Blackspot

From Green to Blue

Our failure at Copenhagen represents a turning point for activism.

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Our failure at Copenhagen represents a turning point for activism. It was, after all, a nostalgic gesture – a last attempt to revive those heady days when swarms of people locked down Seattle streets in ’99. But the past decade has seen the alterglobalization movement become increasingly predictable and pacified. And while we’ve been considering our weakness to be born of organizational deficiencies or the failure to keep on top of the newest activist technologies, we’ve been oblivious to the shifting ground beneath our feet. The fact is that the green movement has been appropriated by the elites. If activism wishes to maintain its edge of resistance, it must turn blue.

Ever since the ex-vice president of the US became the poster child of the climate change movement, the environmental movement has lost the momentum of history. Old enemies – bureaucrats and technocrats, capitalists and industrialists – have taken our rebellion and turned it into their pet project: a managed capitalist world. The goals at the Battle in Seattle were to disrupt the flows of capital and to show the big bankers that we knew about their posh meetings and were pissed. By Copenhagen, however, we’d become some sort of cheerleading force. Everyone’s talking points agreed: climate change is a major threat and we must do something about it. Hearing bigwigs mouth platitudes about the urgency of the situation, we let our movement fall into their hands. They played as if they were still scared of our signs and shouts, even arrested a few of us for fun, but the joke was on us.

With the capitalists in control of the green movement, dictating global agreements and defining what constitutes a legitimate projection of the future, the future looks bleaker than ever. Some have voiced the valid concern that climate change will be used to justify increasingly authoritarian means of guaranteeing consumerism continues. Others have suggested that ecology is the new opiate of the masses: a unifying narrative that, if spun correctly, can justify any totalitarian corporate behavior. The very forces that brought us to the brink of catastrophe have opportunistically appropriated climate change. The capitalists love it because it has opened up a new market: “green” products. The state loves climate change because a schizophrenic nature is the ultimate terrorist and – as became apparent in New Orleans – militarized police will be needed.

Instead of trying to resuscitate the green movement, it is time to move on. Let’s remember that our concern was never about the physical environment alone. Take Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, for example. The book, which many consider the seminal text of the environmental movement, began with a short story called “A Fable for Tomorrow” in which an idealized, pastoral town succumbs to an evil curse. The rich biodiversity of the imagined Eden disappears and the silence of death reigns. Carson’s prose suggests that trickster spirits or malevolent gods are to be blame. But she ends the story by pulling back from fantasy and pushing toward science: “No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life on this stricken world.” She concludes that, “The people had done it to themselves.”

Carson goes on to talk about the accumulation of pollutants in our physical environment, positioning environmentalism within the domain of science alone, but one must also wonder whether a different path could have been possible. What if Carson had spoken about how the disappearance of birds was accompanied by the appearance of flickering screens in every home? What if she had drawn a connection between the lack of biodiversity and the wealth of infodiversity? Or the decrease in plant life and the increase in advertised life? To do so would necessitate a new worldview: a blue worldview that acknowledges the interconnection between mental pollution and environmental degradation, spiritual desecration and real-world extinctions.

The green movement failed because of its overemphasis on a secularized, materialist conception of activism. It tried to change the world without confronting the multi-billion dollar advertising industry that skews our desire and distorts our imagination. It is time to shift the green movement toward blue, to throw ourselves into the work of building an insurrection of the mental environment. Ending consumerism, and having the courage to clean up our mental environment by taking control of our public spaces, is the only way to avert imminent catastrophe.

Micah White is a contributing editor at Adbusters and an independent activist. This article is excerpted from a book he is writing about the future of activism. He lives in Berkeley, CA. www.micahmwhite.com or micah (at) adbusters.org.

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58 comments on the article “From Green to Blue”

Displaying 1 - 10 of 58

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ken vallario

this is a great article...the speed with which our ideas of liberation are co-opted is overwhelming...for instance, watching our notions of freedom and democracy turned into a product, leading us to our current president is embarrassing to me personally, as I bought in and am now feeling buyer's remorse.

so that idea, that we would find the solidifying issue, like Gandhi's salt in the ocean, the environment for instance, is no longer practical because as soon as it has solidifying power it gets sucked up like the borg and turned into a means of oppression, yet another way to extract wealth from the masses.

what gives me hope however, is that i think we are ready to cast aside all hopes in those at the top, as we realize the corrupting power of excess, and that will enable us to form a type of coalition that will no longer seek that particular kind of glory, and we have so many tools to do so, we simply have to eradicate the internal conflicts... easier said than done.

i have probably been commenting too much but i am new to adbusters and can't believe the clarity and focus of the articles and it has made me feel less alone. great work!

kenvallario.com

ken vallario

this is a great article...the speed with which our ideas of liberation are co-opted is overwhelming...for instance, watching our notions of freedom and democracy turned into a product, leading us to our current president is embarrassing to me personally, as I bought in and am now feeling buyer's remorse.

so that idea, that we would find the solidifying issue, like Gandhi's salt in the ocean, the environment for instance, is no longer practical because as soon as it has solidifying power it gets sucked up like the borg and turned into a means of oppression, yet another way to extract wealth from the masses.

what gives me hope however, is that i think we are ready to cast aside all hopes in those at the top, as we realize the corrupting power of excess, and that will enable us to form a type of coalition that will no longer seek that particular kind of glory, and we have so many tools to do so, we simply have to eradicate the internal conflicts... easier said than done.

i have probably been commenting too much but i am new to adbusters and can't believe the clarity and focus of the articles and it has made me feel less alone. great work!

kenvallario.com

Berkeley

powerful article. it's true - how can we expect those at the top to solve the climate crisis, when they owe their very position of power to the corporations that are creating the crisis?

Berkeley

powerful article. it's true - how can we expect those at the top to solve the climate crisis, when they owe their very position of power to the corporations that are creating the crisis?

Shacklessness

I swear most of these people are in it more for the ego boost (for being"against the grain") than actually making a difference. The second a company takes what you have advocated and, for example, makes more efficient appliances or makes green products popular, it's all the sudden a bad thing.

Please, get over yourselves. Something doesn't have to come from a drum circle or a "manifesto" in order to do good in this world.

Shacklessness

I swear most of these people are in it more for the ego boost (for being"against the grain") than actually making a difference. The second a company takes what you have advocated and, for example, makes more efficient appliances or makes green products popular, it's all the sudden a bad thing.

Please, get over yourselves. Something doesn't have to come from a drum circle or a "manifesto" in order to do good in this world.

Mike Maguire

Most people are NOT in this for the ego boost. I agree that there are people who buy green products just to put on the act, people who protest technology and then go home and turn the T.V. on, but the thought of a new culture, and a new way of living, is the first step. The first step is important, it's the mental step, then comes the next step, which maybe is not buying as much at the supermarket, and then maybe car pooling, and so on. Were just having trouble transitioning into our ideal way of life. Were trying to pry ourselves apart from the ways of the consumer.

Mike Maguire

Most people are NOT in this for the ego boost. I agree that there are people who buy green products just to put on the act, people who protest technology and then go home and turn the T.V. on, but the thought of a new culture, and a new way of living, is the first step. The first step is important, it's the mental step, then comes the next step, which maybe is not buying as much at the supermarket, and then maybe car pooling, and so on. Were just having trouble transitioning into our ideal way of life. Were trying to pry ourselves apart from the ways of the consumer.

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