Friday, April 01, 2005

The nature of Nature

Environmentalism is up against the ropes, and the final bell is about to ring. Just as a new and major report is released about the unprecedented degradation of the Earth over the past 50 years, the US environmental movement has been advised that its strategy is losing. We're being told that most people just don't get the rational analysis of sustainability as being in their own interests. And they just don't respond at all to doom and gloom warnings about the decline and fall of their ecosystem. Instead, what they do identify with is ironically the pre-rational spirit: the sacredness of Nature!

Ecological activists are lately being told that their new strategy will have to emphasize less on rational self-interest because we're all going to die, and instead give out more warm and fuzzy feel-good notions about protecting God's creation. It's either that major PR shift or just pack up, go home, and wait for the collapse into extinction. People can't feel the stats. And their minds refuse to engage with the doom and gloom. They're not able to visualize how their own breathing and drinking and eating depend on the health of other organisms. So how do we reach into their untrained minds? Well, they do love Nature if it's the transcendental sublime, the connection to something greater than us. So, it might be back to Romanticism or else continue the present decline into climate chaos and species extinctions. If you want to learn more about (neo)Romanticism for your PR work, come visit my grad seminar this semester.

The link above takes you to an article about the stategic advice --but also about alternatives today to merely following that vague PR shift. Here's a snippet:

  • In December, Adam Werbach, 31, who served in 1998-99 as the Sierra Club's youngest president, attempted to flesh out a specific philosophical framework for the future. In a San Francisco speech titled "Is Environmentalism Dead?" Werbach argued that environmentalism is endangered because the commons are threatened. By commons, he means the assets we inherit as a community, rather than as individuals. He says American democracy and culture have relied on "commons values" for economic and cultural growth since the Great Depression: "From Social Security to public education to the Clean Water Act, the framework for progressive political action has been the commons."

    Werbach says the best way to fight for the environment at this point in our history is to fight for the broader commons values.

    In practical terms, this means that in addition to working for the direct protection of land, water and air, environmentalists should place more emphasis on championing massive investments in the creation of new alternative-energy industries.

    One example is the Apollo Alliance. This cabal of labor organizations and environmentalists proposes what it calls a New Apollo Project . . . .{follow link above for more}

And about that new major report:
"It has cost $24 million and taken more than 1300 scientists in 95 countries four years to put together. This week, the first ever global inventory of natural resources was finally published. Its overwhelming conclusion: we are living way beyond our means.

According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), approximately 60 per cent of the planet's "ecosystem services" - natural products and processes that support life, such as water purification - are being degraded or used unsustainably. What is more, this degradation increases the risk of abrupt and drastic changes, such as climate shifts and the collapse of fisheries.

But amid the doom and gloom there is hope.... " see more at
And the homepage of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment:


At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Question of Survival
By Jean-Marcel Bouguereau
Le Nouvel Observateur

Friday 01 April 2005

These aren't some granola heads in Indian tunics and clogs. They are 1360 experts from 95 different countries, among the most highly qualified anthropologists, ecologists, biologists, and economists. They worked for five years to arrive at this frightening observation: forty years from now the planet will no longer be able to assure human well-being. Already, "60% of the ecosystems that support life on earth have been damaged," such as the tropical forests and the oceans. Damage that has become particularly acute during the last fifty years. More land, for example, has been converted to agricultural use since 1945 than in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Even if man succeeds in nourishing himself better thanks to this agriculture - the production of which has, for the first time, outstripped population - even if malnutrition has been reduced and health considerably improved, the negative impact of this growth in human activity is alarming: woods and tropical forests in danger, fishing stocks dried up, species varieties declining, infectious disease on the rise.

The destruction of 35% of mangroves, those trees that plunge their raised roots along the banks of tropical seas, has already had an impact in the recent tsunami, in the sense that they had previously been there to soften this kind of catastrophe. What is most serious, however, is the largely irreversible character of these transformations, nature's inability to regenerate itself - as, for example, fish stocks - and the consequent impossibility of reestablishing the broken equilibria, a situation which amplifies the effects of global warming on the environment. We understand that under these conditions the United Nations' objectives - to reduce by half the proportion of the global population that lives in extreme poverty - not only cannot be achieved, but also aggravate this situation. These experts invite us to radically change our perspectives. Not only must we downshift, but also undoubtedly, as a matter of survival, go into reverse.

-- Jean-Marcel Bouguereau is Editor-in-Chief of the "Nouvel Observateur." He is also an editorialist at the "République des Pyrénées," for which this article was written.


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