that I will experience only minimal success in this mission to promote ecocentric thought. I know this. But it is with deep green fire that I push on regardless. ■
Gray J (2017) A journey to Earth-centredness. The Ecological Citizen 1(Suppl A): 38–41.