Today, eco-friendliness is everywhere. It is promoted in the streets, on the screens, by word of mouth; something about which everybody knows without realizing. Out of curiosity, I typed “eco-friendly” into Youtube and Miley Cyrus started screaming “Wake up America”, now a three year old song, in tiny jeans and heavy make-up. The song, at least to some extent, had been thought to be some sort of national call to eco-friendliness. However, the video did not feature an eco-friendly context or eco-friendly people. The usual objects are there: cars, tins, the American flag. I wonder how many Youtube visitors will stop throwing wastepaper on the floor, how many of them will give a true moment’s thought to the respect owed to nature, once they have listened to that song?

…in all the hype, the basic and crucial message about saving the planet had been lost and replaced by the pursuit of wealth.

Another video which caught my attention showed how being eco-friendly could be turned into a productive business project. It was not the idea itself which caused my laughter, but how the video presented the idea: the potential money there was to be made was all that the video stressed. Eco-friendliness wasn’t even mentioned: in all the hype, the basic and crucial message about saving the planet had been lost and replaced by the pursuit of wealth.

It is a common saying that disrespect for nature and the environment began in Modern Times, when customs became looser and much elegance was lost, as some elder one would say. I don’t agree; I believe it is the way of promoting awareness about nature that has changed.

Greek philosophers such as Plato or Aristotle dealt with the natural world in the same way that they dealt with literature, politics and ethics. The respect for nature was in some way a logical consequence of what one studied, read, or simply knew. Myths condemned heroes who disrespected the natural world and told about their punishments. There was the belief that forests, crops, the sky were elements which powerful gods controlled and governed.

Those stories that mixed science and fiction were all well-known. It could be said that the need to be eco-friendly was, at that time, a fact which belonged to common knowledge. When people started separating “science” from other subjects, such as literature and politics, they started concentrating on one or a few of these concepts only. In this way, the concept of common knowledge began to die out.

This is why Paul Grant’s poem is so true, essential and easy to remember: it deals with a scientific topic in a non-scientific way.

Although each individual now has a more in-depth and detailed view of a particular subject, the community has lost its common knowledge. More specifically, the idea that nature is worthy of respect and protection has died out. The fact that scientists themselves have to warn us about problems and risks closely linked to eco-friendliness shows how much people do not know, even more than how much they need to know.

This is why Paul Grant’s poem is so true, essential and easy to remember: it deals with a scientific topic in a non-scientific way. The reason for cutting down the tree, the “this” in the poem, is not mentioned, it is left to be guessed.

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