• Grre
    77
    Before I begin, I will disclose some personal information I feel is pertinent to my point. That is, I am only twenty years old. This is important because I was born in 1999, considered to be, not only the dawn of the twenty-first century, but also, my entire life I have grown up with news/information regarding the 'looming' ecological crisis.

    All throughout school I was taught the importance of recycling, turning lights off when you leave the room; in the second grade I wrote a short story about a personified horse who has a dream about an apocalyptic future, and upon waking, realized a new personal commitment to recycling, not littering ect. My point is, to me, and others of my generation, an ecological crisis is not news, it is a fact we have grown up with, become accustomed to, even acclimatized to. Something commodified, branded, 'green' energy, 'green' clothing brands, eco-friendly notebooks. It is a facet of life. Yet we still enjoy all the unsustainable consumption habits of the generations previous to us, the generations that perhaps, had more of an excuse for their unsustainability. I have the facts, I have the science, yet I drive my own car everyday to school (which happens to be the most allegedly environmentally conscious university in my country). I am not a vegan or a vegetarian. I barely recycle. Most, if not all my friends, feel similarly. We discuss with candor how the planet is screwed, how everythings dying, we usually avoid watching nature documentaries because they're too 'depressing'. It has become common sense that yes, human beings are ruining the planet. Yet my generation is complacent in the face of that reality. We do not take it seriously. The older generations are also still trying to synthesize this looming threat into our current (unsustainable) economic system-trying to convince us that we can have our cake and eat it too. Some of us are convinced by that. Most, it might surprise you are not. Speaking from experience, we are a cynical generation...

    What struck me most recently in the news regarding this topic is Greta Thunberg, recently nominated for a nobel prize for climate activism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greta_Thunberg There is a particularly striking video of her speaking to the UN regarding climate change. She is only 16, but she is speaking to not only the older generation, but to people such as me, and we do hear her. My friends and I have been following her; she raises an important point, it will not be us that truly suffer from the ecological crisis, but our grandchildren, and they will ask us, why did we not do anything when we still had the chance? When we had the science, the knowledge (unlike generations before us), to make a change, and yet instead, we sat and reaped the rewards that will come at the cost of future generations. We are smug, resigned, selfish, ineffective.

    Yet, what can we really do, beyond individual actions that imply moral culpability, like recycling ect? We are disillusioned, now, nearing full adulthood, I even, I feel, too set in my ways to make a great change in my life. As I said in a conference I presented at last month, I am not in the position to go live in a yert. I have a career to attend to, a life, my identity is necessarily built around consumerism and productivity.

    What sparked this train of thought is that I just finished reading the book What a Fish Knows by Jonathan Balcombe, where he detailed, not only impressive facts about fish, but the extent to which the ecological crisis is severely affecting them AND us.
    This is the point that people fail to understand. The ecological crisis does not consist of merely pretty forests being cut down. Boo hoo. It will result in widespread human catastrophe (as it has done so already in numerous, less-cared about countries) and it will result in our eventual extinction, or at least, a severe alteration in the way of life. People see technology as the magic that will prevent this from happening, and maybe to some extent it will, but when? And fast enough? I'm not so sure.

    My questions for discussion then, regarding this topic, are a couple.

    -To what extent will we (my generation thereabouts) be morally culpable for our complacency with regards to the ecological crisis?
    -To what extent can we enact change, dispel this disinterest regarding the ecological crisis? What is philosophy's role? Should there be more emphasis on environmental philosophy?? Why waste time debating the role of logic when, likely, the human race a hundred-years from now will be in a very different position?
    -Is this disinterest from younger generations proof of the inevitability of such a crisis, are we really doomed?
  • Valentinus
    431
    Well said,

    In regards to your first question, I was born in 1956 and can report that my generation bears a lot of responsibility regarding complacency. I will never forget my son's reaction (several years older than you) after viewing a speech by Al Gore. He turned a baleful eye and said, "You guys are dumping all this on us." I did not have a snappy comeback.

    I think there is a role for philosophical thinking to adjust to how what has been seen as strictly matters of "economy" are necessarily ecological at the same time. There are people who have been talking about this since humans started talking about ourselves as a species and not just the prodigal children of a creator who had given us the world to name and make of it what we will.

    Another element to consider is to what extent we are bonded to our tools and whether they can be made to serve us as maker of things. I was strongly influenced by The One Straw Revolution by Fukuoka because the book brings into question the limits of engineered agriculture. The age old questions regarding the best forms of association and uses of power now have to answer to the problem of sustainability in a direct way. No more wiggle room. People tend to do bad things when cornered. But sometimes it leads to new insights.

    In regards to your last point, I can't speak for your generation because I am just another old guy. But I wonder how much expressed "disinterest" is really just feeling overwhelmed.
  • boethius
    196
    All throughout school I was taught the importance of recycling, turning lights off when you leave the room; in the second grade I wrote a short story about a personified horse who has a dream about an apocalyptic future, and upon waking, realized a new personal commitment to recycling, not littering ect.Grre

    There is a thesis (that I find correct) that what you're referring to is "ecological theater" which puts on stage ecological principles without solving anything. This serves two purposes. First, the government and companies can point to the theatrics and say "look, we're doing something", whether it is to get votes or marketing or things that reduce costs and framing it as ecological action is simply a free win. Second, these theatrics shift the responsibility for the ecological crisis to individual action, not policies; the framework that people can consume what they want is not challenged.

