Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Revolution, Reform or Education?

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Revolution, Reform or Education?

Article excerpt

Revolution, Reform, or Education?

On November 30, 1987 the radical environmental group Earth First! spread rock salt on strawberry plants in the field site where, two days later, Advanced Genetic Sciences of Oakland was to test genetically engineered frost-preventing bacteria. It was the third time field tests of genetically engineered organisms, had been the target of vandalism in California ("Strawberry Plants Attacked in California Field Tests," Nature, December 10, 1987, 512).

Earth First! has a philosophical champion in Christopher Manes, associate editor of Earth First! Journal and editor of Nerthus, its philosophy supplement. Rejecting anthropocentrism and the stewardship model of environmental ethics, Manes sees the biocentric epistemology informing the activism of Earth First! as the dialectical output of the very technological culture it opposes. In such biocentrism, where mankind no longer occupies the privileged center of the living world, and people, animals, plants, or other natural objects are recognized as being more than the uses to which they are put, environmental ethics perforce becomes a source for "a critique of technological totalization." Environmentalism becomes, that is, less an ethics or philosophy than a task, and a revolutionary task at that. As Manes argues, "Keeping to the task means keeping to the here and now with the dictum, 'resist much, obey little,' directed at the periphery and core of technological culture."

But not all environmental or animal rights activists subscribe to a revolutionary ethics, however well articulated. Many are learning instead to operate effectively "within the system. …

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