The Problem with Environmentalists

| 11/10/2008 4:33:03 PM

Grass Seeds

I would describe myself as a committed environmentalist. It’s my passion and my work. I’ve covered our deepening environmental crisis as a journalist for 30 years and now I run magazines and Web sites dedicated to raising human awareness of environmental issues. My wife and I raise much of our own food on our little organic farm and we supply organic food to lots of other local families. Environmentalism is my passion, my career, my chief avocation.

I’ve watched the environmental “movement,” if you will, grow from a radical, tie-dyed clique into a mainstream global consensus. I don’t think we, as environmentalists, can take much credit for that however.

We have, for the last 30 years, been among society’s least effective leaders and least pleasurable companions. In his 2006 essay, “Beyond Hope,” Derrick Jensen claims that the most common words he hears spoken by environmentalists,everywhere,are “We’re fucked.”[1] He exaggerates, but he has a point.

Our attitudes reek of Puritanism. We are, often, dour, strict and humorless. We’re judgmental. Behind most of life’s simple pleasures we see unnecessary consumption, which we ridicule. Because humanity is responsible for environmental problems we are, ipso facto, all sinners and we find little joy in being human. We portray the giant global corporations as occult covens, and we burn their representatives in effigy in our own reenactments of the Salem witch trials. When our neighbors seem too moderate or abstract for our tastes — as the Quakers did to New England’s 17th-century Puritans — we whip them out of the colony, at least figuratively, and we’re not above discussing executions. (The Puritan authorities hanged four Quakers for their religious beliefs in Boston between 1659 and 1661.)

To say the least, we’re no fun a lot of the time.

Leisha Jack_1
4/14/2009 1:27:36 AM

Need cheering up! (see link below) Some believe, that the way humans think is fundamentally flawed and that this flawed thinking is caused through Anthropocentrism (or human centeredness). The world’s most prominent Philosophers from the major universities are talking about humans and the environment and this issue of Anthropocentrism. According to history when the great philosophers talk like this, it has always been a prelude for change in human thinking. Go to the following link and listen to the podcast on Deep Ecology (Philosophy in the mountains - Arne Naess):- Arne Ness was perhaps the world’s most famous environmental activist and philosopher, he recently passed away unfortunately. He was quite a character, full of fun and a very quirky and playful. I found this podcast very positive and motivating. It really gets to the heart of what is wrong with human thinking and therefore their behaviour. Keep up the battle everyone, it is now or never. The more we do and say the more the herd will follow. It’s like turning the Titanic, once the momentum kicks in, it will move quickly. For anyone who thinks that isn’t a very helpful analogy, remember, the experts say, that the reason the Titanic hit the iceberg was because they slammed it into reverse to slow it down. If they had gone up to full speed it would have turned much faster and missed completely!

4/13/2009 8:14:24 PM

I have been guilty of being a holier-than-thou environmentalist and found it didn't work. I turned my children into avid consumers, wasteful spendthrifts. This was in the 70's and 80's when they were growing up and I was buying organic, recycling, and lecturing on corporate greed. So, sadly, my three children do just the opposite. Today, I understand that environmental consciousness is each person's discovery and choice. I can only live the way that makes me feel good, i.e., use less, don't buy new, boycott China, buy local and organic, have my farm animals and gardens, make my own yogurt, cheese, grow my own meat, and do wild fermentation. When I share my food with friends, I'm sharing the fruits of my labor without the commentary. They taste the difference, they see my health and joy. They can make their own discoveries. I'm not trying to change the world anymore. I've changed and that's what matters. For me, living gently with love is the environmentalist's way.

Gavin Stairs_2
4/13/2009 5:59:48 PM

Like most who have commented before me, I have been aware of the predicament we face for many years. I have also been aware of the strange attitude of many environmental pundits, mirroring the attitude expressed above. I beg to differ. Any person who absorbs fully the psychology of humankind and the total catastrophe we face must accept that the greatest likelihood is that we humans will persist in our errors far too long for any hope of retreat from the lip of a precipitous decline in quality of environment for humans and other mammals, birds, fish, etc., an also certain of the insects, many plants, and on and on. Whether this decline will permit us to survive or not is moot, but that the decline will occur is inescapable. This has been obvious for many years now. Why are not those in positions of influence who know this shouting it from the rooftops? Because of council like the article above: "Let's not panic the people, now. Easy does it." Well, I'm sorry: It is too late for that attitude. The sky IS falling, dammit, and we WILL get clobbered. Now, I am just about 63, so most of this calamity will pass me by. In fact, most of this century will be a herky jerky decline into disaster, so even the children of this generation may not experience the worst of it. And I'm not issuing a council of despair. But please do open your eyes and mind and recognize just how all encompassing this predicament is. There is nowhere to escape to. The are no more alternatives to many critical resources, especially the atmosphere, the oceans, fresh water and fertile soil, the biosphere, etc. I mean, whole-Earth systems are at risk of failing. And we are too many, even now. Probably well over 1000% too many. Yes we need many more good examples. We also need responsive and visionary governments and businesses which can see the writing on the wall, and act for all of us where global interests are at stake. We need a global debate on what a

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