Magazine article Soundings

Ecowars

Magazine article Soundings

Ecowars

Article excerpt

Soundings 34 engages with some of the issues in current ecological politics. As Noel Castree points out, although there is a lot of environmental chatter in the media, the dominant voices tend to be those of the liberal environmentalists--solutions are seen in terms of markets, eco-taxes, consumer conscience and voluntary codes. As he also points out, these solutions have achieved very little. An environmental politics that offers no challenge to neoliberalism is unlikely to succeed in its aims.

Several people in this issue (see Mary Mellor in particular) point out that the environment is regarded as an 'externality' in neoclassical economics. In other words, in market calculations the environment simply doesn't figure. This is a prime example of the way markets in capitalism institutionalise a separation of the economy from all other aspects of life. This is now an issue about humanity's collective relationship to nature. The future of the planet is at stake, and the hidden hand of the market is not going to make the necessary connections for us here.

Consumerism also lies at the heart of this issue. Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme recently, Julian Little of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (a group which represents GM firms) stated that the first round of the GM battle had been lost partly because its advocates failed to appeal to consumers (for more on GM see Anthony Jackson and Nigel Mullan). The second round in the battle for GM is to be based more on goods which will appeal to the consumer (such as slimming foods--solve the obesity epidemic with GM foods). Little felt that this would bring the consumer on board. He may well be right in this. In the individual consumption of commodities connections are easily hidden or forgotten. One of the aims of the ecological movement is to remind people about those connections--where their waste goes, where their oil has come from, how the chicken in their vindaloo was produced (see Colin Campbell on oil, Peter Singer and Jim Mason on factory farming).

Over-consumption in the West is powered by unequal global trade (see Juliet Schor). Cheap fashion in Primark brings huge external costs for the environment as well as exploitative working conditions for garment-makers. …

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