Time to Redefine Environmentalism

By Marohasy, Jennifer | Review - Institute of Public Affairs, December 2004 | Go to article overview

Time to Redefine Environmentalism


Marohasy, Jennifer, Review - Institute of Public Affairs


Change is real. Our purposes and our values are not things that have always existed, and will always exist, somewhere beyond space and time. They have come into existence as a consequence of our own activities, and those of our ancestors. They have been and are being evolved.

- Michael Ghiselin 1995

INTRODUCTION

There has been much self-congratulation of late amongst those on the Right of Australian politics. The Australian Greens failed to capitalize on the implosion of the Democrats, and the Coalition will soon hold power in the Senate. But the Australian Greens aren't going to go away. Their House of Representatives' primary vote has slowly climbed from one to seven per cent since 1990 and environmentalism is only likely to grow as the religion of choice for urban 'atheists'. The Coalition may not always be successful in its strategy of seeking to alternately placate and outsmart the Australian Greens. A better approach may be to redefine environmentalism in accordance with modern theories of evolutionary biology and in accordance with policies that will deliver tangible environmental benefits given the current pressures on the global environment.

THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING YOUR OWNVISION

It is a fact of life that if you don't have your own plan, your own vision, then you will likely be recruited into implementing someone else's plan. Over recent decades, Australian governments have been recruited into implementing the vision of environmental activists-essentially the visions of organizations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Australian Conservation Foundation. These organizations don't undertake much tree planting and don't grow any organic food. They exist to recruit others to implement their plans, their vision of what is best for the environment. This includes a future free of genetically modified foods, where agriculture is heavily regulated and tree clearing banned.

In its report, 'Taming the Panda: The Relationship between WWF Australia and the Howard Government', The Australia Institute shows that, over the last eleven years, funding to WWF has increased by more than 500 per cent and is now around $ 11 million annually. A significant proportion of WWF Australia's growth over the past 11 years can be attributed to revenues from Federal Government sources, rising from around $740,000 in 1995-96 to a high of almost $3.7 million in 2001-02. In total, WWF Australia has received over $15 million in government grants in the period 1996-2003, with almost $13.5 million of this having been awarded between 1998-99 and 2002-03!

At the same time that these organizations receive government funding to promote their vision for the environment, they work very closely with the Australian Greens. For example, in the recent federal election, at least one WWF employee stood for election as an Australian Greens candidate.

COMPETING CONCEPTS OF NATURE

While the Australian Greens give the impression that their policies are based on. science and 'natural concepts' of environment, they are, to some extent, a re-invention of the tired old Marxist, totalitarian model. Furthermore, and somewhat paradoxically, their ideological foundation appears to be largely a re-mapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths, including the concept of an original Eden. Yet, unlike early conservationists, who saw man as having an important management role tending and looking after the landscape-Noah built the ark to save the animals from The Flood-the Greens generally advocate a 'hands off, leave it to nature' approach. Within this framework, Man is in a state of sin wherever he attempts to modify or control the landscape, and technology is inherently bad.

The views of the Australian Greens accord somewhat with what was the accepted paradigm preceding the writings of Charles Darwin. Indeed, Darwin began The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection with the comment that 'Until recently the great majority of naturalists believed that species were immutable productions, and had been separately created'. …

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