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Pinchot focus areas:

Climate & Energy
An Integrated Story for an Ecological Civilization
Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker, 2012 Pinchot Distinguished Lecturer

My special thanks to Tom Lovejoy for his generous introduction and to Al Sample for his kind invitation to deliver this lecture.

Distinguished Pinchot Institute Board members and Pinchot family members, you are trustees of a compelling vision of conservation that clearly has resonance down to the present. Gifford Pinchot was committed to conservation for the greatest good and for the greatest numbers. And this meant in the long run, namely conservation for future generations. He saw nature as a resource for responsible use that will bring prosperity not only to individuals but also to the nation as a whole. We are still aiming to realize this ideal.

Pinchot, like Tom Lovejoy, had an unusual combination of native intelligence sharpened by a Yale education. Like Lovejoy, he had Yankee ingenuity and a “can do” spirit. This resulted in the ability of both Tom and Gifford to learn, to create, and to adapt. This is what we humans do best when we are living up to the sapiens in our name. Indeed, it was the root of tremendous contributions of both Pinchot and Lovejoy to our planetary future.

Lovejoy created the term “biodiversity” and pioneered the idea of a “debt for nature swap” to preserve biodiversity of forests and species alike. He has encouraged and supported environmental education at his alma maters, Millbrook and Yale, and via PBS with the Nature show. Pinchot recognized a lacuna in forestry education and founded the School of Forestry at Yale. He created both a conservation ethic and the skills of management. He combined business savvy with restoration techniques. He had a political ally in Theodore Roosevelt that may be unparalleled in United States history. Together they were able to set up the US Forest Service and conserve thousands of acres.

When Pinchot’s father asked him how he would like to become a forester his son replied: “I had no more conception of what it meant to be a forester than the man in the moon. But at least a forester worked in the woods and with the woods— and I loved the woods and everything about them.” This love of the woods led him to take up his father’s challenge. His father was particularly concerned about the damage done to the forests and the need for proper management. After graduating from Yale he went to study at the French National Forestry School for a year.

When he returned he became a forester on the Biltmore Forest Estate for three years. This was followed by work in the National Forest Commission with the National Academy of Sciences. In 1896 he traveled west to investigate forest reserve possibilities. Two years later he was named chief of the Division of Forestry and in the same year Teddy Roosevelt became President. This was the beginning of an important alliance for preservation of the nation’s forests.

In 1900 Pinchot founded the Yale School of Forestry and established the Society of American Foresters. This began a process of professionalizing forestry management. The Forestry School at Yale has graduated many illustrious foresters, including Aldo Leopold in 1909.

In 1905 Pinchot became the first Chief of the US Forest Service. Pinchot was caught between forces that opposed the commercialization of nature such as John Muir, and a Congress that wanted further exploitation of forests. In 1907 Roosevelt designated 16 million acres of forest reserves. These became known as the Midnight Forests as it was just before his power was halted to do so. From 1905 to 1910 the forest reserves grew from 60 to 150 and from 56 million acres to 172 million acres.

Pinchot recognized the need for preservation as the basis for personal and national prosperity: “Without natural resources life itself is impossible. From birth to death, natural resources, transformed for human use, feed, clothe, shelter, and transport us. Upon them we depend for every material necessity, comfort, convenience, and protection in our lives. Without abundant resources prosperity is out of reach.”1

He observed that there was no understanding of this in the late 19th century: “Not a single acre of government, state, or private timberland was under systemic forest management anywhere on the most richly timbered of all continents. When the Gay Nineties began the common word for our forests was inexhaustible. To waste timber was a virtue, not a crime. There would always be plenty of timber. The lumberman regarded forest devastation as normal and second growth as a delusion of fools. And as for sustained yield no such idea had ever entered their heads. The few friends the forest had were spoken of...as impractical theorists, as fanatics, more or less touched in the head. What talk there was about forest protection was no more to the average American than the buzzing of a mosquito and just about as irritating.” Pinchot was able to turn this around and to create a new field of forest management, a school that trained foresters, and a Forest Service that managed reserves. This is no small accomplishment and we are still in his debt.

Journey of the Universe

How do Pinchot’s accomplishments relate to the Journey of the Universe? This film and book invite us to:

  • relearn the history of deep time in the epic of evolution
  • reimagine our role in it and see that we are birthed out of it
  • recreate foundations for abiding human-Earth relations

These new human-Earth relations are crucial for managing our forests as Pinchot envisioned and now seeking ways to “manage” the planet locally and globally as Lovejoy is suggesting.