    This has a tertiary affect, that I feel your post is a good example of, which is that the people that are ecologically conscious are forced to live as hypocrites in this system and this reduces both internal motivation as well as external legitimacy. For, living fully ecologically as an individual is essentially impossible and, just as importantly, making even a half-decent attempt takes so much time and effort that there is little available for political effort. Now, "leading by example" is a thing and does add value whenever it's possible in life choices, but engaging politically to solve what is fundamentally a political problem (and not consumer choice problem), is also leading by a much better example.

    This is the point that people fail to understand. The ecological crisis does not consist of merely pretty forests being cut down. Boo hoo.Grre

    This is another win by the propagandists behind the above points. Preserving nature probably entails valuing nature, and trees vs people is a false dichotomy to begin with as we depend on trees for survival. However, by accepting the paradigm that people are fundamentally more valuable than nature rather than dependent on and a subset of nature (that we cannot rationally value humans, a part, without valuing nature as much or equally, the whole), it more-or-less transfers to legitimizing what any group of humans seem to value and so setting up logical impasses. Some people wanting to continue to drive large vehicles as a single occupant becomes as important in this framework as the safety of the entire planet (to say otherwise is to be a crybaby hippy that values trees over people).

    I have a career to attend to, a life, my identity is necessarily built around consumerism and productivity.Grre

    Your identity is not necessarily built around consumerism and productivity. Your identity is contingent on your upbringing, which I agree tries to enforce conforming to consumerism and producing consumer products directly or indirectly, as well as your own choices since becoming conscious of this processes.

    Your false dilemma isn't yert vs consumerism, it's yert (isolationism, that can be good for some people who feel politically effective from that position) vs political action.

    For instance, if you want to go around arguing in favour of better public transportation... you're probably going to have to use a car, given that's society's system of getting around effectively at the moment.

    As to your questions:

    -To what extent will we (my generation thereabouts) be morally culpable for our complacency with regards to the ecological crisis?Grre

    As much as every other generation since the issue became alarming (at the latest, around the time of driving the passenger pigeons to extinction).

    Which generation is more responsible is a fairly useless question in my opinion. Every generation is responsible, if they are responsible for anything, to meet an existential threat.

    -To what extent can we enact change, dispel this disinterest regarding the ecological crisis? What is philosophy's role? Should there be more emphasis on environmental philosophy?? Why waste time debating the role of logic when, likely, the human race a hundred-years from now will be in a very different position?Grre

    I agree a lot of people use philosophical material for escapism (directing the mind to unimportant issues to crowd out the important and uncomfortable ones); and participating in that is of no use. However, if that's not the motivation, every philosophical area is relevant to the ecological crisis. Why exactly do we value humanity or the earth? What ethical conditions should we place, if any, on solving the ecological crisis? What are the correct philosophical frameworks to evaluating fundamentally uncertain scientific studies of future climate in terms of credibility and, most importantly, risk analysis (which is an application of ethically determined risk-toleration levels)? What political institutions and economic systems are integral to the ecological crisis and must be solved in parallel for a good chance of ecological success (i.e. what's the political scope of the ecological crisis)? Should people be manipulated into being "good ecological actors" or are the "would-be-manipulators" counter-productive at best and evil at worst and general good-faith must be assumed: and so non-manipulative information sharing is the morally sound and/or only effective strategy available?

    -Is this disinterest from younger generations proof of the inevitability of such a crisis, are we really doomed?Grre

    There are two answers to this question. First, interest of youngsters is very context determined. Countries that have implemented a lot ecological policies don't have much "forced hypocrisy", focus the debate on policy and so don't have the framework that leads to much "forced hypocrisy", and are often actively trying to enable more political engagement of young people on the ecological issue. If you feel that you'd only be effective in a pushing best practices forward even further, it's probably best to just move to one of these places (i.e. places like Scandinavia, which is what I did, but there are other places as well). Where propaganda has been effective in creating scientific denial or a maze of false-dilemmas that render most people that aren't in denial politically ineffective, then it's reasonable to stay if you feel your most effective resisting this propaganda in a very harsh environment (it is mentally very difficult to live in a society that you judge to be a mix of immoral and insane; hence why I moved to Scandinavia, because I viewed myself more effective in pushing forward best practices and policy debate, and that's only really feasible to do "where it's happening", akin to moving to Silicon Valley if you want to make a startup, or New Orleans if your interested in Jazz, or New York if you want to do contemporary art; not necessary, not even effective for everyone, but there's a big "where it's happening" advantage for any activity).

    The second answer, is that young people maybe inactive now, but only because conditions are relatively stable. When I was growing up (around a decade and half before you) there was near complete belief among people accepting climate change is a problem that consequences are "a hundred years away" and governments "are on a good enough track to solve the problem" (leading up to and after Kyoto, most people thought it was a watershed moment, as it followed the same pattern as other global issues ... you had to be particular discerning to realize it was basically meaningless, fossil industries weren't "going down without a fight" and they were just getting started).

