Friday, September 7, 2012

Neo-environmentalism, money and growth

Last month there was a great article by Paul Kingsnorth in The Guardian: 'The New environmentalism'. Here are some extracts to encourage you to read the whole piece (it's not long):
Neo-environmentalism is a progressive, business-friendly, postmodern take on the environmental dilemma. It dismisses traditional green thinking, with its emphasis on limits and transforming societal values, as naive. New technologies, global capitalism and western-style development are not the problem but the solution...

According to the neogreens, growth has no limits ... Wilderness does not exist, "nature" is a human construct, and everything that matters can be measured by science and priced by markets. Only "romantics" think otherwise.

... The neo-environmentalists are growing in numbers at present not because their ideas are new, but because they offer a business-friendly worldview which, unlike the tiresome old green message, is designed to make people feel comfortable ... Optimism is permitted again. Indeed, it is almost mandatory.

But maybe the green movement was asking for it. For some time, mainstream environmentalism has demonstrated a single-minded obsession with climate change and technological solutions to it, to the exclusion of other concerns. Its language and its focus have grown increasingly technocratic and scientistic...

Global campaigning for an abstract "environment" does not appear to work. What does work is engaging with nature on a human scale. Perhaps the best rejoinder to those who believe the world is a giant spreadsheet is an engagement with its messy, everyday complexity. A kind of vernacular environmentalism; an engagement not with "the environment", but with environments as we experience them in lived reality. Perhaps it's time to go back to basics.

So we might learn what grows wild in our local area and whether we can eat it. We might build up a bank of practical skills, from horticulture to land management. We might go out at night and plant seeds in vacant flowerbeds near where we live. We might work on small-scale engineering projects, from water purification technologies to micro-solar panels. We might work to save bees or butterflies or water meadows or woodlands or playing fields that we know and have a relationship with. We might walk in the hills, or on the canal bank, or in the local waste ground; get to know our place and how it works...

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