Jimbob's Journal
by Jim Harris

What a long strange trip it's been. The words of that popular bumper sticker adequately describe the history of my concern for the natural world around me. My relationships with my pets as a young boy taught me respect for all animals. Much to my Mom's dismay, I eventually began bringing home sick, injured and lost animals that I would find in my daily travels. She would nurse them until they died or got better or found their owners, occasionally taking money from her waitress salary to get them veterinary care.

Those experiences led me to an interest in the welfare of suffering animals everywhere. I began joining national and international organizations, reading their literature and doing what I could locally to help out. I couldn't look at an animal without seeing myself. I felt we shared something fundamental and universal, the incredible spark of life. I vowed to do no harm, to be the cause of no creature's suffering or grief. That was my spiritual orientation, and it influenced many of the personal choices that I made, from the food I ate to the clothes that I wore and the products I used.

Over the years, I came in contact with many different types of activists, but the most significant for me were the environmentalists. The relatively new science of ecology has produced a body of information that is ominous and shocking. The weather, the resources and the animals of our planet have been put in imminent jeopardy by rampant consumerism and thoughtless meddling with the course of nature. It is a complex, daunting situation. Caring, informed people are working to publicize the problems and come up with solutions, but it's sort of like trying to put a genie back in the bottle.

I never thought of myself as living an extravagant lifestyle, but I now realize that I am part of the problem, and I need to find out what I can do to help change things. It involves learning a whole new set of facts, a whole new regimen of personal choices. Aside from making me feel extremely tired, this brings up some conflicts with my existing philosophy. Most notably, it takes the focus off of individuals and places it on the the eco-system. Certain animals may be sacrificed in the name of balance while others rise in relative importance. That synthetic jacket that I bought may ultimately be more harmful to the environment than a fur coat. In the passion to return the world to some of its former beauty, a type of bio-elitism is emerging that worships the letter of natural law but overlooks the spirit.

I'm not advocating that we trust in technology to get us out of trouble. Getting back to nature is a wholly proper and desirable way to go, but I am suggesting that we are part of nature, too, and, our spiritual evolution is important. We shouldn't let the ends justify the means. We need a vision of the world as it can be, but we need to deal kindly with the world, and all of its inhabitants, as it is. I never dreamed that doing no harm could get so complicated.

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