I’ve been thinking about this – about why I love Europe so much. There are some real differences between the two continents – and not just in size.
One of the reasons I love hiking there is that my heart never has to ache. I am not going to run into clearcuts and desecration of the land. It just doesn’t happen.
I also thought about language, because language is very powerful and informs how we think, feel and act.
Here is what I think is a major difference. (and I can only write in generalities based on my own observations) In Europe, people approach the earth, the land, the planet with the idea that it is a source. A source is very powerful – in fact, source implies power. The earth is a source of life. Plants grow, animals thrive. The earth is to be appreciated and cared about. This is also integral to the way Native Americans approach the earth.
In North America, we tend to use the word “resource.” A resource is something to be used until we have extracted everything we need from it, then we toss it aside. Two little letters make a huge difference. Why do Europeans hate what we do to baby seals? Because we see them as a resource. We see the earth that way and so we desecrate the land in the north to extract bitumen. It’s just a resource. The earth is not a source of life – it’s simply something to be exploited.
Why this difference? Is it because we have so much land here? (seemingly) or because the land is so much younger? (meaning more recently inhabited by people of European descent). People in Europe are putting their efforts into renewable energy. We are putting our efforts into tar sands. And yes, I know there are many nuances and shades of grey. I am painting with a very broad brush.
In Europe we have “socialist” governments that care for the welfare of the people. In North America we have capitalism run amok where all that matters is that the rich get richer.
I believe that the earth is our source of life and must be protected, cared for and loved. It is not a resource to be used up. There is no place else for us to go.