The Rapidian

Moral Ground 2010: The 20th century as a defining moment

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“The 20th century undoubtedly will be seen as the defining moment in time when it comes to a pivotal shift in our attitudes regarding our natural world”

~ Nancy Yoder Eigenhouse, lifelong animal lover, environmentalist, retired worker for the State of Michigan


Remember the wildly wooded area you would ride your bike past each day on your way home from school?  Perhaps you slowed down a bit and debated venturing within the greenery to explore the wildlife. Maybe you were frightened. Maybe you pedaled faster as that bead of sweat streamed down your back and you cruised past the dark mystery of the woods. Until one day, they were gone. Vanished. Nothing left but a vacant, churned up wasteland. And like that, your world was changed.

Changes like these bring about the question: “Do we have a moral or ethical responsibility to preserve the earth for the future?” A question that prompted the book “Moral Ground, Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril,” edited by Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael P. Nelson. But what do locals think of the 'Moral Ground' question?

Nancy Yoder Eigenhouse, a lifelong animal lover, environmentalist, and retired worker for the State of Michigan shares her beliefs on our how we should treat what she refers to as our beloved earth. Nancy suggests that this has less to do with one's morals or ethics: “I believe it has far more to do with a desire which lies deep within the very essence of what we are. In order to give purpose to that which cuts to our very core as living beings means striving to do good, and especially in embracing that which has given us life.” She points out that we have grown, bred, developed, and lived on this planet for millions of years. We owe it everything.

So why is it that deforestation and industrialization are tearing our planet to shreds year after year? “The 20th century undoubtedly will be seen as the defining moment in time when it comes to a pivotal shift in our attitudes regarding our natural world,” says Nancy. “Many have been starkly awakened to the horrific damage we have inflicted upon our planet in terms of pollution, and even more so to the seemingly barbaric ways we have pillaged and plundered much of our natural world.”

Television ads, newspaper articles, special reports, speeches, rallies and even movies have popped up over the last ten years, attempting to draw attention to the damage we are doing to the environment. While some have sprung into action, Nancy believes that a painfully large portion of the world remains unmoved. Will our efforts be enough? “I think that much more needs to be done to lessen any domino effect which takes place whenever the natural world is disrupted,” says Nancy, “And this, of course, includes our forests and the harvesting of trees.”

Saving trees, forests, the environment, Nancy adds, is in every way a group effort. She explains how she herself stays 'green'.  “Like many, I have recycled for many years…I am a vegetarian and have integrated eating organically grown foods. I focus on purchasing ‘environmentally friendly’ products when possible…I try to support those businesses which implement ‘green technology.’ Lastly, I cast my vote for those candidates whom I believe will do the most to help protect our environment.”

But she also warns that these individual behaviors are not enough.  We must find a way to overcome man’s on going and ever growing desire to destroy, develop and expand. It is a trait that had cost us dearly. There are things we have yet to learn.

Maybe we can’t bring back those woods from your childhood. Or, can we? Maybe we can’t undo every mistake we’ve made in terms of the environment. But there is a hope, according to Nancy, to preserve what is left. “I feel that humans need to be vigilantly mindful that the natural world is not ours for our own folly and gain. We need to consistently make a conscious and sincere attempt to live harmoniously as one with nature.”

The question remains: “Do we have a moral or ethical responsibility to preserve the environment for future generations?” And it will be asked of our community on Oct. 26 at 7pm at Spectrum Theater, when Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael P. Nelson discuss the issue which inspired their book, “Moral Ground, Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril.” All are welcome to participate in the discussion.

Disclosure: Nancy Yoder Eigenhouse is a distant family member of the author, Abigail Geluso.

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