Reply To: 24.3 Urban Ecology

Author Replies
Sanna Karlsson # Posted on December 3, 2015 at 12:23

(I did not find “Age of Ecology” and therefore posted my reflection on that topic here.)

Joachim Radkau has written the book ”The Age of Ecology – A Global History”. I did not attend the seminar, but have read the discussions from my fellow students on the subject. I found many of the ideas interesting, varied in topics from Radkau´s book and his seminar. I will reflect on Radkau´s work and the discussions of my fellow students.

Radkau is talking about the origins of environmentalism and mentions Rachel Carson, who more or less started the environmental movement back in the 1960´s. I have myself read Carson´s work and also have heard comments on it by toxicologcal researchers here in Uppsala. What I find interesting about this piece of work, is how the people of her time did not take her seriously at the beginning. Although, she pointed toward the harsh reality of toxic substances being used as e.g. pesticides worldwide, and the damage it causes. Later though, Carson was praised for have brought this to light and also started the environmental movement in the 60´s. I think clear voices like hers has to be heard today, when the damage of our modern way of living is even greater on the environment. However, what we can learn is that we might be not be liked by everyone, just as Carson. But I believe the difficult part today is to understanding how we should solve the big issues. I did not find Radkau giving a direct answer on this, probably because it is very hard to do so.

One thing Radkau did bring up was ”think global, act local.” I consider this to be a very interesting statement. It tells us that acting global can be a difficult task, but that acting local and yet taking into account what consequences it can have globally can be of importance. As citizens, acting locally is mostly what we are capable of. This was my first reaction, but then one of my fellow students suggested the term ”think local, act local” (I´m not sure if he got this from Radkau) and explained that we were possibly are not able after many, many years of thinking and acting locally, all of a sudden would be able to manage thinking globally. I must say this is indeed interesting.

As I dwell on environmentalism, I realize I can not solve the world problem concerning it. I can only live one day at a time, doing what I´m doing. The question I have is, how well can I act locally? There are ways in which we can affect climate change etcetera, for example by buying organic foods. Another is to separate at source when it comes to household waste. One of my favorite topics is on toxicology. Here we can learn as individuals to buy containers for food made of glass instead of plastics, use coconut oil on our bodies instead of lotions made of chemicals. We could also try to engage politically and try to affect desicions to a more environmentally friendly direction. However. If we then live on as most people and fly to Thailand for vacation, have we not possibly undone all the ”good” choices for the environment by flying the airplane?

So, somehow I believe that trying to live environmentally friendly, is very hard. We can as individuals only add small bits to the picture. I find it very complicated. I more believe in top down politics concerning this, where bigger decisions are made in global institutions and organizations, so that the decisions can benefit on larger scales and help more people to make good choices. For example, that fuel for the airplane was cleaner somehow.

This leads me to another topic. Morals. I think that the reality of people and morals are of great importance when talking about climate change and environmentalism. Radkau says the hinderance in changing the climate change for the better is poverty, but I would like to pose that it might even more so be morals. I know this is not perhaps what is often talked about in the academic world, especially when considering environmentalism. What I´m talking about is good and evil. I do not believe that all people are good. Because of evil motives, no matter how much money one may have, it will not solve the climate crisis, because those people will use it for selfish motives. That is I believe the real issue and not poverty by itself.

That being said, I do believe that much money in good peoples´ hands can do much good for the environment! However, if we do not protect it, people with selfish and evil motives might go ahead and destroy it all, if not damaging more than it. My opinion is therefore that truly solving the climate change can not be only by encouraging people to do good for the environment, but to combat evil in peoples lives. I now tend to get off topic, but I believe these aspects of how humans are made and work are of much greater value to take into account than any environmental demonstration that can be made. How do we combat evil? I believe by loving people. Love can change the heart of a murderer. I truly believe this is the way, rather than suggesting an evil doer to ”please, think of the environment.” That person might not even think good of himself. If we are not loved, and love ourselves, we ache, and I believe are not able to love – do good to – the environment.

Here I want to add that I truly get excited when it comes to do all that one can to change the climate crises, when it comes to theories and methods, organic farming, you name it. We need to know how to act and what we can do. Therefore the moral aspect does not take away the action aspect of the climate change, but in order to solve the crisis, I believe we need both.
To conclude, we also know that not all evildoer are changeable no matter how much love we give them, but I believe at least more than we think of.