February 20, 2008

Environmentalism and the Politics of Fear

In his comment here, Mike at Sometimes Far Afield worries that if the environmental apocalypse does not arrive on schedule, legitimate environmental concerns may be devalued.

Political blogger Andrew Sullivan also wonders if environmental politics are producing a "totalizing ideology".

All of them more or less resort to arguing that Gourevitch may or may not be right, but it doesn't matter because (cue thunderclap) global warming is coming to get us! As Gourevitch suggests, environmentalism, when it relies on strong appeals to fear, becomes a form of antipolitics, one intended to supersede both the collective and individual choices that are part of modern politics. In this conception, environmental fear politics become a threat to both democratic populists and libertarian individualists. Gourevitch, I think, was extremely smart to frame the issue as a corollary to the war on terror.

Yeah, let's take away all their big houses/cars/babies/electricity/plastic bags/greasy food/whatever. Then humanity will live in harmony!

I do worry that more people will want to play the coercion card ("for the children," of course) instead of the education - and - economic - incentives card as a way to avoid environmental destruction.

The scientific study of climate change is needed and necessary. But I hate to see it become twisted into ideology with Our Group (good) and Their Group (evil).

1 comment:

gl. said...

good points. in any sort of complex system, the victories are small & muddled. assuming the changes will be large & sweeping polarizes people.