Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Environmentalists: don't label them Luddites

Dialogue around environmentalism is rife with labels. Sometimes these are used to categorize and organize discussion.  Often they are used to diminish, demonize and intimidate the contribution of non-experts within dialogues. 
Here is an excellent article that both explains a commonly used categorization, Luddite, and also discusses the contemporary character of environmentalism as an ideology for change.
Environmentalism has many aspects that resonate well with most people.  But it is not a people's movement.  It remains an elitist, academic and stasist movement driven in large part by its disdain for technological advancement and the general quest for affluence, abundance, progress and democratic freedom.  Ideological environmentalism fears that we are the architects of our own demise, people can not be trusted to do the right thing, can not know the right thing and should be both censured and controlled to direct society in the correct manner: i.e. in accordance with environmentalist dogma.
The message is nicely wrapped and packaged but when pleas of "its good for us" fail as moral persuasion, greens rapidly revert to tactics of fear and the use of the state's authority to compel compliance: "we must do this or the end is nigh!".
Embedded within this ideology are two central conceits: those proposing austerity do not themselves practice it, and; the empirical data do not support the premises upon which austerity is to be foisted upon us -- there is no legitimacy to the prescribed dogma.  Environmentalism is in its barest form simply a desire to control, manage and impose a set of moral constructs on society, all the while elevating those who are central to the ethos to positions of authority and power. 
This is not empowerment of, but power over people.