In most senses, I could be described as someone who, for better or worse, thinks in black and white. While I can intellectually recognize the feasibility of “grey” in this life, when it comes down to it, my natural thoughts and emotions tends towards the rigid identification of a thing as “this” or as “that.”
I have developed this myopic tendency, I believe, as a method of protecting myself from the discomfort associated with fear, pain, confusion, obscurity… We can essentially remove ourselves from a situation by taking a high-level rational approach to say, the death of Old Yeller: “Well, Mom, he had to die; he was dangerous…” said me, age 8.
In terms of my thoughts on sustainability and environmental protection, I tend to stay true to form – there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” and we should all be doing whatever we can to protect our futures and the future of our environment (which are really one and the same). However, I was recently reading an article about cod harvesting limits that stand to heavily impact the livelihoods of fishermen working in Northeastern cities like Gloucester and New Bedford Massachusetts.
On the one hand, it makes sense. If we don’t reduce the numbers of cod being harvested, the fish populations will be depleted into oblivion. On the other hand, I have a very strong concern for these fishermen that happen to be my neighbors and happen to face a grim future without the ability to fish as necessary. We’re essentially deciding whether or not to “choose” the fish or “choose” the fishermen.
Enter a world of
pain grey. I think that most people on the side of environmental sustainability would argue for the fishermen to adapt, for towns like Gloucester and New Bedford to somehow transform their economies. For us to prevent overfishing and potentially permanent damage to our marine ecosystem. But we know that this is no easy feat. That for fishermen who come from families of fishermen that have been fishing for decades, they can’t just pick up and start fresh. Not without training and support and…jobs to move to. That towns like Gloucester and New Bedford cannot just “come up” with the funds and resources and marketing to create a new economy. And that they certainly can’t expect to change overnight.
I think the bottom line in this case, and in all matters concerning sustainability (or everything!?) is that we cannot simply rest on black and white ideas of right and wrong to guide our decisions. The truth is that every decision has a tradeoff and every opinion a counter opinion. The only way to work together and solve large problems is to realize that there aren’t sides, only a series of ever-evolving challenges and decisions. And maybe, at the end, we can reconcile the head and the heart. Now, let’s hang our heads for poor Old Yeller.
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