For any or all of this to happen, any emergent environmental movement will surely come to recognise and accept the following ten principles and practices:
1. Think in systems and take a wide-angled view. See the big picture. Rather than looking through carbon-tinted glasses, the movement will not privilege or prefer one part of the world, or one species, over any other parts. Specifically, it cannot descend into anthropocentrism.
2. In doing so, the movement will understand and work with local diversity, ecosystems, and bioregions. It will understand that harming any part of the whole damages the whole.
3. Make connections between “issues.” This includes recognising the desire for comfort in one part may be of immense discomfort to another. For example, slavery and child labour is an “issue” that must be considered in all environmental campaigns.
4. Gain a long-term understanding of history. This includes understanding the mechanisms of colonisation (still evident today), especially how that process contributes significantly to environmental degradation. Furthermore, such an understanding will recognise that the basic reason we are in an environmental mess is because of overshoot.
5. Question the imperatives of modernity, especially what Vanessa Machado de Oliveira calls ‘…our ego-logical desires for the 6 “Cs” of comfort, convenience, consumption, certainty, control, and coherence.’ 1
6. Overcome our fixation on fixing. This includes overcoming our techno-addiction. Technology never has been, and never will be, the solution to any of our environmental problems, let alone the predicament we are now in. Eco-psychologist Chellis Glendinning argues that modern humans suffer a trauma of disconnection from nature and that we attempt to “heal” this trauma by an addiction to technology.2
7. Remember some of the slogans of 30, 40, or 50 years ago: “Think global, act local.’” “The personal is planetary, the planetary personal.”
8. Work through the grief process. Being stuck in some parts of the grief cycle is not a good place from which to undertake environmental action.
9. Tell the truth. This is the first of the three ‘demands’ of Extinction UK. The movement must tell the truth about the inter-connected, and self-reinforcing, dangers facing the whole world. Furthermore, it must tell the truth about the inadequacy of the solutions being offered (see 6 above.)
10. Find a spiritual/soulful home/place. Our place is an integral part of the whole of nature, not separated from nature. Our socio-environmental predicament is less about what we do, or will do; it is more about who we are – and that is a question of spirituality, soulfulness, and inner being.3
It will also be useful for any reclaimed environmental movement to re-read some of the seminal books of the environmental movement from before the focus on carbon emissions. Some possibilities include:
· Limits to Growth, Meadows et al
· Silent Spring, Carson
· Small Is Beautiful, Schumacher
· The Population Bomb, Ehrlich
· Walden, Thoreau
· Overshoot, Catton
Eco-psychology is the branch of psychology that recognises our human place within nature, and has emerged significantly since the awareness of global warming. This is an important area for the environmental movement to take into consideration. Contributions from Indigenous writers also need to be recognised. Some readings include:
· My Name is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization, Glendinning
· Nature and the Human Soul, Plotkin
· Active Hope, Macy
· Coming of Age, Jenkinson
· Dream of the Earth, Berry
· Sand Talk, Yunkaporta
· Last Child in the Woods, Louv
· Facing Extinction (essay), Ingram
Primarily, any resuscitated, resurrected, or re-kindled environmental movement must think differently. It will have to recognise Einstein’s famous dictum: ‘We cannot solve the world’s problems with the same thinking with which we created them.’ Einstein was not talking simply about thinking creatively (as de Bono would suggest,) he was talking about the very foundations of our thinking. He meant changing the very paradigms of thinking. He was talking about simplicity, cooperation, connections. He understood the importance of making mistakes, and he fostered curiosity, including a curiosity (and hence a wariness) of consequences of our thinking. I have addressed Einstein’s famous quotation and what he possibly meant in a prior blog here.
Finally, a few words about the younger generations, especially those who are worried, scared, and fearful of the world we are in and what this means for their futures.
The phenomenon of School Strikes for Climate is prescient and necessary. This is a world-wide movement that must be listened to. Older generations have stolen the future from these young people. Sadly, this is not all that new. William Catton, wrote in 1982 on page 1 of his must-read book - Overshoot – that, ‘humankind is locked into stealing ravenously from the future.’
Consequently, I will continue to support young people, and challenge others to listen to them. I will not, however, condone older generations lying to them about the future, proposing non-environmental techno-solutions, nor offering young people false hope.
If there is a movement that took up, and extended, the radical potential of the mid 20th century environmental movement then it is the Deep Ecology movement.4 The term Deep ecology was coined by Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss. Deep ecology recognises that the existence of any organism is co-dependent upon the existence of all organisms (including humans.) It promotes the inherent worth of all living beings, not just those that have utility value to humans.
1. Vanessa Machado de Oliveira, Hospicing Modernity: Facing Humanity’s Wrongs and the Implications for Social Activism, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California, 2021.
2. Chellis Glendinning, My Name is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization, Shambhala Publications, Boston & London, 1994
3. Please note, I am not advocating religion here. Spirituality is not synonymous with religion, although your particular religion may be how you approach your spirituality.
4. Seed, Macy, Fleming, Næss, Thinking Like A Mountain, New Society Publishers, Philladelphia, 1988