Nash Inaugurates Bridges Earth Lecture Series With Call for Sacrifice
"Growth may be our country's only bi-partisan commitment," said guest speaker James A. Nash, chiding America for its negligent attitude toward ecology during a lecture in Chambers Gallery on February 20. Nash, speaking about "Too Many Steps Too Far: Living Within Ecological Limits," was the inaugural speaker in the Henry and Daisy Bridges Earth Lectures series.
Henry Bridges '50, founder of Charlotte's Community School of the Arts, and his wife, Daisy, attended the event and were honored at a dinner preceding the lecture. The series is also supported by the First Presbyterian Church of Charlotte. The annual talks, which will address ecological responsibility, will be held in alternating years at Davidson College, Queens College, and at First Presbyterian Church.
James A. Nash is a United Methodist minister who holds a Ph.D. in social ethics from Boston University, where he lectures and teaches courses in social and ecological ethics. Among his many writings is Loving Nature: Ecological Integrity and Christian Responsilbility. His research now focuses on the intersection of ecology, economics, and ethics.
Nash said that today's ecological degradation has been caused by the failure to recognize and respect the limits of planetary means, the failure to recognize the interdependence of humans to other species, and the failure to recognize the biological fact of human kinship to future generations.
He said society encourages excess and even gluttony, and stressed the necessity for a new ecologically sensitive code of conduct. "We have been socialized to seek the superfluous," he said, citing Las Vegas as an example of societal ideas in the form of concrete and neon.
Nash admitted that America's abundance has "provided genuine benefits," and said that, "We must ensure that any ecologically safe change will provide for society to flourish." He also recognized the necessity of collaboration between government, business, other institutions, and the public in attempting to redesign environmental policy.
Mostly, though, Nash emphasized sacrifice. "Ironically," he said, "by reducing our consumption, we will find a richer and fuller life." He encouraged the audience to redefine their needs and limit their intake.
He said, "Today's ecological problems are moral matters in the basic sense that they involve value judgment." He alluded to ethics of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Judaism to prove that solutions to ecological problems lie in religious thought. For example, he said frugality is a service of love, since resources are saved for the later use of other living creatures.
David C. Grant, professor emeritus of biology, introduced the event and talked about goals of the Bridges Lectures. Following Nash's remarks and a question and comment period, the audience enjoyed refreshments in the lobby of Chambers Building.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson recently launched "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.