Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Shallow Green Resistance

I never really got into the radical environmental movement. I'm sympathetic, but by the time I became any sort of radical leftist, the green scare was in full swing. As national law enforcement cracked down and with virtually all militant environmental activism labeled an act of terrorism, much of the core of the radical environmental movement either went to jail, went soft, or steered clear of the brand of heroics that had become a right of passage.

As corporations continued their push against any and all environmental conservation, advocacy for the environment was left to increasingly out-funded non-profits.

Additionally, a conspiratorial, post-9/11, post-crash political climate filled the environmental movement with entirely too many new age weirdos. This shift brought with it a distinct taming of the movement into a syncretic hodge-podge of lifestyle environmentalists.

This latter breed of environmentalists is largely removed of its leftist roots. With a combination of arbitrarily restrictive diets, a quest to regiment one's consumption, and a fear of big words, this new movement heralds a strictly hedonistic dogma with utility driven exclusively by fear of the "unnatural."

This brand of environmentalism has its origins in various segments of the radical right in conspiracy theories about water fluorination and medical science. In this new utilitarian environmentalism, concerns about the industrialization of agriculture leading corporations to bankrupt farmers, silence whistleblowers, and wage biological warfare are met at best with indifference.

That structural features of capitalism would differentially distribute the environmental and economic harm of these policies is met with enmity. If a fact about the environment cannot be reframed as a potential toxin offending the body, however flimsy the scientific evidence, this new breed of environmentalism is uninterested.

The lost legacy of the radical environmental left is grounded in an understanding of the environment as an economic battleground. Where the social relations of capitalism persist, owners of capital are coerced to increase their profit margins by shifting their costs to others: reducing wages, fudging science, and creating brownfields. The costs of all of these decisions are most often born by those least able to afford to fight back.