James Murray of Business Green writes in defence of “building a new environmentalism”, prompted by a critical article in the Guardian by Paul Kingsnorth.

Kingsnorth actually describes and attacks a ‘neo environmentalism’, which he claims that is essentially a corporatist and capitalist cover for ‘more of the same’. Murray is in contrast quite rightly proud of the achievements of a business-led approach, epitomised by his excellent Business Green site and his own writing, and he wonders whether we should proudly acclaim a “new environmentalism”. Murray has asked for responses, and so here is mine.

It is very tempting to go along with his argument, but I would actually go further. The whole problem with the word “environmentalism” is that it suggests people do not come first: how about simply “humanism”? We are people, and we are rightly and inevitably most concerned about people - and specifically the continued flourishing of our civilisation. There is no question that we can’t achieve that without switching to clean and abundant sources of energy, along with many other changes to how we do things - but let’s be honest about why we are doing it.

Kingsnorth has a bizarre set of values - he is actually a Doomster, an apocophile, who is actively celebrating the death of our civilisation with his Dark Mountain project. He says that he and many others find relief in accepting that “the planet is not dying; but our civilisation might be”, and in not needing to ‘go through the motions’ about saving the planet. I can well imagine such relief - but the majority of people in the world would be totally baffled by it, as they struggle to survive, and strive for a better life for their children and grandchildren. They would be shocked at the suggestion that we should give up. Giving up is not in our nature.

So if we need a label for a movement, let’s please not use “environmentalism” - apart from the issue of focus anyway it is tired and out of date. If you want something why not use ‘Green’, which is suitably loose and yet actually communicates directly and easily. Or why not use something more direct and positive: let’s “power the planet” with clean energy.

 


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