    This 100 years away belief was because the political organs behind reporting on climate science were largely influenced by the oil lobby as well as the media, so discussion of any legitimate risk-analysis (that it could be 100 years away ... but it could be a lot sooner: reasonable to err on the side of caution) was labelled as alarmist. This alarmism paradigm was so effective that people in the climate movement itself started doing the job of propagandist journalist in labeling experts discussing the risks as counter productive (due to the alarmism finger pointing the whole movement will receive from the propagandists).

    Fast forward to today and no one believes consequences are 100 years away, and the correct risk-analysis paradigm is coming into view in the media (that to be clear, essentially every expert did know and most tried to present in both alarmist and non-alarmist tones; the media just refused present any risk discussion as anything more than alarmism and kept insisting on "where's the proof").

    However, consequences are still no evidently harmful to most people, fires, floods and storms are still either only affecting a minority or are not too damaging as to warrant real alarm. This will change. The reason climate change is so dangerous is because it will keep getting worse and worse. At some point -- when infrastructure fails on larger scales for more time and more frequently, when crop failures lead to food shortages and rationing even in Western countries and disaster scales that exceed even the "disaster fatigue thresholds" that have been built up to that point -- it becomes impossible to project oneself in consumer society. Since young people haven't drunk much the denialist coolaid, when it's no longer possible to pretend life can just "go on as normal" there's only one option available which is to act on the problem. In my view, ecological policy strategy is both "what's the best we can do now" as well as "what material can we prepare for when the crisis becomes intolerable".
  • I like sushi
    1.2k
    It’s up to the governments and those with financial weight. Education and global stability is progressing and people will become more concerned as equality increases.

    Also, there are MANY extraordinary steps being taken. People tend not to revel in good news though so every dip is made out to be a chasm in order to sell a story and play on people’s obsession with complaining even when life is good for them.

    Don’t get me wrong, pessimism is useful and a degree of cynicism is important. We’re extraordary creatures able to contemplate our own existence and comprehend change over thousands, millions and billions of years.

    I’m fairly convinced that the current obsession with the environment is more or less mostly about a cultural shift that’s been picking up momentum for around 100 years. What’s coming to fruition now (anyone’s guess is good as any in regards to what “fruit” we’ll produce!) is necessarily culminating to a rethinking of global politics - the strain between what Clifford Geertz referred to as “epochalism” and “essentialism”; in simple terms this is about the re/recreation of a state.

    I’d go a step further because I believe something greater is happening along these lines. That is the idea of “state” is evolving, or rather dissolving, into something “other”. Pointing the finger at some “global cataclysm” is probably a lot more to do with how we’re expressing a global cultural shift on a scale completely unprecedented in the history of homosapiens.
  • Grre
    77


    I would like to share your optimism that there may be 'new insights' as a result, but so far, it seems that science is coming up with more piecemeal, stop-gap methods. I go to an environmental university, but our school is actually building an arena on the so-called "protected wetlands" that are a part of the property. Maybe I'm overly cynical, but I certainly agree, it is overwhelming. Being bombarded with all these messages and warning and scientific facts my entire life, is, well, tiring.
  • Grre
    77


    Interesting that you see the ecological crisis resultant of some macro-shift in political engagement. Of course I have no doubt that politics encompasses most areas of life, especially something as global as, well, global warming.
    I'm a bit confused as to your point though, are you trying to say that ecological crises are some form of political propaganda? The external 'other' that keeps what otherwise would be a divided group, solid and together? Or are you saying that as a result of these ecological factors, the whole dynamic of global human interaction is changing?
  • I like sushi
    1.2k
    I am not saying there is one thing resulting in another. It’s untrue to say the younger generations are disinterested. The truth of the matter is most people on earth don’t care because they don’t know and/or have more immediate worries (putting food on the table).

    People across the globe are slowly but surely moving out of poverty. People living in rural areas understand the changes.

    My point was that in the western world its a distraction from the political instability and the shifting sociopolitical structures. Rather than dealing with things on a level where people can actually influence the political sphere they prefer to turn to nihilism.

    Things are better than you think. The things that you think are food are the things you should probably be more concerned about.
  • ZhouBoTong
    291
    To what extent will we (my generation thereabouts) be morally culpable for our complacency with regards to the ecological crisis?Grre

    Well we can't expect dolphins or chimps to solve the problem, so humans are the only ones that can be held responsible. The only upside would be that the 2 or 3 generations prior to yours are probably more responsible (tough statement to prove, but I am sticking with it). I guess that is not really an upside, but takes away a bit of the moral culpability.

    To what extent can we enact change, dispel this disinterest regarding the ecological crisis?Grre

    I am getting the sense that only thing that will dispel the disinterest (not just in your generation) is going to be catastrophe on a global scale. To paraphrase some terrible movie - it is not until we are on the precipice of annihilation that we will change.

    Your generation seems FAR more interested than any of the previous generations, so maybe you all can get us moving in the right direction. Heck, despite the massive holes and incompleteness, I am still happy to attempt something like the Green New Deal, rather than just plod along waiting for the end.

