I predicted a year ago that we’re going to see more diversity in the global environmental movement, because there are people who actually care about the environment but cannot buy into traditional, heavily Leftist and Western-centric environmentalism – or are not even welcome there.
Just after I wrote about how there is now a dire need for pragmatic environmentalism, I learned that the French far right now has their own environmental organization. I don’t agree with their policies, but at least they have one thing going on in their favor: they support nuclear power, which allowed France to reach in 1989 the climate targets Germany is hoping to achieve in 2050 – even despite great increases in energy consumption. Even if this movement opposes global climate treaties, simply keeping nuclear power operational could very possibly do more good than what the traditional French environmentalists could in reality achieve.
This is going to be a test for those actually interested in protecting the environment instead of fighting a political proxy war through environmental issues: can we work together on issues where we agree, despite there being many issues where we can’t possibly agree? And can we, coming from the more traditional environmental mindset, learn to negotiate about our desires instead of demanding that the rest of the world must accept the set of solutions we set in stone in the 1980s and haven’t really bothered to adjust thereafter?
This fragmentation of environmentalism is, in my opinion, the inevitable result from increasing environmental awareness. Besides political differences in Western countries preventing many people from joining, the traditional environmentalism hasn’t really caught on in the wider world. This is for a good reason: for all its talk about inclusiveness and global responsibility, the traditional environmental movement is extremely Western-centric in just about everything. These values and attitudes may simply not speak to the people in other parts of the world as they do to some of us here in the West. The rest of the world needs, and will have, its own forms of environmentalism, just as different political groups are likely to form their own environmental organizations. All this can lead either to the death and fragmentation of environmentalism, or to a broad coalition of people who disagree on many things but might agree that we need to, for example, wean ourselves off fossil fuels. I believe we need the latter if we want to win the climate fight, but fear the traditional environmentalists are only going to denounce all new approaches as heresy of the highest order.
I believe it would be foolish to denounce these new environmental movements just as tools or trolls. The far right has always had a strong Romantic attachment to “blood and soil” and “unspoiled nature”, and it’s no secret that some former Nazis and fascists were involved in the founding of the modern Green movement – though claims that the Green movement is somehow fascist because of these connections is just paranoid fantasy. But these people still exist, even though they’ve been driven out from the traditional environmental movement, and there are legitimately people who hold political ideals I, for one, find odious, but who nevertheless care about our common environment.
The environmental problems we face are so severe that this is no time for making more enemies than is absolutely necessary. At this point, if the Devil himself were to increase global low-carbon energy supply or reduce emissions, I would find in myself to say something nice about the old fellow.