Greens fight among themselves

In: Uncategorized

6 Nov 2010

It was hard to resist laughing at the divisions among greens brought out in What the Green Movement Got Wrong, a Channel 4 documentary broadcast on Thursday. Some greens, such as Mark Lynas and Stewart Brand, wanted a more positive attitude towards such issues as nuclear power and genetically modified food. Others, such as George Monbiot and a representative of Friends of the Earth, resisted many of the criticisms in a debate that followed the main programme.

The critics’ main motivation seemed to be that environmentalism is losing public support as a result of its often negative and even apocalyptic arguments. More traditional greens wanted to hold on to their traditional positions.

It is also noticeable that the critics of mainstream environmentalism are keen to emphasise that they are pro-science and “non-ideological”. To me this suggests that they favour a technocratic approach that eschews political – and therefore democratic – debates. From their perspective science should directly determine policy.

My view is that all forms of environmentalism should be rejected. The essence of the green outlook is that there are natural limits to human advance. This premise should be challenged by those seeking to rehabilitate the humanist view that human domination over nature is central to the pursuit of progress.

For that reason even seemingly progressive environmentalism should be rejected. Indeed it can be seen as more dangerous than the apocalyptic variety as it repackages damaging green ideas in a more acceptable form.

Among the many comments on the Channel 4 documentary were:

* A range of comments by greens in a Guardian feature including by representatives of Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the New Economics Foundation (Andrew Simms).

* George Monbiot in the Guardian accusing the programme of being imbued with corporate thinking.  This is his standard technique for avoiding hard arguments on difficult topics.

* A critique by Tom Levitt in the Ecologist.

* Matt Ridley, one of the most eloquent critics of environmentalism, in a blog post entitled “sinners that repent”.

For more general background:

* Rob Lyons wrote a review of Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Discipline for spiked.

* The main proponents of progressive environmentalism in America are Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute, authors of The death of environmentalism. However, they were not mentioned in Thursday’s Channel 4 documentary.