    What is philosophy's role?Grre

    Unfortunately, philosophy can only help those who are interested. At this point, I am leaning more toward rhetoric as the method of change. I wouldn't go as far as sophistry, but appeals to emotion and authority (celebrities not scientists) seem to have a better chance of impacting the average Joe or Josephine. I think climate change just needs an incredible spokesperson. Without some technological miracle, solving climate problems will require massive lifestyle cuts for most of us in the developed world. This spokesperson will have to convince us all that it is worth it. And more importantly, get the first of us to actually commit to the lifestyle. I don't mind cutting back on life's conveniences, but only if enough people do it to actually help, I am not going to be the ONLY one (and this attitude is part of the problem, sorry young people).

    Should there be more emphasis on environmental philosophy??Grre

    Can you imagine an opponent of climate action (anyone who is opposed to the idea of human caused climate change or that we can do anything about it) engaging in environmental philosophy? It would attract 99 pro-environment people for every one pro-humans over the environment person (I hope that sentence made sense). Anyone that considers climate change to be a "leftist conspiracy" is likely not very interested in environmental philosophy, so what would be the point? If it doesn't "convert" people, then does it serve a purpose? I am probably being too harsh. If it "converts" one person, I suppose it was worth it.

    Is this disinterest from younger generations proof of the inevitability of such a crisis, are we really doomed?Grre

    We are probably doomed. But don't blame yourselves. I have actually been rather impressed with the level of interest from the youngest generations. This thread is just another example :smile:

    There is a thesis (that I find correct) that what you're referring to is "ecological theater" which puts on stage ecological principles without solving anything.boethius

    Clever stuff. While I am not sure this thesis encompasses all environmental speech, you are certainly on to something :grin:
  • Bitter Crank
    7.8k
    Some analysts have said that the opportunity to avoid the present crisis of global warming passed sometime around 1990--30 years ago. How so?

    Evidence that accumulating greenhouse gases could lead to global warming began to converge in the 1970s. Various streams of data, from satellites to cores extracted from the ocean floors and glaciers formed the basis of more specific predictions and the development of better climate models. The decade of the 1980s was THE TIME when climate change should have been taken seriously and should have been acted upon.

    THEY missed the boat. By 2006 when Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth was published, 26 years had passed. Since 2006, another 13 years have passed. Had THEY acted on the basis of early creditable information, we would have had 40 years in which to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

    So, who are THEY? Energy corporations like Exxon, Shell, BP, etc.; auto makers; elected officials; oil and coal producers, et cetera. THEY are the people who own, manufacture, process, and sell energy, transportation, plastics, chemicals, and so forth. They, and governments, were the critical institutions that acted to continue business as usual, or failed to act to prevent ecological damage.

    We the people are relevant as part of the solution, but in times of crisis (such as World War II or climate change) it is the major industrial giants that have to be mobilized first. This wasn't done; it isn't being done.

    Some US states are undertaking some of the policy changes now that should have been undertaken 40 years ago. An example is "30% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030". "30% in 2030" projects are good (if they are achieved or exceeded), but they don't address transportation and heating exhaust which are huge sources of CO2 emissions.

    The best role for The People is to keep the political and corporate feet to the fire -- as the expression goes. In the meantime, The People should start walking, bicycling, and using mass transit.
  • boethius
    196
    The best role for The People is to keep the political and corporate feet to the fire -- as the expression goes. In the meantime, The People should start walking, bicycling, and using mass transit.Bitter Crank

    I like your points, but I would change the above to "Advocate for more and use whatever effective walking, bicycling and mass transit systems are available". That trying to do "everything ecologically" is simply impractical (short from building yert and living in isolation), was a central grievance of the OP.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.8k
    Yes. Like, if you have two feet, use them whenever possible. I realize that many people live in pedestrian no-man lands, where travel on foot is just not safe, and biking is probably even unsafer. Then too, a lot of people do not live near a bus or rapid transit line of any sort. But, many people do. A lot of people dislike riding on buses. I don't drive, I have to use buses, and I find them to be loathsome some times. So I get that. But if we want mass transit, we have to use it when feasible (else demand won't exist).

    There are days when an isolated yurt sounds like just the thing.

    When I am out biking around the city on weekends, I find that there are few people on the street. Few people walking, except for dog walkers, a few runners, a few other bicyclists. No adults, no children. It's just not the sign of a healthy society -- people should be more active, be able to walk a mile to the store and back. Like, actually walk 3 blocks to the drug store. Instead, they drive.

    One of the consequences of past-the-peak-oil and the need to reduce CO2 emissions, is that people in cities will have to use their own internal bio-drives to do stuff. Then they won't have to drive to the gym to exercise.
  • Grre
    77

    I really agree with your points. This kind of ties into what I was also trying to get at; my issues with individual culpability, that is, like the 'ecological theatre" concept @boethius brought up. Theres a lot of (neoliberal) focus on individual actions, like biking to work ect. which is great, but also, not really a reasonable reality for some people. Turning off lights is something easier to do, but, even if everyone turned off every light, it would be nothing compared the damage industrial corporations are doing, with regards to pollution and energy usage. Individual culpability inspires a good spirit, but it does nothing to change the framework of issues at hand, in fact, it works to shield the culpability from those who really deserve it and those who's change would be a major impact.

    How do you suggest The People hold corporate's feet to the fire?

