Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Dark Green

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Dark Green

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "Dark Ecology" by Paul Kingsnorth, in Orion, Jan.-Feb. 2013.

THE ENVIRONMENTALIST MOVEMENT, WRITES journalist and poet Paul Kingsnorth, is in crisis: "Assailed by a rising movement of 'skeptics' and by public boredom with being hectored about carbon and consumption, colonized by a new breed of corporate spivs for whom 'sustainability' is just another opportunity for selling things, the greens are seeing a nasty realization dawn: Despite all their work, their passion, their commitment, and the fact that most of what they have been saying has been broadly right--they are losing."

Kingsnorth identifies with the early green movement, which held that wild nature was intrinsically valuable and worthy of conservation. Early greens air-quoted the word "progress," believing that many advanced technologies threatened "human-scale, vernacular ways of life."

Kingsnorth considers the scythe, a simple, ancient instrument he uses to mow the grass on his property in England. "It's what the green thinkers of the 1970s used to call an 'appropriate technology'--a phrase that I would love to see resurrected--and what the unjustly neglected philosopher Ivan Illich called a 'tool for conviviality.'" Illich (1926-2002), Kingsnorth notes, contrasted such tools with technologies that "created dependency; they took tools and processes out of the hands of individuals and put them into the metaphorical hands of organizations. The result was often 'modernized poverty,' in which human individuals became the equivalent of parts in a machine rather than the owners and users of a tool. In exchange for flashing lights and throbbing engines, they lost the things that should be most valuable to a human individual: Autonomy. Freedom. Control."

It is just this kind of exchange that neo-environmentalists, as Kingsnorth calls them, have embraced. Peter Kareiva, chief scientist of the Nature Conservancy, embodies the new breed of environmentalists who "emphasize scientific measurement and economic analysis over other ways of seeing and measuring." Kareiva believes that development, even that which levels Amazonian rainforests, is inevitable, and that nature can and will adapt. The natural world must be managed.

Mainstream greens dismiss limiting consumption and its machinery; more technological fixes (nuclear energy, biotechnology, geoengineering, etc. …

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