advocacy and ethics
Advocacy and Ethics
Advocacy and ethics are the two poles on which environmental activism rests. They are the opposites that drive and fulfill each other.
Advocacy is public; ethics, personal. Advocacy is behavioral; ethics, attitudinal, essential. Advocacy is what you do; ethics define who you are. Advocacy is about winning (appropriately so); ethics about being.
Without ethics, advocacy has no guide, no imperative, no claim. Without advocacy, ethics has little expression, remains sterile, wanders homeless.
Advocacy is specific (one fights for the trees or CAFE standards). To be effective, advocacy must be selective, linear: choose a particular issue, develop arguments to gain fellow adherents, create coalitions and work toward its passage or approval. The question advocacy asks is: how do we get from here to there?
Ethics, on the other hand, focuses not on the specifics but on the whole; not on the externals of an issue, but the internal aspects of beliefs, behaviors and personal commitment. The question ethics asks is: who am I; and therefore what should I do?
When guided by environmental advocacy, we must choose our battles. Pesticides, global warming, the cattle industry, local food. But when guided by environmental ethics, these battles are all of a piece. When guided by environmental ethics, we know that the environment cannot be carved up into causes, bills and organizations; it is whole, inseparable. We know that we are not apart from it but one with it; that while our appetites and designs may be infinite, the stuff of the world is finite. That we are not gods who may with impunity strut and thrust our whims upon the globe, but transient beneficiaries of the earth's bounty. And that just as we have been blessed to enjoy the fullness of the earth's gifts handed to us by our ancestors, so we must bless those who come after us.
Though advocacy may exhaust us; ethics inspires us. And while ethics motivate us, advocacy gets the work done.
Ethics is the mind; advocacy the hand. We need them both.