565. Before completion (III)
Before there was “environmentalism” there was “ecology”, before the 1980s all the accent was on ecology: there was an Ecology Party—it became the Green Party—and there was a magazine, The Ecologist (founded by the Goldsmith family, strict Eurosceptics). Why the change? It marked a split between the right and left—with the left being the deviation from reality. Today, you will still see right-wing people who claim that the right offers the “real environmentalism” or the “real green politics”—yet what they mean is that the right offers conservationism and ecology; and these have little to do with environmentalism.
The very term “environment” suggests meliorism and malleability. A report says, “With increased funds from central government, we can enrich the environment of under-privileged children and improve their learning outcomes.” The environment: the learning environment, the political environment, the social environment—the environment always privileges the human element, it is nature as seen by humans. Change the environment, change the person—the whole idea smacks of behaviourism, of social reform and improvement. Hence the environmental movement has goals that seek “climate justice”—an offshoot from social justice. It has a sentimental regard for fluffy animals for their own sake, and it is preoccupied with racism and sexism—these being inextricable from environmental justice, apparently.
The older conservationism, by contrast, conjures up images of men in tweed suits who work as game wardens—work with their hands, practically. Men nothing like a smelly vegan environmental protester. In its most perfect personification the conservationist is a man in a safari suit with a toothbrush moustache who sits in a wicker throne in his hunting lodge under Mt. Kilimanjaro with a whisky and soda at hand. “I say, Nigel, what’s the main problem with the old game reserve today?” “There are too many of them. They destroy the trees, denude the soil, and evacuate their bowels everywhere. We have to cull ‘em.” “What, what animal is that, Nigel? A hyena, what?” “Africans, Lawrence, Africans.”
The spirit is summed up in the novel Game Control (1994)—guess what “game” needs to be controlled—by the butch lesbian anti-natalist Lionel Shriver (even her name is masculine). The conservationist and the ecologist dovetail—the latter being the more scientific expression, perhaps augmented by cybernetics and ethology, of the former. The conservationist emerges from the world of ranchers in America or the aristocrat’s grouse shoot in England; he represent a responsible engagement with the natural world—and such an engagement is unsentimental, it has a place for death.
The environmentalist has a faith in technology, alternative technology, that will usher in a world where multiracial families mix with bunnies and foxes—sip their vegan smoothies—beside a wind turbine and solar panel. For the environmentalist, alternative technology is always non-invasive and peaceful—the idea that technology is developed due to a competitive struggle in the economic and military spheres that reflects the brutal struggle in the natural world is alien to the environmentalist. To think that way seems irrational, we only have an environment now—and in the environment, under man’s control, everything can be made safe and harmless.
The unsentimental and real engagement with the natural world understands that the brutality—the cull—described by Malthus and Darwin runs right through nature as separate from man into man himself; even in our brains pathways are culled and stripped down, the ecology of our brain is also a forest with many tangled root networks and clumps. “I saw him again after two years, and he’s changed.” He has changed because, as with the forest, certain trees have fallen and certain root networks have gone dead; his mental ecology has changed—and the change is born from the selection process. It is this process that the environmentalist shuts out; they cannot take responsibility for nature because they see man as separate and apart from nature, but this is a total system—the arms go in until there is blood up to the elbows.