Reply To: Joachim Radkau – The Era of Ecology

Author Replies # Posted on November 18, 2014 at 17:15

On the Radkau seminar and lecture 2014-11-17
Ellen Lindblom
With inspiration from question 1)
Radkau said in the seminar, that he had held a lecture on “History of future expectations”. This particular lecture was about the view of the future in Germany after World War II. “History of future expectations” is an interesting topic for today and the forecasts of climate change. Radkau told us that future expectations in history often have been wrong in retrospective. He added that politics have to have a sense for the present situation not only for the future. Actually I am not prone to agree with him on this, because I see politics to much concerned with short term goals and not what might be better in the long term even thought it might be inconvenient for the present. I am also one that thinks about climate change as an urgent threat for the future. Climate change has both a certain discourse about it and is something scientifically real. The future estimations of its effects are a complicated thing depending on almost endless amounts of factors, but today we make future predictions in another way then in the 40s. In some regards climate change has overshadowed other environmental issues, yes, but it has also incorporated other more “traditional” environmental issues such as loss of species, deforestation and water security.
Is there a lack of focus in the climate debate or is it just such a complex and vast issue in it selves? Would the cause win or lose on focus? The climate change debate inherent some of the elements Radkau brought up in his lecture about environmentalism as a whole; a diversity and or tension within it, such as grass root and local initiatives as well as top down politics. The climate movement is also part of the “new type” of environmental movement with new forms of communication and not one single focus target such as nuclear power plants. The “movement” is not the same as in the sixties. Still much is similar to the character points of environmentalism or the age of ecology (in a political sense), Radkau brought up in his lecture:
1. It belongs to the social movement
2. Has Ideological and spiritual roots
3. Anxiety and fears
I think the climate movement has tried with the big ungraspable threat and now is focusing on more graspable issues, for instance flooding. It was hard to know exactly what Radkau meant sometimes and I never understood if he thought that a successful environmental movement needs a “clear target” or not as the earlier movements had according to him. Radkau also argued for schizophrenia in the popular concept “Think global, act local”. A concept often heard in relation to climate change. He thought it was not possible to do this. If that is true then the climate movement has problems in front of it.
Radkau does not have a “grand theory” or big story and he’s is careful about predictions based on his research. This is both a strength because it shows how diverse the society is but it is also a weakness if you can´t make connections between spatial and temporal findings (what Paul Sinclair was heading at in his question). At the same time Radkau said that peculiarity’s of a region or country is discovered trough a broader perspective. It is how you see differences. I am not quite sure what to make of all this.