While most people view conservation and the protection of natural places and working lands positively, quite a few folks may also consider this work optional.

What would change if you and I understood natural lands as more important to us than electricity and cell phones, as crucial to us as clean water and air?

Do you see conservation as critical to your well-being?

ACRES founding members shared concern that we do not see the land we rely on for our very lives as vital to our community, crucial to our daily lives. In “Conservation Today,” a 1964 Quest Club paper, ACRES founding member, James Barrett III, asks probing questions, then offers an ethical response inextricably linking our own health to the health of Earth:

“We once feared nature because we could not protect ourselves from her. Do we now fear her because of what she tells us? Are we afraid to admit we are not self-sufficient, that we live together on this earth with all of life and are bound to observe the conditions under which life exists? Do we fear to acknowledge that, despite our immense differences … we are still more like, than different from, any other form of life we know … (that we) share … the miracle and mystery of both life and death?”

Barrett urges us to “temper our power with our respect for the life we do not understand and did not create, but with which we share this earth … that on its health rests our own. Our own numbers and power … demand we expand our ethical conscience to include the land and the life it supports.”

“By the moral act of preserving the remnants of wilderness with which we are still blessed and from the spiritual refreshment which that act will bring, we may yet become persuaded to respect the living communities of the earth to which we belong, and ourselves as an integral part of them. Then we will seek the principles of an ethic … for living with all nature — and will cherish the privilege of doing so.”

The dissertation continues, “Men have always acted with limited knowledge and always will, but today we have become forcefully aware that our knowledge is limited. I submit that that awareness imposes on us the duty to act conservatively. When we know that we do not know all of the consequences of our acts, we are obligated to control the forces we bring to bear on nature. We must seek to minimize the effects which we do not intend.”

“The conservation ethic demands that as the standard of living rises the standard of life not be debased,” Barrettt asserts.

“As we grow to see ourselves as a part of a single community which in all its manifold parts shares in a common creation and when we can look beyond our own cares long enough to thrill to the magic that is in all life, we will begin to honor the privilege of sharing that community … Let us not spend the last of the living mantle of this earth which we are blessed to have inherited. Let us rather cherish and conserve the land and its life with which we share the earth, that we may enrich our own vision, nourish our own spirit, and bless our children with its magic — that they may have the opportunity to live in that harmony we have not yet found.”

What joy can be found in pondering our relationship with and crucial reliance on natural places and working lands? ACRES Land Trust invites you to read the full script of Jim Barrett’s Conservation Today at: acreslandtrust.org/conservationtoday.

You’re also invited to join a discussion at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 28, in the ACRES office on the Tom and Jane Dustin Nature Preserve, 1802 Chapman Road, Huntertown.

ACRES members protect 6,797 acres of local natural area and working land in northeast Indiana, northwest Ohio and southern Michigan, forever. Explore more than 70 miles of trails, take photographs, enjoy family time, get outdoors, plan a field trip, get fit, reflect on nature’s beauty or share an adventure, for free from dawn to dusk at a preserve near you. acreslandtrust.org/preserves. Connect with ACRES Land Trust at 260-637-2273, acreslandtrust.org or on Facebook at facebook.com/ACRES.LT

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