Challenging ecological doublethink

Ingolfur Bluhdorn’s ideas about the politics of unsustainability seem to paint an accurate picture of the state of mind of the developed world. We recognise the need for change but absolutely refuse to change. An ecological doublethink pervades our politics.

In attempting to make sense of the current condition of the world “in the areas of ecological politics, green politics, political economy, and social change,” it seems to me that challenging the ecological doublethink is what well sharp has been all about for these past two years.

Bluhdorn also suggests a way out of the doublethink. He says we need to recover a focus on key concepts such as:

  • emancipation,
  • integrity,
  • identity,
  • self-realisation,
  • prosperity, and
  • democracy.

Furthermore, he writes, for us to make any real progress towards sustainability, it is “imperative” that these concepts be “repoliticised and their content and limitations redefined.”

As Barry’s recently completed index of well sharp posts shows, a considerable portion of the work of academics and many others that we have drawn together and tried to document here adds up to a widespread and ongoing attempt to rethink, redefine and repoliticise the concepts in Bluhdorn’s list.

So I am really encouraged by all the effort and analysis going into these challenging problems. Yet the uplift I feel is tempered by seeing how little impact this work has had: there’s a lot of intellectual activity but not yet a movement consciously drawing on all that energy. As the Copenhagen climate conference showed, our ‘leaders’ are fearful and indecisive, clinging on to the shreds of short-term legitimacy provided by economic growth while simultaneously undermining their long-term prospects by doing nothing about the ecological crisis we face.

Green parties too seem indecisive, having arrived at a cross-roads in their evolution with a lack of certainty about their role and a lack of clarity about their philosophy. For example, I still frequently read and hear well-meaning greens (and others with more doubtful motives) bemoaning the social justice content in green politics and demanding that the focus is placed exclusively on ‘environmental’ issues.

Nothing could be more wrong. As Bluhdorn’s insightful analysis shows, if we try to address ‘environmental’ issues alone we will surely fail; the institutional and social barriers to change are just too great.

But if, by looking through the lens of ecologism, we rethink democracy, emancipation, integrity, identity, prosperity, and self-realisation – and act on that analysis – we cannot help but address ‘social’ and ‘environmental’ issues at one and the same time. That is pretty much the essence of what we have been saying on well sharp for the past two years.

And so, I guess, in 2010 well sharp will keep on saying it some more.

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