Busy day ahead: Wittgenstein, Arendt, and Rawls in CoPhi, Russell on “nice” people and sexual ethics in his day, in Atheism (what would he say about our culture of sexting and oversharing?), Gawande on autonomy and “A Better Life” in Bioethics, then a pitch for my summer course “A Stroll Through Western Civilization,” and finally a talk to the Students for Environmental Action I’m calling “Earth Day 2016: A Glimmer of Hope“.
John Muir is an Earth Day hero, a self-described “poetico-trampo-geologist-botanist and ornithologist-naturalist etc. etc.,” an early-riser, thousand-mile walker, and inventor of “a bed that set him on his feet every morning and simultaneously lighted a lamp, then opened each of his textbooks for a set length of time.” He wrote his address: “John-Muir, Earth-planet, Universe.”
Twain wasn’t quite old enough then, at 75, to join my collection of inspiring older people. If I get to the end of my Earth Day slideshow this evening, I’ll mention one of them: the late, great environmental steward Stewart Udall. He wrote a wonderful letter to his grandchildren (and he was one of those magnificent citizens of the planet and universe, like John Muir, who considered us all his grandchildren).
This is the most important letter I will ever write. It concerns your future—and the tomorrows of the innumerable human beings who share this vulnerable, fragile planet with you. It involves changes that must be made if environmental disasters are to be avoided. The response to this challenge will shape the future of the entire human race…
Why am I so optimistic about your future? Because the world has had its fill of fear and is hungry for hope. Because an educational revolution has been underway for the past two decades in several countries and has enhanced the capacity of nations to deal with unprecedented challenges… the doubling and prospective tripling of the number of highly trained, selfless scientists and engineers has produced a pool of brainpower and moral power that is ready to create the building blocks of a new and better world.
The challenges that your generation faces will test your ingenuity and generosity. Your eyes will scan horizons that human beings have never contemplated. Whether you are a person of faith who believes the Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, whether you are an individual who has had mystical experiences that link you to the network of eternity, or whether you are a fervent conservationist who wants to leave a legacy for your progeny, the earth needs your devotion and tender care.
Go well, do well, my children! Support all endeavors that promise a better life for the inhabitants of our planet. Cherish sunsets, wild creations, and wild places. Have a love affair with the wonder and beauty of the earth!
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