Feminism

Within feminism generally there is a discussion as to the best way for feminists to proceed whether to seek equality with men on terms largely offered by men, or whether to focus on the differences between men and women and to seek to re-evaluate upwards the currently suppressed (supposed) characteristics of women. Beyond this distinction, some ecofeminists see ecofeminism as an opportunity to refuse the choice it implies and to opt, instead, for a refigured politics that goes beyond dualism....

Socialism

In the context of socialism and the largely successful assault launched on it by the right over the past twenty years, the last thing it needed, so the argument goes, was a challenge to its hegemony towards the left of the political spectrum. Early responses to the environmental movement from the socialist left were certainly hostile and often focused on its middle-class nature, either so as to illustrate its marginal relevance to the working class in particular and thus to socialism in...

Class

Despite their differences, citizenship and fiscal dis incentives share two characteristics first, they focus on the behaviour of individuals rather than collectives, and second, they seem to assume that changing behaviour is mostly a matter of simply changing people's minds. Greens often speak as though a simple 'change of consciousness' is enough to bring about radical shifts in social and political life. Arnold Toynbee, cited approvingly by Jonathon Porritt, writes The present threat to...

Fiscal incentives and ecological citizenship

An increasingly popular way of trying to get people to behave in more sustainable ways is to arrange taxes, charges and benefits in such a way as to encourage them to do so. One example of this is the congestion charges that have sprung up in various cities in Europe and elsewhere. Car drivers in these cities are charged to enter designated zones at certain times of the day, and the hope is that they will be deterred from doing so and use alternative forms of transport instead. Another example...

Direct action

So far as individual actors in the green movement are concerned, of course, all the approaches to green change discussed above may be combined. Any one person could be a member of a green party as well as a buyer of Ecover washing-up liquid. She or he may also live in a community which was trying to turn the world green by example. More recently, in Britain at least, she or he may also have been one of the many thousands of people battling it out - sometimes violently, sometimes not - with...

Communities

A general problem with the strategy of lifestyle change is that it is ultimately divorced from where it wants to go, in that it is not obvious how the individualism on which it is based will convert into the com-munitarianism that is central to most descriptions of the sustainable society. It would appear more sensible to subscribe to forms of political action that are already communitarian, and that are therefore both a practice and an anticipation of the advertised goal. In this sense the...

Action through and around the legislature

Many countries have green parties that seek election to national legislatures. Green movements in all countries that have them see it as at least part of their role to try to influence the legislative process, while policy is being drawn up, while bills are being debated, or during their execution. The principal assumption behind both kinds of activity (broadly speaking, party political activity and pressure group activity) is that the liberal-democratic decision-making process and the economic...

Strategies for green change

The Schwarzes ask 'How do we start By what imaginable transition can we move from here to a green future Can the immense gap at least be narrowed, between the Green-thinking dreamers and the present reality ' (Schwarz and Schwarz, 1987, p. 253). Ecologism provides us with a critique of current patterns of production and consumption, and the Schwarzes' 'Green-thinking dreamers' have painted pictures of the sustainable society they would like us to inhabit. Two of the classic requirements of a...

Conclusion

In sum, the possible political arrangements in a sustainable society seem to range all the way from radical decentralization to a world government. Ecologism, though, is a transformative political ideology transformative of people and the way they think about, relate to and act in the non-human natural world. The problems associated with transformative ideologies of any sort were flagged by Jean-Jacques Rousseau as long ago as 1762 when he opened his The Social Contract with the words 'My...

Agriculture

In this respect agriculture will always have a special place in the theory and practice of the green sustainable society. This is so in two ways. First, there is the relatively well-known point that the green movement considers current agricultural practices (what they would call 'industrial agriculture') to be unacceptable because unsustainable. Intensive chemical-based farming is held to pollute watercourses, to encourage erosion, to produce tasteless food of low nutritional value, to bring...

Bioregionalism

When I considered the possible responses to the limits to growth thesis nearer the beginning of this chapter, I proposed that we accept Tim O'Riordan's fourfold classification the 'new global order', the idea of 'centralized authoritarianism', the 'authoritarian commune' and the 'anarchist solution'. I resisted the temptation of saying that one or another of these possibilities came closest to describing what a green sustainable society would look like, and limited myself to arguing -more...

