A Proponent of Activism
Henry David Thoreau, the 19th Century American writer, poet, and philosopher, is also considered one of the founding members of the US environmental movement. He wrote much about the need to connect with nature and adhere to higher principals of justice and equality. In so doing, he also advocated civil disobedience and activism. As he described, “Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.” This implies that to be good is to demonstrate it through action.
Emphasis On The Do
According to Thoreau, if you consider yourself a moral and righteous individual, do so in your deeds. Your worth is reflected in how you treat your fellow humans as well as the environment. He proposes that you hold yourself up to a higher standard than to mere labels or even legal compliance. Generous or well-intended words (whether from religious guidelines or governmental ones), can prove empty or wrong if not combined with moral action and principled ethics. Rather, Thoreau encourages you to stand for what you believe in, even if it is difficult, or seemingly against what is written (see Saving Democracy). He champions the belief that you can determine for yourself what is right and wrong, and subsequently act upon that knowledge.
Sharing the Resolve
His words are no less powerful today. During this time of accelerating climate change, Thoreau reminds us of the necessity to take up a position. As proponent of activism, Thoreau has written extensively about the subject and his words can serve as a sustainable source of inspiration for those considering their own role in society. Thoreau’s assertions emphasize time and again that we are free to take action on behalf of the people and environment that are put in danger by industrial operations or government decisions that do not reflect the true interest of those affected.