The autumn before last, a friend and I loaded a hefty whitetail into his Prius. I would say we loaded the deer into the back of his Prius, but the truth is that the animal filled most of the car and then some.
That experience got me thinking: What if, at least once in their respective lifetimes, every Prius hauled a deer and every hunter drove a hybrid?
The hunter need not wear camo or blaze orange while driving, though that would help. The deer need not extend beyond the hatchback, though that would be a nice touch, too. (The whitetail shown here would have fit better if quartered.)
There would, naturally, be a carbon-footprint reduction for physical transport of both hunter and hunted.
The biggest impact, however, would be to our collective imaginations.
Seen from the blue end of the conventional American political spectrum, hunters would start to look less like nature-hating Neanderthals. It might occur to more folks that seeking and taking wild food from the land is an ancient, natural, sustainable human practice.
Seen from the red end of the spectrum, environmentalists would start to look less like self-righteous ninnies. It might occur to more folks that devotion to the ecological health and integrity of our earthly home is vital to a sane future. To any future at all for that matter.
Across the entire spectrum, it might occur to more folks that deer-hunting and Prius-driving can be motivated and informed by the same kinds of deeply felt values and commitments.
I can picture all kinds of scenes: stealthy archers slipping out of small, quiet cars, deer being packed in beside cloth “save the planet” grocery bags, Toyota launching the Prius Predator (gun rack optional), and so on.
As appealing as these images are, there is no need to be literal about this. Freshly killed cervids, shiny Prii, and the placement of one into the other are not the point.
What matters is the symbolic juxtaposition of the two.
As millions of hunter, angler, environmentalist hybrids know, we share common values, common histories, and common concerns for the future. United, we wield formidable political power. Divided, we serve those who profit from exploitation.
To meet the ecological, social, and fiscal challenges we face, we need to bridge those divides. We need to blur the simplistic lines between us. We need to challenge our own prejudices. We need to stop playing the antagonistic roles so often scripted for us.
Building on successes there, we might recognize other possibilities, other necessary bridges. We might see, for instance, that we cannot stop at finding common ground among our country’s (overwhelmingly white, male, and aging) hunters and our (also overwhelmingly white) environmental groups.
We might recognize the need to join forces with the environmental justice movement, standing with communities disproportionately affected by toxins, ecological degradation, climate change, and threats to sacred places. We might see the need to join forces with educators who are reconnecting kids of all colors and classes with the outdoors, cultivating future conservation leaders.
We might recognize the need to think beyond the conventional spectra of politics and creed. We might see the need for a movement that calls—as Natural Leaders Network director Juan Martinez put it at TEDx Jackson Hole in 2011—“for breaking down the silos of environmentalism and conservationism and the civil rights movement and feminism…a movement that brings us all together.”
Like Martinez, I don’t care whether you hunt, fish, forage, hike, garden, birdwatch, paddle, climb, or all or none of the above. I don’t care what you eat. I don’t care whether you’re black, white, or brown. I don’t care whether your collar is blue or white or nonexistent. I don’t care whether you’re gay or straight. I don’t care what your gender is (or used to be). I don’t care what your religious or spiritual beliefs and practices are, if any. I don’t care whether you identify as Libertarian, Republican, Democrat, Independent, or Socialist.
If you want a world of wholeness and connection and respect—a world where healthy, sane humans inhabit (and recognize ourselves as participatory members of) healthy natural communities—then we’re on the same team.
We might disagree on this or that. We might need to have hard conversations and do hard work to integrate ideas that seem opposed. But we’re on the same team.
Call our team the Big Tent Greens. Call it the New Nature Movement, as Martinez and Louv do. Call it the Alliance to Blow Stereotypes Sky High. Call it whatever you want.
So is my Prius-owning friend who, contrary to country-song typecasting, is quite capable of skinning a buck. Did I mention that he’s a lifelong hunter?
© 2015 Tovar Cerulli