The Luxury of Long-term Thinking

Earth Island News

Bluewater Network

For those of us who fight daily for the protection of the planet from the ravages of pollution and other environmental ills, the September 11 terrorist attacks landed a psychological body blow. The attacks changed our worldview, our work and ourselves. While we thought we had shed our worldly innocence years ago, a lingering naivete has finally died, and hard.

On a Tuesday shortly before the autumn equinox, we were harshly reminded that while environmental problems can be relentless killers, they will never have the power to kill so suddenly or with such violent abandon as angry terrorists harboring a mortal grudge against our nation.

For many years, it has been easy for many of us to fall into the trap of thinking that environmental work is the most pressing matter facing the world. As a result, many environmentalists have been prey to a collective form of myopia that has prevented us from focusing upon the terrible importance of other social problems that, in the short term, could maim humanity faster and in more grievous ways than would a slowly disintegrating environment.

Sometimes, focusing upon the long term can be an unaffordable luxury. Thanklessly, we are reminded that we must get through the short term in order for the long term to have a chance to manifest.

In the movie Zorba the Greek, Anthony Quinn’s character meets a very elderly man who is planting an olive tree. Since olive trees take over a decade to bear fruit, Quinn asks the fellow why he is wasting his time. The avuncular gentleman replies that he lives each day as though he will never die. Anthony Quinn responds that this is curious, because he lives each day as if it is his last. “Which of us,” he asks, “ right?”

To me, both are. If we are to properly care for ourselves and our great-grandchildren, neither the present nor the future can be ignored. At Bluewater Network, we continue to fight every day to protect that future because we are aware - more than ever- that it is not assured.

You Make Our Work Possible

You Make Our Work Possible

We don’t have a paywall because, as a nonprofit publication, our mission is to inform, educate and inspire action to protect our living world. Which is why we rely on readers like you for support. If you believe in the work we do, please consider making a tax-deductible year-end donation to our Green Journalism Fund.

Get the Journal in your inbox.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Subscribe Now

Get four issues of the magazine at the discounted rate of $20.