Environmentalism Has Failed – or Has It?

Rumours of the Death of Environmentalism are greatly exaggerated.
David Suzuki’s opening remark, “Environmentalism has failed,” in A Biocentric Viewpoint is Needed Now, misses the mark set by the article’s title by broadly defining “environmentalism” to include biocentric culture change.
It was never the purpose of “environmentalism” to change the dominant human culture from rampant consumerism and resource exploitation to a biocentric viewpoint. The goal of environmentalism is to stop the destruction of the natural world. These are two goals, which, while compatible, require different strategies and tactics.
We who already have the biocentric perspective have focused on this goal far longer than 50 years. While recognizing that we can never “win” against an overwhelming tide of anthropocentric civilization, we must, nevertheless, soldier on and continue to defend the wild. Someone must do the work, make the last ditch efforts to save what is left, while others carry on the legal, political and cultural work in their areas of interest and expertise.
What has failed is not “environmentalism” but culture change. The dominant culture in the world today, that is, western capitalist consumer culture, is dysfunctional to the point of destructive. The stories we tell our children about how to be a human being no longer work in a world of finite resources. We cannot continue economic growth as if resources are unlimited. We can no longer foul our nest as if the Earth will clean up after us forever. We can no longer treat the natural world as separate and under the dominion of human beings and human culture.
The problem is that the western consumer culture model is disseminated by a centralized, top-down control system, through corporate media, corporate dominated government and corporate control of access to information. We environmentalists who embrace and live a biocentric world view are ill-equipped to take on this totalitarian control system and bend it to a realization of the necessity of a biocentric world view.

Our form of environmentalism is alive and well, still working hard to protect critical natural habitat, clean water and air, living soils and biodiversity. It’s our work. It’s what we’re good at. We can’t shift focus, relearn a new approach, stop defendning what little is left. There’s no time and we’re not getting any younger!
Now it’s time for the bioculturalists to step forward and begin the process of instilling biocentric knowledge and ideals into popular culture.

Energy Trumps Economy

In this article: The Future of Capitalism – Profits and Growth George Mobus describes, in systems language, why continued growth is impossible in a world of finite resources, that is, our world.

It seems logical and self-evident, but in a world dominated by the totalitarian philosophy of capitalism, that logic gets washed away in a barrage of propaganda, advertising and sleight of mouth. Consumerism is the norm, the expected reality. Any attempt to point out the illogic of unlimited consumerism is met with disbelief and open hostility.

One would think that Peak Oil and Climate Change (aka, Global Warming) would bring a note of reality to popular awareness. But the Capitalism propaganda machine is incredibly efficient at gobbling up realities and shitting false promises. Peak Oil is discredited with promises of Tar Sands, Oil Shale and deep ocean oil discoveries, ignoring the rapidly increasing energy costs of these marginal sources. The realities of climate change are obfuscated with the imposition quasi-scientific governmental organizations such as the IPCC, who fix the data around politically determined policy.

The public lack of understanding of the science and reality of global and cosmic energy and their effects on energy availability here on Earth, results in a political inability to come to turns with societal profligacy and waste. Mobus points out an important distinction between efficiency and waste. Efficiency is the reduction in the loss of energy in the process of conversion from source to useable work. Waste is the depletion of energy without producing useable work. We can eliminate waste with no effect on our physical environment. Efficiency has a steep diminishing return result: we are rapidly approaching the limits of efficiency in conversion of fossil fuels into useable energy.

Despite their promise, there is a limit to the amount of renewable energy that can be put to use for human consumption. Renewable sources have a much lower ratio of energy return on energy invested (EROEI), meaning we get less energy out of them for the same energy invested in their development. The result is that we are entering into a future with less energy available for human use than we have enjoyed in the past.

The upshot is that we must cut back somewhere, and that somewhere is growth. We no longer have the excess energy availabile to permit continued economic and consumption growth. We have two pathways open to us, one desirable, the other inevitable: a steady state society and economy, or decline and ultimate collapse.

Unless we can somehow take control over the political process and make these economic and physical realities a critical part of the political decision-making process, we will be very soon left with just the one future – economic decline and collapse.

As if cell phones weren’t bad enough already …

I don’t need any more justification to know that cell phones are bad, irredeemable, worse than useless, socially destructive, unnecessary and just plain stupid. Now we learn, in this article, that anyone can download software into your cell phone that allows it to be used as a tracking device, a continuous monitor of your phone calls and your face-to-face conversations, even when it’s not turned on.

Of all the devices foisted upon an unsuspecting consumer public by unscrupulous corporate entities, cell phones are the worst. There’s no need for cell phones in anyone’s life. They’re rude, intrusive, cause traffic accidents, fill user’s heads with uncontrolled microwave radiation, and, worst of all, they’ve created an entire generation of cell phone zombies who can’t exist without checking their tiny screens every 30 seconds for all important messages.

As James, a character in my novel-in-progress, tells his cell phone using compadre: “Just take your damned cell phone out to the pasture and drop it in a cow pie. Maybe some cow will step on it. Let ’em listen to that.”

The Key to the Crisis

“…any meaningful democracy requires citizens who are empowered to create and re-create their government, rather than a mass of marginalized voters who merely choose from what is offered by an “invisible” government. Citizenship requires a commitment of time and attention, a commitment people cannot make if they are lost to themselves in an ever-accelerating cycle of work and consumption.” Jeffrey Kaplan The Gospel of Consumption

This article reveals the source of a continuing business philosophy that drives corporate capitalism in the united States and most of the rest of the world.

Consumerism, and the “work ethic” that props it up, is a result of a deliberate propaganda program by corporate leaders in the 1950s to forestall a widespread public move toward shorter work hours. During the Depression, many companies shortened worker hours to allow more workers at least some work and income. Those workers found they enjoyed the increased time at home to be with their families, to grow gardens, to take part in the process of democracy in their communities.

After World War II, when the demands of war-time production petered out, workers prepared to return to a six-hour work day or a four day work week. Industrialists panicked. Floating on a sea of filthy lucre, they saw their bloody profits draining away as workers sought a more balanced life in post-war America.

The corporate response? Thought control!

The advertising market boomed in the 1950s as corporations sought to lure workers and citizens into the never-ending spiral of consumption, resulting in the institution of the 8-hour work day and five-day work week. Consumers were dragged along by silver inlaid nose rings into the work-debt-work cycle that drew fathers and mothers away from families, parents away from children and citizens away from involvement in local democracy.

We see the results today: an apathetic citizenry, unconcerned and uninvolved in democratic decision-making, with heads down against the economic winds carrying them to bankruptcy. Who has time to be involved with your community when one must work 60 hours a week to make payments on the new car and boat, the $350,000 house, the kid’s braces and the vacation to Mexico to “get away from it all?”

Jean found the answer many years ago and taught me well. Consuming less allows us to work less, thus having more time to engage with our neighbors, walk our precinct during elections, work at the polling places, attend community and local government meetings, participate in local government, craft letters to the editor, and to our local government officials.

Corporate capitalism consumes democracy and excretes apathy.

As John E. Edgerton, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, noted: “Nothing breeds radicalism more than unhappiness unless it is leisure.”