Death of environmentalism… – Salon.com

Here’s an excerpt from an article I read while convalescing this morning:

Death of environmentalism, saving the planet, nature, science, love – Salon.com

I found some of the article interesting, discussing the overzealousness of some environmentalists, and seeming to suggest that we can go too far on both sides of the climate change debate. I buy this argument, to a point. Nature is never unchanging, and the question of preservation is not as clear cut as it seems. The question of “what do we preserve” is valid, in that nature itself is not much for preservation. You lose me when you discount mankind’s impact, suggesting that we’re not any worse than nature itself. The article suggests the changes we’ve seen in climate since the dawn of the industrial age are no worse than other times of rapid species die offs. I get the point… the Earth is pretty tough… it will somehow overcome even us. But I don’t see how comparing mankind to the cataclysms that precipitated species die offs in the past is a flattering analogy for mankind.

“Hey, we’re no worse than a comet strike! Woo hoo!”

While industrialization has had an upside: conquering many diseases, leading to lower infant mortality and longer, healthier lives… it’s also had it’s downside, in some cases undermining the good: pollution leading to more asthma, etc. It seems to me that, reasonable, measured environmentalism can be a win-win. Investment in environmentally friendly technologies can be a economic boost; not only because it boosts a new segment of the economy, but because any research can have unexpected spin-off benefits. And as I suggested before, environmentalism isn’t just about saving spotted owls, it’s about saving ourselves. Polution, deforestation, etc. doesn’t just effect the survival of rare species, it effects our health… our lives. Speaking of asthma; my wife and both my kids have it. It causes more illness, which causes less productivity, which is a drain on the economy. How often are these subtle impacts on the economy accurately calculated when determining the cost of pollution? (I’m sure someone attempts to calculate the cost, but I suspect it’s vastly underestimated.)

Here’s where the author really lost me:

A new politics requires a new mood, one appropriate for the world we hope to create. It should be a mood of gratitude, joy, and pride, not sadness, fear, and regret. A politics of overcoming will trigger feelings of joy rather than sadness, control rather than fatalism, and gratitude rather than resentment. If we are grateful to be alive, then we must also be grateful that our ancestors overcame. It is thanks to them and the world that made them possible that we live.

What the fuck is that supposed to mean? The next time I go to my doctor and she sees that my cholesterol is rising, imagine her saying, “Fuck it John, life is short. You’ve got good insurance, and you can always just take a pill.” Isn’t that, in effect, what the author is saying? Should I thank my lucky stars for the Farm Bill and big corn subsidies, without which we wouldn’t have cheap “corn syrup,” and the countless empty calories on the grocery store shelves that I love so much?

Hell, can’t we feel just as good about averting catastrophe as we can about overcoming it? If we can’t, what does THAT say about human nature?


  1. It makes me laugh (well, okay, grit my teeth would be more accurate) that anti-environmentalists haggle about degrees and percentages. Does it really matter if only half the polar bears die off instead of all of them? Can we live with the seas rising only 25% of the expected level as Greenland melts away? What if global warming has only 10% of the horrific outcomes that some say are expected? Isn’t that bad enough? Do we have to be on the verge of annihilation before we take what we’re doing to our home seriously? Many of the affects of pollution were well known generations ago. Heck, I had heard about them when I was a little kid back in the 60s. Still we have continued to argue about the degree of the damage we’re causing. What’s the point? We know we’re causing damage. Let’s stop bickering and put our efforts into healing and finding ways to live in ways that cause less harm.

  2. Might I recommend Heat by George Monbiot. I’m reading it now.

    I’m convinced that we have a very narrow window of opportunity to change the world, or we’re going to impoverish our children through global warming. We all need to become fervent environmentalists…

    So the Salon article couldn’t be more wrong. I’m certain.

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