This film invites us into an awakened sense of awe and wonder. We realize for the first time perhaps that “the stars are our ancestors.” This response of awe arouses responsibility for continuity of this 14 billion year old process. It calls us to expand our sense of Trusteeship for not only the Pinchot Institute and Pinchot’s legacy, not only for Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and other educational institutions, not only for our churches and synagogues and mosques, not only for our local and national government. But now, we are trustees for the Earth itself and the vast community of life. All future generations are looking to us.

Mary Evelyn Tucker is a Senior Lecturer and Senior Research Scholar at Yale University where she has appointments in the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies as well as the Divinity School.

1 Breaking New Ground, Washington,DC: Island Press, 1998, p 505

The 2012 Distinguished Lecture

This year’s Pinchot Distinguished Lecturer is Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker—a world-renowned scholar, writer, and film producer currently on a joint appointment with the Yale Divinity School and the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Over the course of her distinguished career, Mary Evelyn Tucker has helped develop the idea that the evolution of human values and ethics will play an essential role in achieving environmental sustainability. In her scholarly work, Dr. Tucker has shown that the basic elements of what we refer to today as environmental ethics can be found in every major religious tradition in the world, in texts that date back sometimes thousands of years. Each of these religious traditions reflects not only wonder at the origins of the universe, but a striving to understand the meaning of life itself and the role of humanity in the “stewardship of creation.” This is the topic of a new film, The Journey of the Universe, co-produced by Dr. Tucker and Brian Swimme, which was shown as part of this year’s Pinchot Distinguished Lecture. The film and its accompanying book can be found here . At the lecture, Dr. Tucker was introduced by biologist Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy, himself a legend in the conservation science hall of fame, and originator of the award-winning PBS television series Planet Earth. [From the introduction by V. Alaric Sample].

The Pinchot Distinguished Lecture is an annual event sponsored by the Pinchot Institute, focused on major ecological, economic, and social trends that are likely to influence the future course of natural resources conservation. The legacy of Gifford Pinchot—both his place in conservation history and his respect for principled and provocative speech and prose—is the premise for the Pinchot Distinguished Lecture Series. Through this series, the Pinchot Institute seeks to advance the understanding of, and current thinking about, contemporary issues in natural resources conservation. Major sponsors of this year’s lecture include the Pinchot Associates , USDA Forest Service, MeadWestvaco, and members of the Host Committee: Carol Collier, Jack and Carol Eno, Alice T. Day, Danny Norman, Valerie Larkin, Nick Niles, and Leslie Wilkes.

About Mary Evelyn Tucker

Mary Evelyn Tucker is a Senior Lecturer and Senior Scholar at Yale University where she has appointments in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies as well as the Divinity School and the Department of Religious Studies. She is a co-founder and co-director with John Grim of the Forum on Religion and Ecology . Together they organized a series of ten conferences on World Religions and Ecology at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. They are series editors for the ten volumes from the conferences distributed by Harvard University Press. She is also Research Associate at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard. She is the author of Worldly Wonder: Religions Enter Their Ecological Phase (Open Court Press, 2003), Moral and Spiritual Cultivation in Japanese Neo-Confucianism (SUNY, 1989) and The Philosophy of Qi (Columbia University Press, 2007). She co-edited Worldviews and Ecology (Orbis, 1994), Buddhism and Ecology (Harvard, 1997), Confucianism and Ecology (Harvard, 1998), and Hinduism and Ecology (Harvard, 2000) and When Worlds Converge (Open Court, 2002). With Tu Weiming she edited two volumes on Confucian Spirituality (Crossroad, 2004). She also co-edited a Daedalus volume titled Religion and Ecology: Can the Climate Change? (2001). She edited several of Thomas Berry’s books: Evening Thoughts (Sierra Club Books and University of California Press, 2006), The Sacred Universe (Columbia University Press, 2009), The Christian Future and the Fate of Earth (Orbis Book, 2009). She is a member of the Interfaith Partnership for the Environment at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). She served on the International Earth Charter Drafting Committee from 1997–2000 and is a member of the Earth Charter International Council. B.A. Trinity College, M.A. SUNY Fredonia, M.A. Fordham University, PhD Columbia University.

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