Every generation of mankind inherits the fulness of the earth: the glorious diversity of the creation which is today called ‘the environment’.
It is well that I should speak of ‘the fulness’ and ‘the environment’ – not ‘our fulness’ or ‘our environment’ – because what the great preponderance of nations do not (or will not) recognize is that although we belong to the earth, and are part of all things that are in, on or over it – it does not, and they do not belong to us.
Although we have been at liberty to enjoy what we are part of, we must not do so as tyrants or marauders, but as both grateful beneficiaries and trustees. We must discharge our responsibility to future generations by safe-guarding the land, the sea and the air, and all creatures who abide in each.
We may explore, but not devastate; discard, but neither poison nor waste; dig or mine, but neither destroy nor throw into ruin; farm or hunt, but not with mindless greed or so as to endanger what remains; manufacture, but not contaminate or fail to renew resources; build, but neither overwhelm nor distort. We must use reverently, and not squander, infect, or annihilate.
Amidst peoples’ and nations’ scramble for power, for riches, or for futile diversions and entertainment, more than a word or two of exhortation is needed to induce us to turn our gaze, our thought, and our exertions to the glories of creation which – so long as they are conserved – yield joy, rest and inspiration.
But it is not the mouthings of officialdom, the stridencies of orators, or the sterile repetition of television appeals that will persuade us to leave our daily and arid round of duties and concerns.
It is the poets, the artists, the composers and the craftsmen who, by striving for beauty and to share their glimpse of eternal verities, may entice us to pause – be it only for a few heartbeats of time – to perceive anew, and to wonder at, what the part of the world in which we live is offering us.
Opening address: Spirit of Place