    Also, I appreciate you letting my generation off the hook. While my generation might be more "Aware" as @ZhouBoTong pointed out, but I'm worried that such interest is merely getting commodified. Such as the 'eco-friendly' straws trend. I'm not sure if people of my generation are really interested in enacting change so much as matching the current "Green" trends.

    PS. Thunberg's next planned global climate strike is planned for May 26. I'm mad that my schooling is done for the year and I'm no longer in high school, or I would have participated.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.8k
    Also, I appreciate you letting my generation off the hook.Grre

    You're welcome. It just isn't a generational issue. The Industrial Revolution started in the late 1700s. Everyone since then has either suffered and/or benefitted from industrialization. No one is guilty, everyone is responsible.

    @Boethius is right about ecological theater. It's similar to the theater of safety performed at airports. Just because recycling one's cans and bottles isn't in itself going to save the world doesn't mean we should stop recycling. We can, we should, we must recycle. We should buy less stuff to start with. Of course, some cities have no recycling programs. Minneapolis has two recycling programs: combined stream recycling of plastic, paper, and metal (goes in one container) and kitchen and yard waste recycling (goes in a different container). These two recycling programs leave very little stuff to put into the garbage container.

    Of course it will be impractical for many people to bicycle to work, because no provisions have been made to make bicycling safer, more convenient, and faster. It doesn't involve billions of dollars for cities to create bicycle lanes on streets, separate bicycle paths along disused railroads, and the like. With some adjustment, one can bicycle year round even in a city with cold weather like Minneapolis.

    Look: IF we were serious about reducing our CO2 footprints, we would immediately sharply reduce the miles we drive. We would walk more, use bicycles, and take whatever public transit we could find. In the decades ahead, as oil becomes more expensive and the consequences of global warming start to bite deeper, we will have to abandon the private automobile, along with much else.

    Had we taken global warming seriously in 1980, in the intervening 40 years we could have built a good deal of mass transit (rail, bus, trolley, bike ways, etc.). We didn't. So making these changes now is that much more urgent.

    All that said, it is still necessary for major corporations and governments to make a 180º turn around.

    How do you suggest The People hold corporate's feet to the fire?Grre

    Political campaigns are essential. "The People United are much more difficult to defeat." Who do you vote for? Are they or are they not committed to a human future? Boycott corporations who seem uninterested in change. Referenda and initiative campaigns. Support solar and wind power programs. Individuals have the responsibility of reducing their own consumption. That is and will continue to be true, no matter what else happens. Advocacy. Creating bad publicity for banks, politicians, and corporations who seem unresponsive to the threat of global warming.

    Expect cooptation. Expect to see mass marketing of T-shirts with eco-slogans, buttons, all sorts of product tie-ins. Expect to see counter-campaigns by oil companies explaining how they are struggling to save the world. It's bullshit, and all that crap can be ignored.

    PS. Thunberg's next planned global climate strike is planned for May 26. I'm mad that my schooling is done for the year and I'm no longer in high school, or I would have participated.Grre

    You mean, there is no way for you to plug into this action? Help is always needed to get these things off the ground, and wherever you live, there is a need for people to start organizing. Grow where you are planted.

    By the way, expect to feel a sense of futility at times. Changing the direction the world is going is harder than making an aircraft carrier turn quickly. If saving the world were easy, it would have been done already.

    How will it all work out? Gee, I don't know. I simultaneously harbor hope and doubt that you will be successful. (I use the plural "you" because I won't be around that much longer, given my age.) Your #1 enemy is inertia and contrary interests. A lot of wealth is tied up in coal, nuclear, and petroleum, and people (being what we are) are not just going to let their investments evaporate if they can help it.

    James Howard Kunstler The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century Kunstler doesn't offer some magic solution that will enable clever people to escape the problem. As he says in another book: "Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation".

    Kunstler offers good, solid, and punchy information about peak oil, CO2, methane, etc.
  • Grre
    77
    One auhor I should have cited as key to my thinking is one I read a few years ago: Joel Kovel, certainly anyone interested in what we are talking about here should check him out
  • boethius
    196
    Boethius is right about ecological theater. It's similar to the theater of safety performed at airports. Just because recycling one's cans and bottles isn't in itself going to save the world doesn't mean we should stop recycling. We can, we should, we must recycle.Bitter Crank

    Yes, we're in agreement ... sort of.

    The theater part is the debate framework of individual initiative and "eco consumerism" being the available actions to make (rather than political organization), and then in a next step ecological programs that are largely beside the point framed as "better than nothing and all that can be done".

    In some cases the ecological programs are both beside the point and even counter productive, such as biofuels destroying much more ecosystems than the 5-10% of oil without even including that ethanol is corrosive to motors (though destroying old motors to be replaced with more efficient ones is positive to a point, though of course can be accomplished with regulation in any case).

    In the case of recycling, most packaging and plastic is simply unnecessary and could be simply regulated away without much impact on business (other than plastic and packaging suppliers) and what packaging is needed could be largely biodegradable. Not to mention planned obsolescence.

    Of course, at each step the "better than nothing" is still a good choice; at face value it's good to recycle if that's available.

