Journal 2: Shellenberger vs Reality

After reading Orr, Dark Ecology, and listening to Shellenberger, it is difficult to sort through the clouds of sustainable talk, the future, and what we must do to save ourselves from impending doom.  Each perspective has merit and strong supporting evidence, which leaves the observer to decide for themselves: what are our problems, and how do we solve them? I believe as a generation, our great work is to become a more sustainable world through a more equal allocation of resources, and by maintaining and respecting the planet not as a disposable resource but as a home in which our grandchildren will be living in. We must re-think how we act and consume, take a step back from what mainstream advertisers are telling us we need, and prioritize our actions and thoughts on what really matters.  Unless we transform from an egocentric world to an “Ecozonic Era”, we have no chance of survival.

Michael Shellenberger, a true neo-environmentalists, puts technology above all else.  He believes that in order to fix problems caused by technologies in the past such as industrialized agriculture, oil and coal harvesting, and using too much energy, we need to develop more technology.  These technological ‘improvements’ tend to be what Ronald Wright calls ‘progress traps’, which turn out in the longer term to be a backward step that is too late realized.  Shellenberger loved to talk about markets, and actively avoided any discussion of negative human experience.  In Dark Ecology, Kingsnorth describes this neo-environmentalist tactic as “an attempt to exclude from the green debate any interventions based on morality, emotion, intuition, spiritual connection, or simple human feeling.”  This viewpoint makes the argument for technology easier, because it ignores reality of social struggles, and ignores those who suffer so that we can enjoy our progressing consumerism.  In reality, technology won’t fix all of our environmental problems, and will definitely create new ones.  Overconsumption, the root of all evil, needs to be addressed in conjunction with our fight against climate change.

Shellenberger’s entire argument revolved around the assumption that stuff=a better life.  He shared a story regarding women who used to live as rural farm laborers and then were moved to work in a factory.  Their new job included a phone, the Internet, and the freedom to choose their own boyfriends! Wow, what else could be better besides our westerner materialistic lifestyle?  He assumed that the new technology alone created a better life for these women.  We must move towards nature and simplicity, not fall into the traps of the efficiency revolution.  In order to save our earth we have to collectively give up some of the technologies we have begun to rely on, and understand that we do not live off of material things; we live off of each other and the earth.

“A tear. Enough, enough,
He commanded, but the machine
Looked at him and went on singing.”


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