When Manyu asked how much money we should give the Salvation Army and the local food pantry during the pandemic, I thought about temporarily shifting funds by not renewing my memberships to environmental organizations. Disregard for a moment the right thing to do would have been to increase my overall charitable contributions. This blog is about me rethinking my priorities in terms of people and nature.

I realized how much I’d become increasingly anthropocentric over the years. As a young adult, I was someone who thought the world might be better off if humans did not exist at all and nature was free to flourish on its own. At the very least, the life of a black bear or platypus was as important as the life of a human being. From my mid-twenties on, that perspective gradually changed. It withered and died on the vine the day my daughter was born. Now, as all of us are experiencing a genuine threat to human life, I realize that (other than the wellbeing of my immediate family) I care about the basic needs of humanity above all else. 

Maybe I would have felt the same had a pandemic or similar crisis happened in my youth. I do not think so. My environmentalism back then was fairly black and white. Ardent preservationists sometimes are referred to as little old ladies in tennis shoes. That may be a misnomer. I’m not so sure that a lot of us ‘old ladies’ haven’t mellowed over time. I remain a tree hugger at heart, but something gets revealed when our backs are against the wall.


Steven Simpson