Blackspot

From Green to Blue

Our failure at Copenhagen represents a turning point for activism.

This article is available in:

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.

Adbusters 111 Cover

On Newsstands December 3

At last we’re in Winter. It’s the year 2047. A worn scrapbook from the future arrives in your lap. It offers a stunning global vision, a warning to the next generations, a repository of practical wisdom, and an invaluable roadmap which you need to navigate the dark times, and the opportunities, which lie ahead.

Subscribe to Adbusters Magazine

58 comments on the article “From Green to Blue”

Displaying 31 - 40 of 58

Page 4 of 6

Ken Vallario

To believe in the antagonism between Western and Eastern countries is to buy into a charade that is meant to sustain a class structure that serves the wealthy. Such binaries are ways of stalling progress for 'the people', whether those people are black, white, yellow or brown. at the end of the rainbow there's a pot of gold for those who keep us believing there is some true tension between those who spend their evenings sipping $100 bottles of champagne while discussing abstract compromises through their interpreters. the optimism of our time is that it is finally possible to develop global unity around resisting the pyramid schemes that keep us all toiling away to serve the elite. China, U.S., Europe, these are all useful illusions.

Ken Vallario

To believe in the antagonism between Western and Eastern countries is to buy into a charade that is meant to sustain a class structure that serves the wealthy. Such binaries are ways of stalling progress for 'the people', whether those people are black, white, yellow or brown. at the end of the rainbow there's a pot of gold for those who keep us believing there is some true tension between those who spend their evenings sipping $100 bottles of champagne while discussing abstract compromises through their interpreters. the optimism of our time is that it is finally possible to develop global unity around resisting the pyramid schemes that keep us all toiling away to serve the elite. China, U.S., Europe, these are all useful illusions.

justin123

Thats a bit narrow, Ken Vallario. I wrote that nation's fates rise together more often than separately. I think your view of class-structure-as-everything is a bit un-atuned to the nature of social dynamics.

justin123

Thats a bit narrow, Ken Vallario. I wrote that nation's fates rise together more often than separately. I think your view of class-structure-as-everything is a bit un-atuned to the nature of social dynamics.

ken vallario

you also wrote that non-western countries do not care about climate change, which is kinda narrow. i was merely making the point that it is rather convenient, this stalemate between the west and the east, for those to stall climate progress, and if we buy into the 'our team is best' model, we are simply involving ourselves in the stalemate. we in the west must also be cognizant of the larger responsibilities that come from past pollutions. it is as much an absurdity to ask developing countries to buy into our versions of 'green' as it is to ask them not seek nuclear arms. the very act of global talks, makes palpable the class dynamic i am arguing for, since those talks take place against the obvious hypocrisy for which there can be no rational defense.

ken vallario

you also wrote that non-western countries do not care about climate change, which is kinda narrow. i was merely making the point that it is rather convenient, this stalemate between the west and the east, for those to stall climate progress, and if we buy into the 'our team is best' model, we are simply involving ourselves in the stalemate. we in the west must also be cognizant of the larger responsibilities that come from past pollutions. it is as much an absurdity to ask developing countries to buy into our versions of 'green' as it is to ask them not seek nuclear arms. the very act of global talks, makes palpable the class dynamic i am arguing for, since those talks take place against the obvious hypocrisy for which there can be no rational defense.

justin123

Yes, it was a narrow comment about who's "fault" it is. But I intended it to be narrow, at least, in my attempt to counter the kind of thinking that says, "it is as much an absurdity to ask developing countries to buy into our versions of 'green' as it is to ask them not seek nuclear arms."

This is Ridiculous. Just because we made mistakes first doesn't mean other countries are allowed to commit them too. "Our version" of green is not really a decided thing, but it does have to involve reducing emissions. If we want to solve a global problem, it requires global participation. As for nuclear weapons, I seriously hope you intended that notion with a measure of sarcasm. Thats another good example of an area that the US and other "original" nuclear club members are scaling back (except for China), yet are nonethless being met with resentment by the nuclear have-nots, many of whom are opposed to anti-proliferation efforts, or are at least unacceptably hostile to the idea of nuclear reductionism.

justin123

Yes, it was a narrow comment about who's "fault" it is. But I intended it to be narrow, at least, in my attempt to counter the kind of thinking that says, "it is as much an absurdity to ask developing countries to buy into our versions of 'green' as it is to ask them not seek nuclear arms."

This is Ridiculous. Just because we made mistakes first doesn't mean other countries are allowed to commit them too. "Our version" of green is not really a decided thing, but it does have to involve reducing emissions. If we want to solve a global problem, it requires global participation. As for nuclear weapons, I seriously hope you intended that notion with a measure of sarcasm. Thats another good example of an area that the US and other "original" nuclear club members are scaling back (except for China), yet are nonethless being met with resentment by the nuclear have-nots, many of whom are opposed to anti-proliferation efforts, or are at least unacceptably hostile to the idea of nuclear reductionism.

ken vallario

i mostly agree with your intentions, but there is a sense of national pride in your statements, to state it positively. the reduction of emissions is a good thing, but it is logically questionable for me to have my country, which is the lead offender taking the moral high ground on such issues. the resentment of those who are powerless is something that will be ameliorated by the sacrifices of the powerful, for who else is in a position of leadership than those who have the most to give.

we will have a difficult time reducing the spread of nuclear weapons and carbon in other countries as long as we block efforts within our own country to do so. your statement about our mistakes and other countries being 'allowed to commit' implies the power of enforcement that is a primary point of contention in my relationship with my country. gandhi's principle is sound, if we want less carbon, less nuclear weapons, we first have to demonstrate that within our own borders, if we insist on dividing ourselves from other people that way. this is why, to get back to my original point, i think such nationalization of these issues is a diversion from the class struggles that underlie them.

the nuclear weapons reference was not all that sarcastic...there is in this hypocrisy a kind of ethnic bias, whereby we assert that only particular types of people are capable of owning such weaponry, and this makes my point more clearly that such national borders are illusions whereby a growing but fluid empire of the rich manipulate such tensions to keep people from uniting.

ken vallario

i mostly agree with your intentions, but there is a sense of national pride in your statements, to state it positively. the reduction of emissions is a good thing, but it is logically questionable for me to have my country, which is the lead offender taking the moral high ground on such issues. the resentment of those who are powerless is something that will be ameliorated by the sacrifices of the powerful, for who else is in a position of leadership than those who have the most to give.

we will have a difficult time reducing the spread of nuclear weapons and carbon in other countries as long as we block efforts within our own country to do so. your statement about our mistakes and other countries being 'allowed to commit' implies the power of enforcement that is a primary point of contention in my relationship with my country. gandhi's principle is sound, if we want less carbon, less nuclear weapons, we first have to demonstrate that within our own borders, if we insist on dividing ourselves from other people that way. this is why, to get back to my original point, i think such nationalization of these issues is a diversion from the class struggles that underlie them.

the nuclear weapons reference was not all that sarcastic...there is in this hypocrisy a kind of ethnic bias, whereby we assert that only particular types of people are capable of owning such weaponry, and this makes my point more clearly that such national borders are illusions whereby a growing but fluid empire of the rich manipulate such tensions to keep people from uniting.

Pages

Add a new comment

Comments are closed.