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James E Garratt - BOTTOMLINE/IDEALS - Humber Portage


The Bottomline/Ideals conundrum has many analogies. A few examples come to mind: Youth/Old Age, New/Old, Dream/Reality, Pure/Corrupt, Artistic/Philistine...

Ideals may be considered to be foundations of the environmental movement's deepest principles, aspirations and goals. These ideals have developed through human history and are expressed in verbal and written traditions (ie. preliterate indigenous creation stories, and texts such as those authored by Pliny the Elder). Perhaps it is true to say that environmental ideals are, to some degree, innate to humans - childern that we are of the Earth.

In any event, our ideals can be said to have flowered in the 1960s and to have borne fruit in the Eighties. Now, at the beginning of the new millennium, this environmental 'crop' is being eagerly harvested by Commerce, with all its emphasis on the Bottomline.

Not that the mixing of commerce and environmental ideals is all bad. Henry Thoreau once remarked to the effect that commerce, with its materialism and hard-edged vision, can act as a refreshing tonic to vague and soft philosophy. Personally, I'm as enthusiastic as anyone about the next new environmental product or experience - be it a new book, radio, canoe...

However, as the century turns, commercial bottomline considerations are submerging our ideals at an unprecedented and accelerating rate.

Our National Parks, for instance, although supposedly protected by some of the farthest-sighted legislation our country has ever devised, are threatened by bottomline-driven demands to justify their existence. Similarly at the Provincial level, parks such as Ontario's world-renowed Algonquin are being closed and privatised. I ask how we can not justify maintaining these parks for future generations and as testaments to our highest ideals?

Will we be able to hold to our ideals and pass them along through the often confusing and debilitating welter of the present?

Ideals are best nutured in quiet, private moments of contemplation and reflection. Patience, time, faith are required to internalize ideals. Who has time now? Time itself is the biggest commodity, measured in cash. Maybe our ideals will change as rapidly as the latest fad propagated on the Net. Maybe impressionable young people are so far removed from the natural world that, despite the best efforts of educators, environmental ideals will never take root.

In fact, environmental and outdoor education itself is under attack by politicians who do not see it as being commercially relevant or business-oriented.

Err on the side of idealism.

Copyright James E Garratt

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