Green History: A Reader in Environmental Literature, Philosophy, and Politics

Green History: A Reader in Environmental Literature, Philosophy, and Politics

Green History: A Reader in Environmental Literature, Philosophy, and Politics

Green History: A Reader in Environmental Literature, Philosophy, and Politics

Synopsis

Charting the origins of the modern ecology movement over more than two thousand years, this volume gives a voice to those hidden from history, revealing "green" themes within artistic and scientific thought.

Excerpt

For most of us, even the committed activist, the Green movement has no history. Worries about environmental destruction seem very modern. Acid rain, the greenhouse effect and ozone depletion are concerns of the last twenty years, especially of the last four or five. Our great-grandparents never had to worry about nuclear waste. Prior to Hiroshima and Nagaski, a Green movement would, in one sense, have been impossible. Robert Oppenheimer, leader of the team that unleashed the power of the atom, watched the first test detonation of an atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert, first with awe and then with mounting horror. He recalled a phrase from the Hindu epic, the Bhagavad-Gita, ‘I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds’ (Worster 1991:339). The verse and its implications echo through the years since. In a dozen ways, or more, we can now destroy life on a world-wide scale. Global warming, degraded seas, an ever rising tide of low-level radiation, species loss, high-technology warfare, the risks of biotechnology and even electromagnetic pollution, all come to mind as potentially terminal threats to Planet Earth. The contemporary Green movement was born in response to the feeling that we have ‘become death’.

To many, this movement is ‘…like a stranger who had just blown into town, …a presence without a past’ (Worster 1991: xiii). Green activists, their opponents and the ever watchful news media proclaim the novelty of an ecological outlook. Greens of all shades seem, often with unintended irony, to echo the words of that arch-architect of twentieth-century capitalism, Henry Ford. ‘History’, more often than not, for radical environmentalists, eagerly rejecting the polluting legacy of the last hundred years, ‘is bunk’. Dobson (1990:182) argues that the Green movement presents its self as ‘something uniquely fresh and novel’. Capra and Spretnak argue that the world has been dominated for centuries by a ‘paradigm’ of domination, reductionist science and masculine values hostile to the natural world. For them ‘Green polities’ represents ‘the political manifestation of the cultural shift’ to a new ‘paradigm’; they conclude that ‘What we need is a new dimension of politics altogether. Green politics offers such a dimension, a politics that is neither left nor right but in front’ (1986: xvii-xviii). Although other Greens may, in contrast to Capra

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