Reply To: Joachim Radkau – The Era of Ecology

Author Replies # Posted on November 18, 2014 at 20:41

Reflections on the seminar and lecture with Joachim Radkau on his books “Nature and Power” and “The age of ecology”. The base for the discussion was the movements of environmentalism, or what he also calls the Green Revolution, alternatively “The new Enlightment”. Why did they emerged when they did, and what have they achieved? Radkau talks about three sectors that influence how we think about environmentalism; A new social movement among other factors because of new social networks created by Internet and Facebook, ideas of ideological/religious roots, and a rising source of anxiety.
Two important terms in the focus for all the different associations are sustainability, coined by the Brundtland commission in 1987, and biodiversity from the Rio Summit in 1992. Already from the start there has been a controversy about what practical function they have had to reduce the negative effects of human impact and to improve both people’s and the earth’s long term health. An interesting question after the afternoon talk was whether biodiversity was always the best alternative, and if sustainability was the best solution for to reach the goals. I did not quite get what Radkau replied. He seems to be the kind of person who needs time to sit down with all his books and notes and think about the question and what to answer. Actually a nice quality in a time when everything should be rushed rather than with consideration. I believe that as long as we do not have any other definition, tools or a new pioneering idea for assessing environmental problems, these words fulfill an important role, at least for scientists. Although politicians, economists, also use them, I am not sure that they, nor the ordinary civic society understand what they mean. But it would be interesting to know what other term could be invented for making a difference in understanding and practicing what we need to do.
One reflection I made on environmentalism was that it actually began in the field of toxicology and occupational medicine. For example, insecticides like DDT, and polluters not only harm nature, but also the people who had to handle them. This Rachel Carson studied and found an alarming connection. But by being a woman she was harassed by the male scientific society, and she was not taken seriously.
Radioactivity, another issue that initiated people’s awareness of consequences regarding nuclear power as a peaceful versatile source for energy to one of the most threatening sources for all mankind. Interestingly, although nuclear energy is THE most clean source of energy that we have, the debate often contain words about how to store the uranium. I believe that if more resources and research could be done about reducing the uranium waste, other options for nuclear power plants, we could solve the problem with energy production, and maybe even how to use the waste uranium. A paradigm shift from focusing on renewable energy sources, like huge wind mill or solar fields to new safe nuclear power stations adapted for different energy needs, would be interesting to follow. Okay, nuclear energy is not renewable, but will probably last until the last human being on earth. If we really would have a completely clean source of energy, research on hydrogen gas would be another choice.
Today, climate change is the most “popular” theme that threatens the human population because its effect on the environment. Its effect will be different, sometimes opposite, on different parts of the globe, but there seems impossible to get a comprehensive action from the political society, as nobody want to lose its power, because of unpopular decisions to make a rapid change to begin a sustainable policy. Another problem is that many say that we cannot blame an enemy for the problem. There is a very powerful enemy, but the fact that it is us, is not useful, as there are too few accepting we have to change life style very soon, to make a difference.