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30.5.04

"I Support Environmental Protection, But I'm Not An Environmentalist"

Over at Open Source Politics, Joe Taylor approves of a post by natasha celebrating the death of environmentalism (which Jesse Taylor predicts will be the outcome of The Day After Tomorrow):



[I have to say here that the death of environmentalism might not be an entirely bad thing. Put a nail in the coffin already. Bollocks to people who want to spread a message of brotherhood with the animals, and double bollocks to those who like to talk about the sacredness of untouched nature. Kill environmentalism, and bring on the environmental science.

We don't need to protect the animals because they're cute, or unique, or interesting. We need to protect them because they keep us alive. We don't need to protect the trees because they're sacred and old, but because they filter our water, maintain our atmosphere, and keep our topsoil in place. Coral reefs shouldn't be protected because they're fun to visit, but because populations will starve and the reefs will cease to protect coasts from the full force of storms. The earth doesn't need us, we need it.]


Like natasha and Joe, I prefer a science-based and anthropocentric approach to environmental protection*. But that view is environmentalism. You don't have to join PETA and ELF to be an environmentalist. Saying otherwise is like the people who say "I believe in equality for women, but I'm not a feminist" -- they've fallen into the trap of thinking that only the extremists count as members of the movement.

To the extent that The Day After Tomorrow damages environmentalism, it won't discriminate between the spiritual environmentalism that natasha and Joe hate and the scientific environmentalism that they support. Rather, it will make people think that the positions taken by scientific environmentalism are spiritual and thus discredit the very thing natasha and Joe want to advance. People will be looking for a less radical approach to the environment, but they'll be more likely to see it in right-wing "sound science" than in environmental science, whose conclusions they've learned to associate with TDAT's wild hyperbole.

*Though I don't share their disdain for people who take the more spiritual view.

UPDATE: natasha clarifies her position in comments here and at OSP. Essentially she seems to be taking a pragmatic stance regarding the ineffectiveness of "spiritual" arguments for environmental protection.

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