My Dad gave me a catalogue published in 1971 called ‘The Last Whole Earth Catalog: access to tools’ and an article in it really struck me as having some pertinence today. I thought I’d post short installments for you – see what you think. People have been saying the same things for years…
(Image Source: talvellaaurinko, via pantslady on tumblr)
by Wendell Berry
First there was Civil Rights, and then there was The War, and now it is The Environment. The first two of this sequence of causes have already risen to the top of the nation’s consciousness and declined somewhat in a remarkably short time. I mention this in order to begin with what I believe to be a justifiable skepticism. For it seems to me that the Civil Rights Movement and the Peace Movement, as popular causes in the electronic age, have partaken far too much of the nature of fads. Not for all, certainly, but for too many they have been the fashionable politics of the moment. As causes they have been undertaken too much in ignorance; they have been too much simplified; they have been powered too much by impatience and guilt of conscience and short-term enthusiasm, and too little by an authentic social vision and long-term conviction and deliberation. For most people those causes have remained almost entirely abstract; there has been too little personal involvement, and too much involvement in organisations which were insisting that other organisations should do what was right.
There is considerable danger that the Environment Movement will have the same nature: that it will be a public cause, served by organisations that will self-righteously criticize and condemn other organisations, inflated for a while by a lot of public talk and media, only to be replaced in its turn by another fashionable crisis. I hope that will not happen, and I believe there are ways to keep it from happening, but I know that if this effort is carried on solely as a public cause, if millions of people cannot or will not undertake it as a private cause as well, then it is sure to happen. In five years the energy of our present concern will have petered out in a series of public gestures – and no doubt in a series of empty laws – and a great, and perhaps the last, human opportunity will have been lost.
It need not be that way. A better possibility is that the movement to preserve the environment will be seen to be, as I think it has to be, not a digression from the civil rights and peace movements , but the logical culmination of those movements. For I believe that the separation of these three problems is artificial. They have the same cause, and that is the mentality of greed and exploitation. The mentality that exploits and destroys the natural environment is the same that abuses racial and economic minorities, and imposes on young men the tyranny of the military draft, that makes war against peasants and women and children with the indifference of technology. The mentality that destroys a watershed and then panics at the threat of flood is the same mentality that gives institutionalized insult to black people and then panics at the prospect of race riots. It is the same mentality that can mount deliberate warfare against a civilian population and then express moral shock at the logical consequence of such warfare at My Lai. We would be fools to believe that we could solve any one of these problems without solving the others.