For the past 20 years, Dr. M Sanjayan has devoted his life to environmental policy and the protection of wildlife. After decades in the environmental movement, Sanjayan has come to realize that you can’t separate humans from the natural environment around them.
That’s a pretty radical idea in the environmental movement and a theme that pervades his new PBS series, "Earth: A New Wild." On this week’s podcast, host Andrea Seabrook speaks with Sanjayan about his television series, his views on preservation and what Washington can and must do about its environmental policy.
“When I started in the environmental movement I thought my whole goal was to take things back to some point in the past. Then, during graduate school I thought my whole plan was to stop the train wreck and leave enough pieces that something could be rebuilt,” Sanjayan tells DecodeDC host Andrea Seabrook. “Now I think my whole purpose is to really remind people that we’re part of nature and start to explain and understand all the ways in which nature materially impacts our lives.”
Sanjayan says that when it comes to making policy about nature, there are two big challenges to good decision-making. First, we consistently undervalue the role nature plays in our lives, the way it affects our jobs, the economy, even our security. And second, people who are closest to the problem often feel like policy decisions are made far from them and their concerns. That sets up a conflict situation that’s often difficult to overcome.
What would the noted environmentalist do if he was in charge? Surprisingly, Sanjayan says that environmentalists and advocates have to make a case for valuing nature beyond a love of natural beauty.
“Love alone is not enough. And I think that after spending half my life working to try to convince people why nature is so beautiful, I kind of threw my hands up and said I’m not a good enough story teller,” he says. “I would love it if there comes a day where people value nature just because it ought to exist right alongside of us. We’re nowhere near there.”