Monday, May 14, 2007

What's an Environmental Citizen?

In the spirit of my last post, this one explores environmental citizenship: what it is and how we can promote it in our daily lives. According to Environment Canada, being a citizen: is “not just about voting or carrying a passport, it is about recognizing one’s membership in the community of all living things and acknowledging responsibilities toward this community.” The Oxford Dictionary defines the word environment as “surrounding region or conditions, especially circumstances of life or person or society.” This definition presents infinite possibilities just begging for interpretation. How many of us, for instance, fail to acknowledge our home as part of the environment?

Embracing environmental citizenship is not as easy as following green-fad prescriptions. It involves a personal acknowledgement, a fair amount of soul-searching, and a gradual shift in self-perspective. At the heart of this shift in environmental view are four key perspectives to nurture: self-esteem; an eco-centric view; optimism; and a local perspective. Dr. Val Schaefer of the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria, says: “Being a good environmental citizen […] is not only recycling or taking the bus. It’s to do with how you deal with another person, whether you respect that individual and his or her views.” Dr. Peter Ballin, of Vancouver Community College, emphasizes that we must first respect ourselves, then one another, other creatures and the planet. It begins with a strong sense of self and belonging to the community that extends from one’s family outward to the community of life. Ballin reminds us that “someone who’s a good citizen doesn’t take himself or herself out of the picture.” Someone who’s a good environmental citizen doesn’t take himself or herself out of the environment.

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