Part X of our Globalization Reader sounded the alarm regarding environmental issues and degradation of our world’s finite resources. In an 1987 report from the World Commission on Environment and Development, they make a salient point especially clear: the time is now to effectively manage environment resources and create a sustainable future to ensure human progress and survival. “We are not forecasting a future,” they write, “we are serving a notice — an urgent notice…” (432).
Later in the chapter, they describe how “environmental capital [is borrowed] from future generations, with intention or prospect of repaying.” Unfortunately, future generations do not get to vote, have no political or financial power, and “cannot challenged our decisions.” With this bleak scenario fully fleshed out, the paper concludes with that point that “sustainable development must rely on political will.” But if the major “losers” — poor and developing countries and future generations — have little to literally no say in the dominant political will, how is change effectively leveraged and maintained?
The following chapter on Greenpeace offers one way to enact change from outside politics. While ideally Greenpeace campaigns will trickle “up” and effect large scale policy and legislature, their main goal seems to be “disseminating an ecological sensibility.” (447). This sensibility is evoked through public, non-violent protests and media campaigns based in spectacle that both educate people about environmental issue and challenge them to become concerned for the well-being of the planet. This would seem to be effective if the “base” truly is social and cultural life with the “superstructure” governmental decrees reflective of social values.
The base/superstructure relationship has many blurred lines and depends, I think, on the type of government in a given place. However, with the relationship enlarged to social/cultural life vs. postcapitalism, I could see how influencing enough of the social/cultural norms with the aim of raising environmental impact + sustainable living above consumerism + accumulation would cause more and more people to attempt to “opt out” of the postcapitalist system. At this point, with the majority “opted out” would the “winners” just crush us all, or would the capitalist system because so weakened that it can be dismantled and rebuilt with a sustainable worldview?
A major component of enacting this new social reality that is concerned with sustainability comes from altering how we live our day to day lives. How can we change how we live to better align ourselves with values related to environmental conservation? What kind of homes we live in and how they are built seems a good area to start! I particularly love these two videos that show alternative housing options. Richart Sowa built a floating island using 100,000 plastic bottles; he collects rain, has a composting toilet (that he uses to grow his amazing gardens), and harnesses energy from the waves for electricity. Mike Oehler built many underground structures — being underground is fantastic insulation for both keeping warm and keeping cool, eliminating the need for heating with propane or cooling with AC.