Environmentalism is a reactionary movement that has evolved with the technological industrialization of the western world. It has been the watchdog barking at the beast in our back yard, warning us when the beast has gotten too close or grown too large. While some have been hypnotized with the beasts impressive talents and promises of convenience, the watchdogs have continued growling at the beast's cleverly disguised veneer and sniffing at its rotten smelling smokestacks. The environmental movement cannot take credit or blame for the profound change that has occurred over the past couple centuries of industrialization; it can only claim to have been man's best friend.
The environmental watchdogs who have our best interests at heart do not generally intend to be anti-technological Luddites, but rather pro-preservation of resources necessary to the continuing survival of life on this planet. Though some have incorrectly participated in dire predictions of the end of the world; the fact is that the world will go on - even if every living species is eradicated. The world as we know it - the world of human design and creation may destroy itself – with perhaps nothing left to indicate we ever existed, other than the litter sent into space. With that in mind, the personally invested watchdogs of the environmental movement yearn to collaborate with the beast and as Nelson Mandela said, to "…make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."
Partnering with the enemy is an ancient calling – perhaps as old as the biblical tale of Cain and Abel, who were brothers with vastly different approaches to resource usage. Cain took the philosophy that the earth and its resources were placed for the use of humans, while Abel held a biocentric view of humans as being an inseparable part of the natural scheme. The opposing views of the mythological first brothers continue to live through and divide modern people, who in spite of sophisticated technologies and massive information- remain divided. Perhaps the true mission and survival of humanity lies in the partnerships between ancient enemies and their negotiations toward a mutually beneficial co-existence.
The environmental movement attempts to profoundly impress upon the human population the need to recognize the long term consequences of the conveniences introduced by technological industrialization. Meanwhile the masses continue to be influenced by the well moneyed consumeristic propaganda that promises instant gratification; making it difficult to see the real cost of convenience to be paid for by our children's children. The refusal of industry captains to consider seven generations when executing decisions of long term magnitude carries a price well beyond our ability to imagine. When considering the half life of the most significant isotope of plutonium, 239Pu, as 24,100 years or the 244Pu, with a half-life of about 80 million years, the old adage of seven generations seems trifling.
Propaganda is a successful media tool used to systematically influence people toward indulgent consumption, without regard for hidden agendas. Veiling the harmful side effects of consumerism, it ignores "…whats really dangerous about so much of TV nature… it showcases the evasive, contradictory, self-authenticating, extraordinarily powerful off-TV definitions of nature so beautifully." (Price) Price's description of "nature at the mall" defines the subtle juggernaut set in motion of identifying self with the things we purchase, rather than as natural beings, inseparable from the larger natural environment. In the global, high tech late twentieth century market, Americans use the things we buy to create ourselves. " We use these not only as key tools to work and to have fun, but also to act, think and communicate. " (Price) An ad on PBS, produced by the American Gas Industry arrogantly proclaimed that "Nature is made possible by the financial support of viewers like you, your gas company, and the gas industry." This example demonstrates the lengths to which propaganda will stretch the otherwise obvious truth about our relationship with the natural environment.
The failed attempts to 'green' the world of business is further evidence of successful propaganda. It is the way we do business, not the type of business that is the problem; no matter how green the product, business continues to be carried out in the same harmful capitalistic fashion that Murray Bookchin described in "Toward an Ecological Society;" "the hoopla about Earth Day… will alter very little in our grotesque imbalance with nature if they leave the… multinational corporation, the bureaucratic and centralized political structure, the property system and the prevailing technocratic rationality untouched." The environmental movement becomes another tool of propaganda to be used against the best interests of the natural environment, unless consideration is applied holistically to the industrial system that takes, makes and wastes - to one that creates goods and services that generates ecological, social and economic value.
The preservation of the natural environment is a worldwide concern - one with the potential to unite the descendants of Cain and Abel in serious negotiation. The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is a mighty example of worldwide commiseration regarding mandatory emission limitations for the reduction of greenhouse gas. Unfortunately, a few of the largest world powers, the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia, have balked - wanting the agreement to be less demanding and more flexible. The objective to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and recognize the dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system is being ignored by the strongest industrialized powers – the ones most responsible for global warming.
Dr. Ruth Patrick's alarming revelations about the effects of water pollution on diatoms, the single-celled algae at the bottom of the freshwater food chain - led her to voice what was on many people's minds, "I found some difficulty in believing that it could be true and still cannot quite grasp why a law should be necessary to put a stop to it." Her statement of incredulity expresses well the disconnection with nature that most humans have experienced. Why an act of Congress is necessary to compel folks to recognize the importance of ecological balance is truly incredulous, yet painfully true. The human/nature disconnection is not only exhibited in the lack of understanding the roles of microorganisms, but from "the natural processes that support our comfortable life: the coal plants, slaughterhouses, smelters, corporate farms, and manifold factories that transform all manner of natural resources into the growing stream of energy, food and products that we happily consume." (del Mar)
The environmental movement, in attempts to green society, has been unwittingly "dovetailed with the imperatives of industrial capitalism, the increased consumption of nature." (del Mar) Yet, those attempts have led to increased understanding of the beast, recognition of ourselves as natural beings and the need to integrate the opposing duality between both. The environmental movement as the watchdog that annoys us with its incessant barking late into the dark night, is a reminder that the beast doesn't sleep, nor should we.
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