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Green Politics. Green movement Critique of modern society, ideologies, arrogance of humanism Green ethic Threats Agenda Different approaches, strategies, tactics. Green politics. Movement, ideology emerges from environmental crisis of late 20 th century New ideological form

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Green politics l.jpg
Green Politics

  • Green movement

  • Critique of modern society, ideologies, arrogance of humanism

  • Green ethic

  • Threats

  • Agenda

  • Different approaches, strategies, tactics


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Green politics

  • Movement, ideology emerges from environmental crisis of late 20th century

  • New ideological form

    • No fully-formed structure

    • No settled orthodoxy

    • No name all adherents agree on

  • Green movement/environmental movement = Green politics


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Critique of modern society

  • Unreflective use of human technological power to “master” nature for human ends

    • Especially economic growth

  • Other modern ideologies

    • Justify or acquiesce in degradation, destruction of natural environment

  • Twofold assault on “arrogance” of modern technological society

    • Critique of assumptions, shortcomings of modern ideologies

    • Articulation, justification of Green ideology, ethic


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Critique of other ideologies

  • All modern ideologies – right and left, liberal and conservative, Marxist and non-Marxist – share humanist assumption

  • Anthropocentrism or humanism

    • Human beings are natural, rightful masters of nature

    • Nature is resource base for humans

    • Nature has no value apart from this

  • Arrogance gives us poisoned, polluted planet whose species are now in grave peril from man-made ills


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Arrogance of humanism

  • Assumption we are superior to nature and her species, and separable or apart from them is false

  • We, like all species, are deeply dependent upon each other and upon conditions that nurture, nourish us

  • We are not discrete, disconnected creatures; we rely on other species, and they on us

  • Ecology = study, recognition, and appreciation of myriad connections and interconnections, intricate web of life

  • Web has been torn, disrupted by humans in rush to “master” nature and acquire wealth, worldly goods


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Green/environmental ethic

  • All things are connected

  • All actions produce consequences

  • Intimate interconnectedness

  • All life is deserving of respect and preservation (if not sacred)

  • Our fate is connected with fate of other creatures

  • Life can be created, sustained only under certain conditions

  • Such conditions need to be maintained, preserved, including clean air, water, habitat


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Threats to necessary conditions

  • Nuclear war, Omnicide = destruction of everything

  • Ecocide = destruction of ecosystems that sustain life on earth

  • Each defines central part of Green agenda


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Work for Peace

  • Duty to be pacifists, work for peace

  • Does not mean avoiding all conflict

  • Some conflicts inevitable, especially between those destroying environment and those dedicated to protecting it

  • Should not refrain from participating in confrontations, should take part in peaceful, life-respecting ways


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Stop ecocide

  • Duty to slow, stop and/or reverse destructive processes

  • Individual actions (not buying or using products wrapped in non-biodegradable plastic or Styrofoam, and recycling cans, bottles, and newspapers) to more public collective actions (boycotting bottlers and stores)

  • Not necessary for everyone to boycott, protest

  • Only need enough to make dent in producers’ profit

  • Producers, distributors will look for alternatives


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Green divisions

  • Center upon means, strategies and tactics, rather than ends

  • End is preservation of planet, its natural environment and ecosystems, and species it nourishes, including human species


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Interest group politics/radical action

  • Some form, support coalitions of environmental interest groups

  • Send lobbyists to Washington, state capitals to press for pro-environmental legislation

  • Other say earth and inhabitants are not special interest but universal one with pressing needs

  • Not time for “politics as usual,” but for more urgent actions


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Environmental action

  • Some (e.g., Greenpeace) favor dramatic, direct-action (confronting whalers, polluters, developers face-to-face, head-on) aimed at raising public consciousness

  • More conservative groups (e.g., Sierra Club) favor low-key approach aimed at educating, informing

  • Others (e.g., Nature Conservancy) favor low-profile strategy of buying private land for nature preserves, wilderness areas

  • All agree public, political action important


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Religious greens

  • Some favor religious rituals aimed at raising consciousness, heightening awareness of peril

  • Earth is common mother, goddess Gaia, from whom we all draw nurture, sustenance

  • Can overcome anthropocentric pride, humanistic arrogance, come to think in earth-centered, not human-centered, terms

  • Some “deep ecologists” speak in religious terms


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Earth First!

  • Other “deep ecologists,” e.g., Earth First! speak in Malthusian terms

  • Earth can get along very well without humans, who tend to plunder, despoil planet

  • If human beings cannot live with other species, walk lightly upon earth, demise is not to be regretted but welcomed


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Social ecologists

  • Suspicious of religious language and militant anti-humanism

  • Humanism has been arrogant, but need not be in future

  • Humans have capacity to reflect upon and learn from mistakes

  • Human beings are responsible for mess

  • We owe it to ourselves, other species, to our children and their grandchildren, to take responsibility for cleaning up, reversing mess we have made


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Key terms

  • time horizons

  • tragedy of the commons

  • greenhouse effect

  • acid rain

  • ecotage

  • social ecology

  • deep ecology


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Discussion questions

  • What are the major differences between the Light Greens and the Dark Greens within the environmental movement? Which of these two has the better position, and why?

  • How can Greens claim to be promoting freedom and democracy when they want to limit what people can do to the natural environment? Does it make sense to say that Greens are promoting either freedom or democracy? Why or why not?

  • Greens often see themselves as part of a counter-ideology that must try to correct the mistaken beliefs and assumptions of other  ideologies. Are they right to think of themselves in this way? That is, are the Greens right to blame current environmental problems on liberalism, socialism, and other ideologies? Why or why not?


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