Work

Paul Ekins refers to 'a reconceptualisation of the nature and value of work' as one of the principal pillars of the green economic and social framework (1986, p. 97), and it is certainly true that ecologism can be marked off from most other modern political ideologies by its attitude to the subject. Political ecologists have a specific view on the value of work and they also question the dominant tendency to associate work with paid employment. Such an association can lead us to believe that if...

Energy

If reduced consumption rather than more technological devices is the answer to the problems raised by the absolute scarcity of resources, then greens will point out that the same must apply to the use of energy. Energy is, of course, a resource, and, to the extent that current global energy policies rely principally on non-renewable sources of energy, it is also a limited resource. Nuclear power itself is produced from the limited resource of uranium and so seems unlikely to solve the problems...

Questioning consumption

Political ecologists argue, then, for a contraction in economic growth or, more accurately, in what economist Herman Daly calls 'throughput' (1992, p. 36). The components of throughput are resource depletion, production, depreciation (involving consumption) and pollution. Of these four components, it is probably production that receives most attention when commentators consider the bases and implications of the sustainable society, but consumption provides the most useful starting point for...

More problems with growth

'The notion that the living standards of the rich countries are attainable by all countries is pure fantasy,' write Irvine and Ponton (1988, p. 21), thus suggesting that there are physical limits to growth. As noted above, though, greens also typically believe that there are social and ethical limits to growth. It has been argued, by some green economists, for example, that indiscriminate growth exacerbates problems it is intended to solve - particularly in the context of inflation and...

Deep ecology ethics as a state of being

There was a time, then, when deep ecology was associated primarily with the belief that the non-human world could have (and did have) intrinsic value. This appeared to be a radical move within traditional ethical discourse, with far-reaching practical implications for the relationship between human beings and their environment. In ethical terms it was (and is) an attempt to move beyond human-prudential arguments for concern for the biosphere. However, as I have indicated above, a number of deep...

Trade and travel

Consistent with the principles of self-reliance and communitarian decentralization that inform some versions of the sustainable society, greens have unfashionable views on the issues of trade and travel. Before discussing this in a little detail it is important to be clear that self-reliance is not the same as self-sufficiency and that greens go to some lengths to distinguish the two. Despite green politics often being identified with the self-sufficiency commune movement, it is most generally...

Democracy and authoritarianism

Accusations of authoritarianism are never far from the surface where green social change is concerned. In the early days of the contemporary environmental movement, North American writers such as Heilbroner (1974) and Ophuls (1977) appeared to argue that the environmental crisis was so dire that no one could reasonably be expected to accept voluntarily the kinds of measures that would be needed to deal with it, and that therefore only strong government - even authoritarian government - would...

Hybridity

Both the 'code of conduct' and 'state of being' approaches to going beyond anthropocentrism have their problems. Theorists in the former camp have difficulty with deciding just where to draw the boundary of moral concern, and with articulating a convincing intrinsic value case for 'nature' as well as for individual parts of it. State of being theorists, meanwhile, are confronted with the challenge of persuading people to change nothing less than their entire world-view. Given these...

Earth First and social ecology

One danger with the whole anti-anthropocentrism stance is that it may be interpreted as a form of misanthropism hatred of humankind . This danger has become clear in the theoretical stances and political activities of the North American group Earth First , a group that has been referred to as 'deep ecology's political action wing' Reed, 1988, p. 21 , and 'the cutting edge of environmentalism' in the American West Tokar, 1988, p. 134 . One article in an Earth First journal engagingly signed Miss...

Deep ecology ethics as a code of conduct

Some years ago, 'deep ecology' was regarded as a keystone of radical political-ecological thinking Curry, 2006, pp. 71-81 . It was believed that a fundamental ethical shift was required that would dethrone human interests as the centrepiece of political life and extend ethical concern deep into the natural world. In recent years, this ethical move has itself been decentred in favour of a more political response which calls for an extension of political voice that would include nature. What...

Universality and social change

A related feature that ought to be mentioned, however, is the potentially universal appeal of the ideology. Up until now it has not been aimed at any particular section of society but is addressed to every single individual on the planet regardless of colour, gender, class, nationality, religious belief and so on. This is a function of the green movement's argument that environmental degradation and the social dislocation that goes with it are everybody's problem and therefore ought to be...

