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:
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
some of the slogans of 30, 40, or 50 years ago: “Think global, act local.’” “The
personal is planetary, the planetary personal.”
through the grief process. Being stuck in some parts of the grief cycle is not
a good place from which to undertake environmental action.
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.)
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,
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:
Name is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization, Glendinning
and the Human Soul, Plotkin
of Age, Jenkinson
of the Earth, Berry
Child in the Woods, Louv
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 &
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