One of the first and best critiques I read of contemporary environmentalism appeared in a well known progressive magazine. The author took the green movement to task for its romanticization of nature and “its deep suspicion of all things technological.” He also criticized environmentalism’s demonization of biotechnology and the “crusade” waged against it, which he said was built on “a tangle of misperceptions, flaws, and half-truths.”
This essay was published in the Sept/Oct 1996 issue of Mother Jones magazine. What’s fascinating about the piece is 1) how far ahead of its time it was, and 2) how much of its critique remains just as relevant today.
The author, Walter Truett Anderson, challenged the same green dogma in 1996 that today’s eco-critics, such as Mark Lynas and Emma Marris, have been poking a stick at. It’s amazing to consider how little the green movement has progressed since then. Naturally, greens were as allergic to self-reflection in the mid-1990s as they are today. Read the responses in the letters page from some of the representative voices of environmentalism (at the time).
When Anderson’s piece was published in the mid-199os, he seemed to anticipate the Anthropocene, or least aspects of it that eco-pragmatists have tried to highlight:
The world is changing very quickly, and we desperately need a vision that engages this new world honestly and creatively, with daring and hope and perhaps even a touch of optimism…The world is becoming more densely populated, not less; more urbanized, not less; more technological, not less. Most important of all, human beings are exerting ever more — not less — power in nature, having a greater impact on ecosystems. This is our world, and this is our work.
And this is where we live. Do we still need Mother Nature to help us find our way?