Conservatism

In the context of modern political thought, one of ecologism's signal and novel contributions is the idea that our natural condition affects and constrains our political condition. This is to say that - following on from the last remark in the previous section - our condition as human animals constrains us in ways similar to those experienced by all animals. There are differences, of course. Human animals are able to construct plans for life and strategies for realizing them in ways that most,...

Possible positions

Various responses to the problem of sustainability are possible, both in political-institutional terms and also in terms of the social and ethical practices that a sustainable society would need to follow. By no means all of the 'solutions' that have been presented over the years are green in the sense in which I think we ought to understand the word - i.e. in the sense in which ecologism has become a political ideology in its own right. In drawing the boundaries for ecologism, we find...

Liberalism

Ten years ago, Mark Sagoff asked whether environmentalists could be liberals Sagoff, 1988, pp. 146-70 . At the time, the question appeared rather esoteric in that the interesting ideological and theoretical relationships seemed to be between environmentalism or, as I want to call it here, ecologism and socialism, or environmentalism and feminism, rather than between environmentalism and liberalism. It is now clear that Sagoff was more perceptive than most of the rest of us, not because...

Lifestyle

The general principle behind both lifestyle and community strategies is that changes of consciousness and changes in behaviour are mutually reinforcing. Lifestyle change concerns changes in the patterns of individual behaviour in daily life. Typical examples of this would be care with the things you buy, the things you say, where you invest your money, the way you treat people, the transport you use and so on. Recently there has been a veritable explosion in the popularity of green lifestyle...

Anthropocentrism

If there is one word that underpins the whole range of radical green philosophical objections to current forms of human behaviour in the world, it is probably 'anthropocentrism' 'the mistake of giving exclusive or arbitrarily preferential consideration to human interests as opposed to the interests of other beings' Hayward, 1997, p. 51 . Concern for ourselves at the expense of concern for the non-human world is held to be a basic cause of environmental degradation and potential disaster Curry,...

Limits to growth

Amid the welter of enthusiasm for lead-free petrol and green consumerism it is often forgotten that a foundation-stone of radical green politics is the belief that our finite Earth places limits on industrial growth. This finitude, and the scarcity it implies, is an article of faith for green ideologues, and it provides the fundamental framework within which any putative picture of a green society must be drawn. The guiding principle of such a society is that of 'sustainability' now one of the...

Sustainable societies

The centrality of the limits to growth thesis and the conclusions drawn from it lead political ecologists to suggest that radical changes in our social habits and practices are required. The kind of society that would incorporate these changes is often referred to by greens as the 'sustainable society', and the fact that we are able to identify aspects of a green society distinguishable from the preferred pictures of other ideologies is one of the reasons why ecologism may be seen as a...

Decentralization and its limits

Many green stories of the sustainable society are written in the language of decentralization, often to the point where the decentralist impetus takes the final form of communal types of living. Rudolf Bahro is probably the person most normally linked with full-blown commune recommendations for the shape of the green society, and the reasons he gives for favouring communes echo those given by Sale. In the first place, communes are not 'economically expansive' as Edward Goldsmith puts it, 'to...

Left and right communism and capitalism

In standard political terms and in order to help distinguish ecologism from other political ideologies, it is useful to examine the widespread green claim to 'go beyond' the left-right political spectrum 'In calling for an ecological, nonviolent, nonexploitative society, the Greens die Gr nen transcend the linear span of left-to-right' Spretnak and Capra, 1985, p. 3 . Jonathon Porritt translates this into a transcendence of capitalism and communism, and remarks that 'the debate between the...

Bibliography

Agyeman, J. 2005 Sustainable Communities and the Challenge of Environmental Justice New York and London New York University Press . Agyeman, J., Bullard, R. and Evans, B. eds 2003 Just Sustainabilities Development in an Unequal World London Earthscan . Allaby, M. and Bunyard, P. 1980 The Politics of Self-Sufficiency Oxford Oxford University Press . Anderson, F.R. et al. n.d. Environmental Protection Law and Policy New York Little, Brown . Anderson, V. 1991 Alternative Economic Indicators London...

Ecologism and other ideologies

We now have the fundamentals of ecologism in place. We have discussed its critique of contemporary society, we have outlined its proposals for an ecologically sound society, and we have assessed its approach to bringing such a society about. I have claimed that ecologism is a new political ideology, worthy of attention in the new millennium alongside other more familiar ones such as liberalism, conservatism and socialism. If this is correct, then it is only natural to want to compare and...