Lessons from a Third World Perspective on Environmentalism

Powerful Essays
Lessons from a Third World Perspective on Environmentalism

Possibly more than any of the other articles we have read so far,

Ramachandra Guha's article "Radical Environmentalism and Wilderness

Preservation: A Third World Critique" made me think. In analyzing the

Western deep ecology movement, he criticized its focus on preservation of

wild areas. By doing this, he was directly criticizing what I have long

thought of as my main goal as an "environmentalist." One of the first

things that turned me on to environmental issues when I was younger was my

horror at the soaring rate of rainforest destruction so dramatically

portrayed to us in 9th grade biology class. Since then, by following a

biology track through college, my focus has been on ecological goals such

as the preservation of biodiversity. The study of ecology has served me as

a way to understand wilderness so I might be able to help protect it or

restore it. My patterns of thought are often not far off from those of

Daniel Janzen, which Guha quotes in his paper as "imperialist yearning of

Western biologists and their financial sponsors" to claim land in Third

World countries for protection by ecologists (Guha 272). He states his

opinion that "the radical conclusions drawn by deep ecology, in particular,

that intervention in nature should be guided primarily by the need to

preserve biotic integrity rather than by the needs of humans" are

unacceptable (271). He also claims that the two "fundamental ecological

problems facing the globe are (i) overconsumption by the industrialized

world and by urban elites in the Third World and (ii) growing

militarization" (271), whereas the biological perspective would c...

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...growth instead of material wealth

--"The values of caring, cooperation, nurturing and sharing must be

encouraged to replace the values of competitiveness, domination and

aggression which have characterized our society for so long"

--polices must reflect "the interdependence of all living things and the

interconnetedness of all political and social activity"


The list was impressive. And although the Greens seem more prevalent in

Europe than in the U.S. - there is an American Greens party - which had

Ralph Nader as their presidential candidate in 1996. Maybe the Greens

movement could help us meet a wide range of environmental and social goals

through its philosophy of humility, instead of following deep ecology's

biocentric proposal. I am encouraged to look further into it...
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