Relying on facts and numbers is not enough to resolve environmental issues such as global warming and air pollution, said Peter Forbes, founder of the Center for Whole Communities in Vermont, an environmentalist organization.
Forbes spoke to a group of about 50 in Kroon Hall on Tuesday about how people need to have a spiritual connection with the land in order for environmental movements to succeed.
“The pain we feel inside always manifests itself in the land,” he said. “We are the land, the land is us.”
As a farmer, writer, photographer and environmentalist, Forbes has traveled the world to study how different communities interact with their land. He said that it is crucial for a community to nurture a culture of “belonging and meaning,” where the people are not only connected to one another but to their environment.
“Places should grow relationships as much as they grow tomatoes,” Forbes said.
In 2002, Forbes and fellow environmentalist Helen Whybrow founded the Center for Whole Communities to bring a human aspect to the science of environmentalism.
Forbes expressed reservations about some environmentalists’ approach toward land issues. Often, environmentalists see the land but not the people, he said. For example, some of the most famous national parks such as Yellowstone exist because people living on the land were forced to relocate.
Forbes also spoke about the importance of faith when dealing with environmentalism. One should not only focus on numbers and statistics, Forbes said. Environmentalism, he said, is as much spiritual as it is scientific.
Jessica Siegal FES ’10 said she thought Forbes’ presentation was enlightening and relevant.
“It was very powerful,” she said. “I think a lot about the things he touched on.”
Claire Jahns SOM ’10 said that Forbes’ emphasis on community is crucial since people will more likely care about the land if they understand its impact on their lives.