didn’t you guys ever feel bad about taking three buses to New York City?” my classmate at Princeton asked me following the People’s Climate March last September. “Think about all of the greenhouse gas emissions you could have avoided by simply not going.”

Taken more broadly, his question touches on a seminal dilemma faced by all who care for Mother Earth: should humans retreat from engagement in nature, in an attempt to leave no footprints, or step forward to take action in a mindful way? Though taking mindful action seems like the natural winner between the two, it is not always obvious that this is the case. Many religions preach nonviolence at their core. Yet, the essence of human action is violence—violence in the sense that every action we take has tangible negative consequences for the environment and for our fellow living beings. If we...

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