“Good news for environmentalists!” is just good news

“Good news for environmentalists!” is a phrase I not infrequently find myself rolling my eyes at as it pops up once again in the press, or on the news. It usually follows reports of some commitment to carbon emission reductions, or that a new coal power plant has been rejected, or that a controversial wind farm is going ahead, or that a national park has been saved from being turned into a golf course, or that Tesco have decided to stock only organic potatoes, or… (you get the idea).

Now, it is a quirk and a curiosity that these journalists, reporters, commentators and editors have apparently missed the point that so-called environmentalists are no more dependent on an environment conducive to flourishing life than any other human being. If something is good news for environmentalists, it is in fact just “good news.”

Some of the most vocal and indeed powerful individuals known for their non-too-environmentally-friendly views and practices, from George Bush and Sarah Palin to Rupert Murdoch and the CEO of Shell, must at heart be environmentalists too. What linguistic magic is required to make being an environmentalist commensurate with loudly proclaiming to be skeptical of anthropogenic climate change, or profiting from activities that contribute to it, or generally having scant regard for the ‘environment’ (especially where it competes with growth, profit, jobs or progress, all apparently things that can be achieved without the blessing of the environment, that’s right, the precondition for any and all of these activities)…?

All that it takes to unravel this contradiction is the recognition that contempt or disregard for our biophysical environment is simply a fundamental error. An error that reflects:

  • the remarkable skill of intelligent creatures to convince themselves that they dwell within the parameters they would prefer to dwell within, rather than those they in fact do;
  • the tragically spectacular confines of egotistical short-termism;
  • the collective irrationality of individual self-interest.

But don’t be fooled. Whether they know it or not, these people too depend upon the environment first and foremost, above all else.

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