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Wed May 2, 2012, 11:04 AM

David Suzuki: The fundamental failure of environmentalism

Hard on the heels of Paul Kingsnorth's recent repudiation of environmentalism comes a similar lament from none other than Canadian enviro-great David Suzuki.

While perhaps not as deep a "cri de coeur" as Kingsnorth's article, Suzuki's shift towards biocentrism echoes Kingsnorth's words so closely that the question demands to be asked: "Have we passed a cultural tipping point along with the economic and biophysical ones?"

If so, does this shift represent a goad to progress or a collapse into defeatism?

David Suzuki: The fundamental failure of environmentalism

Environmentalism has failed. Over the past 50 years, environmentalists have succeeded in raising awareness, changing logging practices, stopping mega-dams and offshore drilling, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But we were so focused on battling opponents and seeking public support that we failed to realize these battles reflect fundamentally different ways of seeing our place in the world. And it is our deep underlying worldview that determines the way we treat our surroundings.

We have not, as a species, come to grips with the explosive events that have changed our relationship with the planet. For most of human existence, we lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers whose impact on nature could be absorbed by the resilience of the biosphere. Even after the Agricultural Revolution 10,000 years ago, farming continued to dominate our lives. We cared for nature. People who live close to the land understand that seasons, climate, weather, pollinating insects, and plants are critical to our well-being.

When we believe the entire world is filled with unlimited “resources” provided for our use, we act accordingly. This “anthropocentric” view envisions the world revolving around us. So we create departments of forests, fisheries and oceans, and environment whose ministers are less concerned with the health and well-being of forests, fish, oceans, or the environment than with resources and the economies that depend on them.

It’s almost a cliché to refer to a “paradigm shift”, but that is what we need to meet the challenge of the environmental crises our species has created. That means adopting a “biocentric” view that recognizes we are part of and dependent on the web of life that keeps the planet habitable for a demanding animal like us.

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Reply David Suzuki: The fundamental failure of environmentalism (Original post)
GliderGuider May 2012 OP
RobertEarl May 2012 #1
The2ndWheel May 2012 #2
GliderGuider May 2012 #3
KT2000 May 2012 #4
GliderGuider May 2012 #5
cprise May 2012 #6
GliderGuider May 2012 #7
cprise May 2012 #8

Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Wed May 2, 2012, 11:18 AM

1. Fish...

Think about it.... what a wonderful gift fish are. And taste great, too!

So what do we do to our fish? We pollute their habitat. We deign to destroy their neighborhood. We figuratively and literally bomb the crap out of their housing.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Environmentalism as a political cause ran off the road many a year ago and is stuck in the ditch spinning its wheels.

Big Business has won and now controls the course of life on the planet. BB really does believe eating gold is better than eating fish. Shut up and eat your gold.

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Response to RobertEarl (Reply #1)

Wed May 2, 2012, 11:49 AM

2. I don't know if it's Big Business so much as

Big Human.

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Response to The2ndWheel (Reply #2)

Wed May 2, 2012, 12:11 PM

3. It's not either/or - it's both/and

Like everything else ecological, there's a feedback mechanism in place. As we grew in numbers we needed to develop mechanisms to solve social problems as they appeared. Out of that process appeared Business, as a means to facilitate and regulate our transactions. As a result, the production of goods and services became became more efficient and accessible. As life got easier more people appeared, and both our problems and the systems we developed to solve them became more complex.

Eventually (let's say for the sake of argument around the end of World War II) a tipping point was reached. The globalized system of Corporation™ became so complex that in a sense it came alive on its own - like Skynet going self-aware in the Terminator movies, or the animated broom in the Sorcerer's Apprentice (with the rest of us starring as apprentices).

It doesn't make sense for us to point a finger at the corporations without noticing the other three fingers pointing back at ourselves. They ARE us, after all. Which of course still doesn't address the question of how we make all those brooms stop carrying all that water...

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Wed May 2, 2012, 01:14 PM

4. another important fact

we make assumptions about the moral principles of humankind.
No - not all parents want to protect their children from environmental health hazards.
No - not all people do not want to learn how pollution affects the health of humans and the ecology.
No - people do know that resources are limited and opt for getting theirs while they can.
No - many people do not even consider future generations at all.

The price of many jobs is acquiescence to the corporate dictates, which is a blind eye to the harm. It is then ingrained into the culture and families and is passed through the generations. Serfdom.

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Response to KT2000 (Reply #4)

Wed May 2, 2012, 01:24 PM

5. +1

We are experiencing the abdication of responsibility on so many levels right now. That's not surrender, it's capitulation.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 01:19 AM

6. Do we have to go through this every 4 years?

This reminds me of the Black Mountain schism a while back.

I think when the David Suzuki's of the movement become frustrated with U.S. environmental policies and how they especially rub off on other English-speaking countries, they tend to cast the tendencies of the Empire as those of all humanity.

In any case, I must have missed something because I thought that biocentrism was the the point all along.

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Response to cprise (Reply #6)

Thu May 3, 2012, 06:37 AM

7. The Empire

is all of humanity. Not everything revolves solely around the Benighted States of America.

Yes biocentrism is the point. But not everyone's point - perhaps it should be. If more environmental leaders begin to publicly repudiate anthropocentric environmentalism, maybe biocentrism will find room to grow in the public imagination.

And Paul Kingsnorth, who I mention in the OP, is a founder of Dark Mountain.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #7)

Fri May 4, 2012, 02:00 PM

8. My point was that he was bemoaning

mainly American attitudes and failures.

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