    The consequences of the theater part, however, are, I believe, very serious and completely intentional. First, for people concerned it provides a palliative action that fulfills a sense of moral responsibility: "don't bother me about the amazon, I recycle!". Second, by theatracizing ecological concern in consumer choices, it drives a wedge between the poor and the wealthy in the environmental debate: a poor person may simply have no practical ecological options on essentially anything and thus feel excluded from the movement.

    Most well informed environmentalist will be completely aware of these issues, but I feel are not aware that actively fighting this "pop-culture-environmentalism-theater", that's allowed to be discussed in the mainstream, is critical. By joining in the shouts of "recycle! electric cars! ride a bike!", or even just mild encouragement (i.e. participating in the theater), environmentalists help to cutoff the debate, and when people see that obviously it's insufficient to the actual problems that are mentioned from time to time, the end result is disappointment in realizing actions and enthusiasm were essentially meaningless.

    Of course, some environmentalists realize this and systematically re-frame things as political and point out the greenwashing: we're just not allowed to speak on television, is the main difference.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.8k
    All good points. I agree that the critical decisions that need to be made will not be made by consumers. They will be made by governments. Producers will not, by and large, volunteer. (Some companies had to be ordered to make weapons during WWII; they wanted to keep making... whatever it was they manufactured.) I can recycle plastic water bottles. That's slightly good. Far better would be to stop packaging H2O at all, because in countries such as the United States, there is almost never any reason to drink bottled water.

    Electric cars? SUVs? Mini? They are all bad, both in terms of the energy consumed to manufacture them, but in the energy to run them. Stop making cars at all. General Motors, Ford, Chrysler Fiat, etc. could just as easily make large vans, buses, trolleys (that problematically run over people unless somebody is thrown off the bridge) and light rail cars. Energy utilities not moving fast enough to convert to renewables? Nationalization them.

    Concerned consumers should follow the Extinction campaign and the Gilets Juanes: Riot and Resist. Bring business to a standstill--for a long time, until they get the message.

    Why don't we do this? Are you ready with a program which will convince people to do this, in the face of probably vicious resistance by police, corporations, the military...? Honestly, I think this is what we should be doing -- I personally don't know how to get people out to do these kinds of things.

    Us old people could follow Maggie Kuhn's (founder of the Gray Panthers) advice and demand immediate changes to reduce CO2 production, or we will show up en masse in public, and undress. The last thing people want to see is 100,000 naked old people -- acres of sagging flesh, wrinkles, knobby joints, the whole bit. Well, it's still a bit cold in Minnesota, but it will soon be warm enough here and everywhere.
  • boethius
    196
    Why don't we do this? Are you ready with a program which will convince people to do this, in the face of probably vicious resistance by police, corporations, the military...? Honestly, I think this is what we should be doing -- I personally don't know how to get people out to do these kinds of things.Bitter Crank

    I thought about it for several years and turned things in every which way I could, but decided it's basically impossible ... for now ... in the West. Most deep environmental thinkers, however, only stop at the first part and don't realize it's only true for now and in the West.

    And why should we expect any different? The West benefits and is now entirely dependent on the global system as it is, why would the people that benefit be highly motivated to change it? And by benefit I am including the mostly exploited wage earner that nevertheless still has the privilege of driving a car, playing top-end video games, going the the cinema, eating meat at most meals, having every electric appliance one may need, etc.

    However, there's lot's of people who don't currently benefit from the global system, and after thinking more I realized that it's here that a large difference can be made currently. The problem the West faces with respect to renewable energy is that the infrastructure is already built and has a large stock of fossil burning capex to amortize (and so a huge resistance by the corporations owning those sunk costs to keep them valuable) and the rest of society is optimized for these sources (using renewables changes the efficiency calculation of a lot of other infrastructure, such as trains being vastly more efficient than trucks and cars to power with renewables); and with respect to agriculture the main problem is only 2 percent of people work in agriculture and so "eating local" doesn't actually mean local but rather what's trucked in from dozens of miles; on top of this, a system that produces all the food with 2 percent of people requires full mechanization that again is an optimum built around oil.

    However all the above problems don't exist in poor places that have no infrastructure and where most people are subsistence farming. In such places renewable technologies and decentralized technologies can be deployed with basically instant benefit and combined with sustainable agriculture methods (which may or may not be close the case in these regions), economic development becomes sustainable. This technological system is much more resilient, mainly due to decentralization, than fossil fuel supply lines and large electric grids. If such a system gets "good enough" it simply provides a far better quality of life than what trying to plugin to the Western system (i.e. move to a slum and try to move up) provides. Right now, both systems are both in competition (a government may have some sustainable policies available ... but opt to just kick everyone off the land and turn it over to agribusiness) and also this new system depends heavily on the Western system (to get capital goods such as the renewable technologies in question).

    However, with time, this new sustainable technological system can become more robust and start producing more goods required to sustain itself; it can decouple from the Western system.

    At the same time, climate change and other environmental disasters and mineral depletion as well as the usual problems internal to capitalism combine to start to destabilize the global resource extraction and production as well as financial system. So this brings us to the "for now" qualifier.

    The consequence of not being sustainable is that things can simply not last as they are. At some point the Western system simply becomes untenable and regions start to drop out for one reason or another (a la Greece). As regions drop out of the Western system, expectations are realigned, and suddenly a much better technological system that's sustainable and local becomes very attractive. If it's developed enough, it can spread to previously-rich regions.

