Sunday, 8 November 2009

Shock and anger

I am writing because of an issue that I find unacceptable and which, unfortunately, I have encountered in person more than once recently. I am speaking of racism.

What, you might ask, is this doing on an environmental blog? Well, the issue arose during a discussion about reducing the global population and it was the same point of view that Dave Foreman put forward in his 1986 interview for Simple Living magazine, and later apologised for (everyone is entitled to make mistakes right?). The suggestion was that we should ‘stop all those people having babies in the developing world’ and even that we should ‘let nature take its course’ during and after natural disasters in developing nations. I was shocked, but sadly not completely surprised.

Maybe it is my age. I am in my forties and so I am sometimes (and in these cases I was) talking to people in their fifties and sixties whose upbringing was different. Maybe people younger than I rarely encounter this?

This opinion completely ignores the fundamental social causes of environmental degradation and destruction in some developing nations. The fact of the matter is that rich industrialised nations and multinational corporations have a long history of exploitation. It also completely exonerates the western consumer from responsibility by refusing to address the massive global inequality in allocation of resources. In every conceivable way, this view is morally indefensible!

Global overpopulation is an issue that desperately needs addressing, but when a medium sized pet dog in a developed nation uses more resources per year than a citizen of Ethiopia or Vietnam
(see New Scientist article here:, then something is very wrong.

We must look beyond our personal and national ‘interest’ and recognise our common humanity. We in the industrialised nations cannot deny our responsibility for the mess that we are in both currently and historically. We must all act together and act fairly if we are going to survive.


  1. I think you've raised an extremely important issue here. Inequality, its nasty side-kicks such as racism, and the ongoing hegemony of western economics (neo-imperialism) will always hamper the efforts of humanity to act as one in its own interests.

    Environmentalists often leave themselves open to criticisms that they are misanthropic. I'm so glad that you've raised this, a fair world must be central platform of any attempt to create a safe world.

    Have you read 'The Spirit Level' by the way? Not about the environment as such but some interesting conclusions about the nature of inequality.

  2. Hi Goo
    Thank you for your comment. I think that you are right that western economic hegemony and inequality must end in order for ust to really deal with the oncoming crisis.
    I have not read "The Spirit Level", it sounds interesting, but I find Murray Bookchin's works deal with the underlying social factors of the environmental crisis very well. Many anarchist writers such as Proudhon and Kropotkin are also provide very good critiques of capitalism, and some interesting alternatives.