catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Green all the way through?

leave a comment »

Are the Greens ‘watermelons‘ — green on the outside and red on the inside? David McKnight says no:

In spite of their tough criticism of corporate power, they do not propose the abolition of capitalism. The clash between labour and capital is not fundamental to [their] world view. Rather, it is about humanity’s relationship with nature.

But is it that simple? For some greens it’s obvious that capitalism is at the root of the problem. Free markets and neoliberalism lead to an accelerating spiral of manufactured needs and overconsumption. But for others the problem is our failure the understand the limits of knowledge — the arrogance that leads human beings to think that science and technology can deliver us any future we choose.

Greens who see markets and neoliberalism at centre of our problems naturally form alliances with leftists who see capitalism at the root of problems such as poverty, inequality, war and racism. But for the second group, it’s less clear who their allies ought to be. Thinkers like John Gray argue that green philosophy is fundamentally conservative.

Environmentalism hasn’t always been so strongly identified with the political left. In 1970 the Governor of California warned about the:

…absolute necessity of waging all-out war against the debauching of the environment. . . The bulldozer mentality of the past is a luxury we can no longer afford. Our roads and other public projects must be planned to prevent the destruction of scenic resources and to avoid needlessly upsetting the ecological balance."

As usual, Governor Reagan was in tune with his times. In May that year Time Magazine reported that "Americans, by a margin of 54% to 34%, are willing to pay more taxes to finance air-and water-pollution control." Reagan might not have been so keen on higher taxes, but he didn’t seem to have a problem with been pro-environment. Time, however, did observe that not everyone on the right was happy about Earth Day:

A few rightists noted darkly that Earth Day was also Lenin’s birthday, and warned that the entire happening was a Communist trick. At the Continental Congress of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington last week, a delegate from Mississippi declared: "Subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them."

When green sentiments are separated from radical ideas about the causes of environmental problems, environmentalism can become a bipartisan issue. While David McKnight argues that we need to take green philosophy more seriously, Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute argues the opposite:

Slowly I have come to the view that the sweeping portentous language we hear from orthodox environmentalists reflects not a deep and serious attachment to Rousseau or Heidegger, but is rather a reflection of the unhappy truth that there are a lot of environmental problems, especially on a global scale, about which we simply don’t know what to do. Even the problem of climate change, which in the abstract appears straightforward, is obviously proving very hard to deal with. What about much more complicated problems like species extinction and habitat loss? There is scarcely the beginning of an answer to this problem on the global scale. It is at this point that orthodox environmentalists figuratively throw up their hands and repair behind gauzy bromides such as Al Gore’s call, in Earth in the Balance, for a "wrenching transformation" of society, or Gus Speth’s call, in Red Sky at Dawn, for "the most fundamental transition of all, a transition in culture and consciousness." These are not serious, thought-out views on what should be done–they are cries for help. This kind of rhetoric should be regarded clinically rather than philosophically.

Hayward argues that "conservatives have overreacted to … radical-sounding tendencies in conventional environmentalism" and that they need to take environmental problems seriously. "Policy progress works best in the country when the two parties, and left and right, compete over an issue" he says. So maybe David Cameron is on the right track after all.

More from me at Club Troppo, along with links to Andrew Norton, John Quiggin and The View from Benambra.


Written by Admin

January 22, 2006 at 12:09 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: