Four Paths

The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around —Gaylord Nelson

Preamble Here I pose the vexed question, What would a path to reconciliation with the Living World That Sustains Us have to look like?


n 1970, during the heyday of the environmental movement, Barry Commoner, Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren formulated the I = PAT equation, which they claimed would allow the impress of humanity’s environmental footprint to be roughly calibrated. According to I = PAT, environmental impact (I) can be equated as population size (P) times affluence or income level per person (A) times the (technologically mediated) level of resource extraction required to sustain that affluence (T).

stage setting

While few today would take this formula seriously – cause and effect at Gaian scale must always be emergent, not simply multiplicative – it does call attention to three of the four driving engines behind the Climate Crisis, namely population, affluence, and technology. The fourth driver, not apparent in the 70s but blindingly apparent today, is our pervasive socially constructed tendency to dismiss the more-than-human world as little more than backdrop to the unfolding of human destiny.

This brings me to the question at the heart of Edgewood Wild, namely, Is it possible for humankind to work toward some sort of reconciliation with the Living World? While the jury on this question is still out, it’s helpful to recognize the existence of four paths that can potentially lead in that direction:

  1. the path of population reduction
  2. the path of technological restraint
  3. the path of voluntary simplicity
  4. the path of heartfelt connection with world around us.

Of these four paths, the first is closed for obvious moral reasons, while the second is effectively blocked by a self-reinforcing array of economic and political considerations. The third path – voluntary simplicity – is freely available, but seems to lack general appeal at the present time. This leaves only the fourth path – heartfelt connection to the Living World – as the single truly viable path to Gaian reconciliation. It is also of course the path championed by Edgewood Wild, and the only one that encourages us, in effect, to fall in love.

May the path of reconciliation be with you —Trevor