Ecocentricity Blog: Charlottesville

by John Anderson Lanier, Executive Director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation
Aug 15, 2017 10:00 AM ET

This is an environmental blog, so I admit that I’m not fully comfortable writing this post. That said, I simply can’t write about anything other than Charlottesville today. It’s occupying too much of my mind and my heart.


My weekends are often busy. My wife and I struggle to balance the things we have to do with the things we want to do with the people we want to see and the sleep we want to get. As a result, we treasure any weekend that has a significant amount of free time.

This past weekend was one of those blessed few. Chantel, J.R. and I spent a lot of time outside and disconnected from electronics. It was wonderful, but it also meant that I didn’t hear anything about the tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia until I checked late on Saturday night.

As I spent nearly an hour getting caught up on the news, I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. Writing this today, I still feel that way, and I join the chorus of good people who are grieving for Heather Heyer, Lieutenant Cullen, Trooper Bates and the dozens of those injured over the weekend.

As many of you know, Charlottesville was my home for the seven years I studied at the University of Virginia. I learned how to fall in love with a city in Charlottesville, and in some sense it will always be a home to me. I know its people, its streets, and its charm. I’ve stood right where Ms. Heyer had her life taken from her.

Saturday’s protests and counter-protests represented two different world-views. White supremacists and neo-Nazis espoused division and hatred, whereas the Charlottesville community that stood in opposition to them championed unity and love of others. It was a confrontation between right and wrong, and I was proud to see far more people stand for what is right.

Ultimately, the values of unity, equity and love of others are fundamental to the human species. I believe they are ordained by God, and they are represented in the natural world in our universal dependence on it for our food, water, oxygen and wellbeing. If anyone needs proof that we are one human family, look no further than the same heartbeat that thumps in every person’s chest.

Saturday’s events were obviously not about environmental stewardship. Still, I find a hopeful resonance between why the Charlottesville community rallied against racism and why I care about the environment. The common reason is because people should stand for that which is morally right and ethically good. And I can’t think of a more ethical stance than upholding the self-evident truth that all men and women are created equal.

In my own small way, I strive to advance the unity and wellbeing of all people through my care for the Earth. This past weekend, the Charlottesville community did far more to advance the same cause by standing up to the hatred that descended upon it. It is truly tragic that lives were lost in defense of what is right.

Valerie Bennett
Ray C. Anderson Foundation
+1 (770) 317-5858