Dysophia – the many worlds of green anarchism

Environmental Politics

In much of this pamphlet we have repeatedly mentioned resources. All resources are ultimately planet based, and there is no credible reason why   everyone should not have equal share and access to what we need to live and enjoy creative expression of our lives without exploitation or being exploited. Likewise, anarchism requires that our actions do not negatively impact on another. For this reason climate change, GM crops, etc. are all important issues that anarchists need to integrate in their political standpoints, and not just fall for propaganda which puts the interest of one group above another.

Yet, how do freedoms and consumer choices we take for granted compare with the need to show others solidarity? If our lifestyle comes at the price of oppression of others, can we then say that we are all then equal?

Green anarchism points out that the workspace and society are not self-contained units, but dependent on the wider network of resources that supply them. Thus we have to consider the wider implications of acquiring those resources, in particular the effects on social justice and the environment that can have. Solidarity says we cannot ignore international effects of our society’s aspirations and living standards, though there are awkward challenges for all of us from such a global perspective.

It is not sufficient to be anti-capitalist, etc, for underpinning capitalist  economics is access to energy and resources: coal, oil, iron ore and so on, and issues around this access need to be tackled as well. International solidarity, often mentioned by the Left, does not mean we pay sole attention to the needs of the factories of the industrialised west which support our standards of living. The whole global system becomes under the microscope, and if the standards to which we believe we are entitled to live to are part of the problem elsewhere then we should accept that, and change our expectations accordingly.

Nor can we abdicate responsibility for it by simply blaming society as a whole. This is particularly hypocritical as we are actually seeking to change the society itself. There is a responsibility to set examples.

This is not saying that we should change overnight and retreat en masse, but that we need to recognise our own culpability in global issues. There needs to be a critique to our consumerism, and a willingness to work towards making a difference, even if that means a less comfortable life than our governments and society have lead us to expect.

Freedom without economic freedom is worthless, as was pointed out by Martin Luther King. Green anarchism extends this to considering not just the economy but to access to the environment, to water, land and air, to food supply and long term sustainability so political self-determination is an economic reality, not just empty words.

Thus two key characteristics of green anarchism are:

(a) confronting economic system involved in exploitation of resources;
(b) linking environmental and animal abuse with the abuse of people.

There is another important effect of the intersection of green politics with anarchism: the questioning of the anthropocentric viewpoint. In much of traditional and liberationist anarchism, humanity and its needs are clearly placed at the center of political thought, or at least given precedence.

Many strands of philosophy within green anarchism challenge this inherent hierarchy. They place just as much value on the environment and animals, and point out how the abuse of resources have lead to the problems facing people globally on both economic and social levels, so that one mirrors the other effectively.

Some authors emphasize social impacts as of primary importance, citing the increasing alienation of humanity from the environment as a root cause of the problems. Others focus on how anarchism can inform a society where resources have become scarce.
The three principle strands of thought (but not the only ones) are:

Social Ecology
The starting point here is that the earth sustains all life, but that  ecological problem result from the problems in society, thus to solve the environmental crises requires radical social change.

Deep Ecology
This goes further and argues that as the earth sustains all life, the well being of ecosystems should have priority over humanity.

Primitivism
A belief that the only truly sustainable way forward is to live as close to nature as possible, and thus has a very critical view of technology and its attendant civilisations. Furthermore, that the alienation of humans from the environment is at the root of the many problems in our society.

There is no consensus on them, but they are still being actively discussed and dynamically intersecting with each other as people face up to the challenges of being an anarchist in a society whose economic system is based on environmental exploitation.

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