    When I came to these conclusions was over 15 years ago, so it seemed fairly abstract at the time, but I would say today it's at the stage where these dynamics start to be visible (consequences like forest fires and hurricanes ).
  • whollyrolling
    412
    Philosophy is the disaster which led to science, which is the disaster that led to what some claim is destroying the world while others disagree. Philosophy could make it worse or if anyone still cared about philosophy enough to lend it an iota of credence, but it's now primarily up to science to determine better or worse circumstances for humanity. Standing in front of human "progress" with philosophy as your asset is like sitting on a bicycle playing chicken against a locomotive.

    The "greatest minds" of modern civilization are soberly and with conviction commenting that it will require artificial intelligence, which is nowhere on the horizon, to pull humanity out of the hole it's dug itself into. Whether you believe the hype about our impact on the planet or not, whether a meteor crashes or not, whatever happens will happen, and there isn't a thing any of us can do to stop it. We're a species dead set on wrecking everything we touch. We can't even agree on basic facts and are regressing to theocracy and fascism, destructive education, fighting over inconsequential horse shit from the least to the most intelligent among us, whatever intelligence means.
  • I like sushi
    1.2k


    What is philosophy's role?

    Maybe putting ‘philosopher roll’ on the menu would stave off an environmental cataclysm? At the very least it would reduce navel gazing!
  • Grre
    77


    You made some really great points that I 100% agree with and had in mind when starting this discussion. As I mentioned earlier, so much of my generation is focused on all this pop-environmentalism that necessarily involves commodifying the ecological issues (that ironically largely exist due to this capitalist/consumerist culture), kids my age lap that shit up. One of my roommates (disclaimed: I very much disliked) was so proud when she bought eco-friendly straws-these metal, reusable straws, instead of plastic ones. It was like YAY I personally did my part to solve global warming! But idiot she was, did she stop to think about how those straws were produced? How they were transported? Obviously not. Banning plastic straws is a good step, also, as you mentioned, plastic packaging in general but due to this individual moral culpability produced by the "environmental" movement, nobody is willing to demand that, nobody sees these bigger economic incentives at play....Yesterday was Earth Day in my country, yet all my friends on Instagram's big contribution was to repost those "one like = one tree" campaign posts that companies do for fundraising and free advertising...or shared this rapper that produced some song about the earth...0 understanding of the bigger picture, and 0 initiative to protest or make any real sort of change.

    This lack of radical awareness isn't just in the area of ecological understanding, but widespread to most global/political issues. "Liberalism" versus "Conservatism" is the dominant ideologies in my country, and people generally see liberalism as the Left (which it couldn't be farther from). All these Liberal movements, including liberal feminism, focus on this individual moral culpability, and the importance of slightly reforming individual actions to help "the cause", which by doing so, conveniently protects the predominant economic and political institutions of power-shielding them from blame or understanding. It's like the Tadpole theory but with regards to moral blame, not success.
    Radical thought isn't allowed to be spoken of, let alone conceived and put into action. It's dismissed as 'extreme' or 'impossible' before it is even explored or taught. You're certainly right about that. My (limited) Earth day contribution was to post a list of anarcho-enviromental theory books on my social media in the hopes that others who are actually interested will take it upon themselves to research those books. The knowledge is there to be used, it's jus not allowed to be. Welcome to the benign censorship of the Western world.

    Why don't we do this? Are you ready with a program which will convince people to do this, in the face of probably vicious resistance by police, corporations, the military...? Honestly, I think this is what we should be doing -- I personally don't know how to get people out to do these kinds of things.

    Us old people could follow Maggie Kuhn's (founder of the Gray Panthers) advice and demand immediate changes to reduce CO2 production, or we will show up en masse in public, and undress. The last thing people want to see is 100,000 naked old people -- acres of sagging flesh, wrinkles, knobby joints, the whole bit. Well, it's still a bit cold in Minnesota, but it will soon be warm enough here and everywhere.
    @Bitter Crank

    I love that ^ and it is something I agree with. To start with the younger generation at least, such encouragement to protest must begin on social media, in Ontario (where I live) highschool/university students recently (albeit; misinformed) walked out of school to protest OSAP cuts...in the States students have been striking for better gun control ect. Problem is again, students and young people are not informed. The education system teaches bare minimum liberal environment propaganda so it becomes mostly a mob mentality. Also social media cares more about the smoke n mirrors game of celebrity news and mainstream pop shop politics (ie. OMG what did TRumP dO todAY!!?!?) nothing truly radical or revolutionary. When I presented on this stuff in grade 12 for a class project, I was met with mostly blank stares and confusion.
  • Grre
    77

    I appreciate your cynicism, and it is true that "scientism" as termed by Nagel-has become the new system of faith for the secular Western world. I don't think "science" will save us as much as people want to think, but rather, science is not only an 'easy' solution ie. we don't have to do much regarding our own lives, but it is also an economically viable one-yay, creates jobs in the STEM sector!! Governments and corporations can get behind it.
  • boethius
    196
    Banning plastic straws is a good step, also, as you mentioned, plastic packaging in general but due to this individual moral culpability produced by the "environmental" movement, nobody is willing to demand that, nobody sees these bigger economic incentives at play....Yesterday was Earth Day in my country, yet all my friends on Instagram's big contribution was to repost those "one like = one tree" campaign posts that companies do for fundraising and free advertising...or shared this rapper that produced some song about the earth...0 understanding of the bigger picture, and 0 initiative to protest or make any real sort of change.Grre

    Yes, the corporate friendly media will only allow corporate friendly environmentalism.

