FuturePundit points us in the direction of an article suggesting that perhaps our fat potato butts and our affection for all things flashy are co-responsible for the demise of nature. The linked article speculates that nobody is hiking anymore because we’re all cooped up indoors watching Batman and gossiping on Facebook. Since my fat potato ass is sitting right here doing exactly that, I take serious umbrage.
I fail to see why cultivating a love of nature is a presiding preoccupation of so many environmentalists. We don’t need to love nature to be green. In fact, it’s my view that if we consider ourselves environmentalists, it’s not at all clear that our environmentalism should stem from our love of nature. Just as our commitment to human rights shouldn’t be contingent on whether we like people, but rather should stem from our respect for persons, so too should our environmentalism not be contingent on whether we like the outdoors. Our environmentalism should stem from respect for nature, respect for one another, respect for the reasons we have for doing what we do.
There’s apparently an interesting empirical question here. I suspect that the descriptive observations of this video game research find exactly what the researchers purport to find: that those who don’t go out into nature don’t really care much about nature. That’s hardly surprising. I don’t care much about the Harry Potter series, mostly because I’ve never read it. It takes familiarity with a topic to cultivate interest in that area. A far more surprising result would be if researchers had discovered that hours of wakka-wakking through the toboggan lanes of Pac-Man somehow generated a sensitivity to nature that had otherwise not existed. Because this is not the finding of note, I think it’s smart to assume that the researchers find their result interesting for other reasons, like what is implied by their research: that being a video-game junkie may be partly responsible for the apathy that is characteristic of the current ecological crisis.
So I should ask: why does it matter if fewer people care about nature? Apart from obvious concerns that, perhaps, we’re somehow leading deficient lives if we don’t go on a hike every once in a while — but let’s be honest, we’re naive about a lot of natural things, like what goes on underneath the soil, what happens after we throw away a banana, what rodents do late at night, what happens when e-coli hits the inner lining of our stomach, and so on — why is it bad to be naive about nature?