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The Future of Environmentalism

The Anthropocene is the contemporary era of the earth that is defined by unprecedented action in which humans have manipulated and coerced the natural world to our needs. This era began approximately 12,000 years ago with the invention and implementation of agriculture, tools, and animal husbandry. With this era came a dramatic shift in the natural and social order. Humans began to separate themselves from the natural world and the cycles that had dominated their existence thus far. As time progressed, the size and ambitions of our communities exponentially grew along with the improvement of our material conditions. This growth, however, did not come free. To enact this change finite resources were collected, processed, and distributed with little attention paid to the externalities unfolding. This pattern has become particularly exaggerated over the course of the last four centuries through what is known as the Industrial Revolution. During this time, the benefits were disproportionately collected by wealthy Caucasian countries while the brunt of suffering and degradation was experienced by the global south. While significant strides have been to address the history of abuse and ignorance many fear it is not enough to abate the future we have unintentionally created.

Some of these strides have been genuinely impressive feats of international deliberation and policy enactment. For instance, the EU implementation of progressive environmental regulations across the region over the past decade. International agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement have been impressive feats of international cooperation. But, little has been done to unilaterally and intersectionality address the issues that we face. Many of the easy issues such as ensuring clean air and clean water, recycling, and energy efficiency have been addressed. There is a significant amount of hard work to be done to prevent or even mitigate the effects of climate change issues such as excessive consumption patterns, mass inefficiencies in waste management, and increasing wealth disparity that locks millions into lives of suffering.

Many of these issues still exist due to this unrelenting pursuit of pragmatic discourse to address them. Within current political discourse, and especially environmentalism, there is an absurd diversity of conflicting perspectives and agendas. Some examples of this include survivalism, Prometheanism, environmental feminism, eco-facism, and neo-liberal environmentalism. All of these discourses have wildly varying perspectives on the world and the policies that need to be implemented. In western culture of political discourse it is expected that every party is given ample space to discuss their perspective. As we have seen, this can often be detrimental to direct action and even perpetuate more harm. Unmitigated pragmatism and discussion can limit the ability to appropriately address the problem being discussed. Our pursuit of it has allowed complacency to set in over the past centuries. Meanwhile oligarchal institutions manipulate and enforce a world that ensures the highest profit margins for them with little regard for their impact. In a concentrated sphere this can have exaggerated effects.

This has been the case for much of the contemporary environmental movement. Issues such as the transition to renewable energy, contamination of microplastics, increasing global temperatures, the water crisis and many more issues are just the tip of the iceberg. Different organizations, parties, and groups battle over what needs to be done to prevent or mitigate the effects of our shifting global climate. Some believe in population control, technological revolution, anthropogenic genocide, and others believe nothing needs to be done at all. But the fact of the matter is the world is changing, it is caused by human activity, millions die unnecessarily every year, and it is going to, most undoubtedly, get worse.

However, rising contempt for this status quo, not just in environmentalism but society as a whole, has been growing around the world. This is evident by increasing protest and outrage around socio-political action, or lack thereof. Humans are at a particularly unique period in our development where we have the ability to minutely examine our conditions and work together to enact positive and meaningful change. All it takes is to cut through the miscommunication, disinformation, and bureaucracy that perpetuate the systemic suffering we lay witness to. We have the tools and knowledge to make the world a better place for all, not just humans, and it is time we start acting on this.

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