During a rant about the latest Tory scheme of putting a price on the world and everything in it, another Kossack, James Wells, pointed me toward works by Paul Kingsnorth and, by extension, other Dark Mountain Project participants. He and his followers believe, given runaway consumerist capitalism, burgeoning population growth, and negligence by governmental authorities, that it may futile to participate in the environmental movement as it stands. On the whole, I disagree, but can understand their frustration and, having read their manifesto and the first of their published books, will continue to read subsequent volumes. The conversations between those who believe they have an existential obligation to continue the fight despite the possibility of failure, and those who feel that it is time to prepare for the worst, are conversations worth having.
“You look at every trend that environmentalists like me have been trying to stop for 50 years, and every single thing had gotten worse. And I thought: I can’t do this anymore. I can’t sit here saying: ‘Yes, comrades, we must act! We only need one more push, and we’ll save the world!’ I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it! So what do I do?”
The quote above is from a recent New York Times article referred to by Wells in reply to a comment I made about the recent governmental push toward generating an environmental marketplace in the UK, something I had read about both in George Monbiot’s articles in the Guardian, and more explicitly through a revolted Facebook friend who is involved in the department overseeing it. This scheme proposes to offset environmental damage done by development in one place by modifying habitat in others. Using a hypothetical example: Lord Browne’s company wants to cut down ten acres of old growth woodland in Somerset for the purpose of oil exploration, and pay the Duke of Norfolk a to offset the damage by planting ten acres of trees on his estate. Monbiot points out that commodifying nature in an “ecosystem market” has its dangers:
All those messy, subjective matters, the motivating forces of democracy, will be resolved in a column of figures. Governments won’t need to regulate; the market will make the decisions that politicians have ducked. But trade is a fickle master, and unresponsive to anyone except those with the money. The costing and sale of nature represents another transfer of power to corporations and the very rich.
Monbiot often writes about the finer points of neoliberal capitalism and its environment. As someone who regards the natural world as something that has value in and of itself, aside from the uses to which we put it, I agree that “natural capital” is an oxymoron, and appreciate that Monbiot is advising his readers of how this will affect the countryside. However, current politics in the UK sometimes makes those of us who fight against the privatization of everything, from the postal service to disability evaluations and child protection, more than a little frustrated. Direct action against fracking has had some success here, but much of our environmental movement has devolved into arguments over what does and does not constitute sustainable development, while badgers are gassed in their dens in a mistaken attempt to halt bovine tuberculosis. Some environmental activists, such as Paul Kingsnorth have decided to take another tack. His position is that climate change is inevitable and environmental movements, such as Bill McKibben’s 350.org, give their supporters a false sense of control and blind them to the inevitable. [cont’d.]