Conservation Corner: Ask yourself, and then ask your neighbor

Published 3:31 pm Thursday, December 28, 2017

A friend told me something years ago that I’ve always remembered, both because it’s funny and it’s true. On Saturday Night Live, someone asked Rosanna Rosanna Danna how she got what she wanted. Her answer was this: “Well, I ask, …then I ask… then I ask again, …and I ask,…and I ask, … and I wait a little while and I ask,… and then I get what I asked for!” Those of you who remember Rosanna Rosanna Danna know that all was said in a particularly whiny voice.

How do we expect to get what we want without asking? Yes, some folks expect us to intuit their wants, but that usually backfires eventually. What I have noticed over the years is that the most difficult thing for us is to determine what we really do want, or need. Our family and neighbors tell us what we need, and our capitalist/growth obsessed culture tells us what we should want and need; but rarely does anyone encourage us to determine what we ourselves, as unique individuals, want out of this life here on earth.

Do we really want the money to buy a new car, or do we want the security of knowing that we will be able to go where we need to go and our needs will be met? Most of us simply want to fit in with our culture, and to be happy. Maybe the real question should be “What brings you happiness?” in the long run, not just in the moment.

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What has this got to do with conservation, or Rosanna Rosanna Danna? Lots! It means turning the question around to say, “Whom are you asking?” You are asking yourself, “What really matters?”

As far as our home, land and community goes, what is most important? Is it economic progress? Having good schools? Churches nearby? Places to shop? Or places to meet and be with other people? In year 2000 we sent out a survey to all Saluda township residents asking them to list what is most important to them, and guess what was at the top of the list? Our surrounding natural beauty.

But society is bombarding us with a different message: your land is your greatest economic asset…don’t do anything that will reduce its resale value. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll be able to sell it for a million dollars to a developer who will bring high-end shops and houses to our little town. But, is this really what would be best for that little town that we love so much, that has been home to us, our family, and our friends? How much money would that be worth, if it could be measured?

Rarely do I hear someone giving advice to stop putting money at the top of the list. We live in a society where it’s all about the money. Is that what’s really most important to you, or even to your neighbor?

Think about Rosanna Rosanna Danna, and ask yourself what really matters, and keep asking until you get an answer, or two. Then ask your neighbor, or your friends or family. Rarely does someone get asked “What do YOU want?” What is REALLY important to you? Then wait a while, and ask it again. Start a meaningful conversation with your neighbor. What do we want, as a community? All the while keeping in mind that we are all in this together; either we all win or we all lose. Start a conversation, one that may include more questions than answers.

Look at the words conservation and conversation. Trade the ‘s’ for the ‘v’.

True conservation means preserving what is of the greatest value, be it land, or community, or life of all kinds. Without honest conversation, meaningful conservation will never happen.