    However, when I was in the 16 to 18 range and becoming aware of these issues, at the time it was even worse, denialism and false-equivalence was at full power. Even people who accepted the science basics mostly dismissed the consequences as being "hundreds of years away".

    So the current pop-environmentalism is still a big step up from where it was.

    However, between 18 and 20 I felt I was literally going insane. Once the moral weight of what is happening really settles in and the truly horrifying scale (just the other day, experts announced the great barrier reef in significant risk to essentially die completely -- again, a decade ago is was "the great barrier reef is too big and too old, it could never die ... and if it did start to have problems, well it would obviously be a big wake up call and we'd certainly do something then!!) along with the realization that the truth has been easily available for decades (the basics of green house caused climate change was worked out over a hundred years ago, along with consequences of topsoil erosion and primary forest loss understood well before that) and so little has been done.

    However, it's not the case that nothing has been done; maybe it's too little too late, but maybe we get lucky and we have more time than currently seems likely or there is some massive awareness shift that happens suddenly. My point here, is just that between 18 and 20, trying to address myself to the people around me was mostly just banging my head against the wall; at 20 I realized plenty of really clever and charismatic people with credibility, resources and platforms have been making the arguments for generations, and so it's a fools errand to approach things this way of trying to convince people who don't really want to listen or will never reconsider consumerist and careerist values and plans in any case.

    The alternative, is to go meet the few people who are equally concerned, make or join projects that are doing a part of those small things that do really contribute and are thought out in a theory that is not naive and takes into account all the cultural and technical obstacles. Where motivated people get hung up I find, is that they place all sorts of preconditions of what "true environmentalism is", preconditions that are either simply not realistic or then incompatible with their character and capabilities. However, I think contributions can be made from pretty much any type of career or activity; what matters, in my view, is a good enough theoretical understanding to not get co-opted or unintentionally contribute to counter-productive things. In otherwords, there's a way to raise awareness and get debates going that are authentic and not theater (probably not on television, but there are other ways), likewise there are legal actions that can at least slow environmental destruction, there is doing projects that demonstrate or push further ecological best practices that then contribute to forming the basis of pushing for policy (both by showing it's feasible and helping to quantify the implications), there is academic research that (though there is more than enough to justify all sorts of effective policies) further proves things, and there is getting directly into politics.

    Though we're far from any sort of victory, there have not only been failures in the environment movement. One success I consider a model is organic food. When it started by solitary and small groups of farming radicals that rejected chemical based, soil depleting and seed controlled agriculture, agro-corporations tried to just straight up ban it (one famous case in France the corporations just directly argued that organic farming "undermined industrial farming" with all sorts of fanciful arguments of why this was terrible for society); there was a lengthy battle at each step, for the right to farm without chemicals to begin with (was it even safe for the consumer!?), around the right to re-use seeds, around the right to advertise that it's organic and have labels etc., and each step awareness campaigns, legal actions, as well as developing organic farming practices itself was needed. The organic industry that is normal to have around today was a lengthy multi-decade struggle. Why it's a big success is that it has developed actual techniques and preserved seed varieties that we may soon be in a position to simply have no other choice but to use (so if those methods weren't developed we'd just be screwed), and second it's demolished the industry argument through all those decades that there's "simply no other choice" (people will still equivocate and argue there's higher yields, but even a decade ago it would be common to be accused of wanting to basically kill everyone with starvation for promoting organic agriculture -- I got this all the time when organic produce became widely available and I made a point of being as close to 100% organic as I can be), and, third, in developing countries having the organic option has even higher impact as farmers are even more vulnerable to seed monopolies, more vulnerable to chemicals as they don't have proper equipment, and soil in the tropics is much more fragile so techniques that kind-of-work with heavy dirt (ground up by the glaciers) can have massive soil erosion in very the very thin dirt tropics and pests can be much worse in the tropics because there's no frost and insect reset (so diversified farming keeping a predator/prey balance is even more effective).

    So, a lot of organic consumerism can be theater, and a lot of industrial organic agriculture can be of questionable sustainability (not to mention the transport), but it's really of critical importance that it exists, and without the radicals who started a half century ago it could still be the accepted fact that industrial agriculture is the only option; that would be in a terrible position to be in. Of course, there's way more political work to do to make agriculture sustainable, but if we didn't even have any working examples the political obstacles would be impossible.

    What I'm trying to stress here is that every kind of skill and character strengths were needed to make organic agriculture a thing (and eating is not fundamentally a consumerist activity, we do need to eat and sustainable agriculture will be the only choice available at some point, that is the definition of sustainability, so the sooner we deploy it the better and to deploy it at scale requires the methods to be worked out, proven and sufficient people knowledgeable of them).
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