What might a holistic environmental politics look like in the Age of Consequences? This semester I have been exploring this question with students in my undergraduate class Global Environmental Politics.
The evidence of environmental degradation and global ecological crises is deeply sobering. We are entering a period of great societal transition, driven by the related threats of climate change, energy insecurity, economic instability and technological innovations that are driving marginal costs of production toward zero. The students’ reactions to this material ranged from sadness and anger to powerlessness. In this final lecture for the subject, I attempt to help the students move beyond these disempowering negative reactions by exploring potential avenues for a positive, holistic environmental politics.
A holistic environmental politics will change the facts on the ground. It will be devoted to the grassroots construction a just and sustainable society and in so doing, draw on the activist logics of numbers, cost and bearing witness to simultaneously drive political, economic and social change. It will embrace a diversity of ideas and strategies and will vary in detail according to what is appropriate locally.
We’re privileged to be alive at a pivotal moment in human history where all the settled assumptions and ideas of the last two centuries are up for renegotiation. New economic, political and social paradigms are evolving as we speak in response to the converging crises of the Age of Consequences. Individuals have the capacity for incredible social agency in this moment. The urgent task of mitigating environmental degradation also presents a window of opportunity to lay the foundation for a new set of social and ecological relations rooted in sustainability. It is an incredible privilege we have to assume such an awesome responsibility.
My thoughts on the nature of a holistic politics for a truly sustainable world are a work in progress and I am open to suggestion on new ideas. I welcome your comments and critique…just as diversity of species is critical to healthy ecosystems, so is a diversity of ideas key to the cultivation of the mind and the foundation of good decision-making.
Thank you to the Global Environmental Politics student group for their hard work and thoughtful participation in the subject this semester.
Ben Habib, (2014) ‘Getting Real About Educating for Sustainability in Universities’.