Environmental Studies essay

Despite the increasing attention given towards environmental concerns across the globe, not all strains of environmentalism are united in their ideology. Speaking from a general vantage point, one of the rifts which bifurcates contemporary environmentalism lies along the manner in which they perceive the interaction between technological/industrial modernity and ecological harmony. Post-modern environmentalists, also known as dark or deep green environmentalists, originate from a belief in an antithetical relationship between technological modernity and ecological harmony.

Put rather bluntly, dark or deep green environmentalists regard the dominant political and social ideologies as inherently flawed and contributive to ecological damage. Therefore, they are fundamentally opposed to unchecked growth, rampant consumerism and extreme forms of capitalism and industrialism and their passion regarding environmental issues manifests itself in an espousal of drastic lifestyle changes and a willingness to confront the dominant social institutions (i. e. corporations and government) responsible for creating the conditions that let ecological damage go unaddressed.

In effect, they earn the label of post-modern from their underlying belief that real environmental progress comes from the repudiation of technological modernity. (Sopuck, 2006; Environment Support, 2008) Due to a tremendous amount of political garnered throughout the 70s and 80s, the deep green and postmodern environmental rhetoric has come to define much of the popular awareness of environmentalism. Environmentalism as an ideological brand is therefore identified with voluntary asceticism, radical lifestyle choices and at worst, gestural cause-oriented politics rather than any broad strategies of change.

To some extent, the resurgence of environmental rhetoric is not just the natural result of a memetic cycle but a suddenly dawning realization that a) many of the goals of environmentalism in the late 20th century remain unfulfilled, and b) that symptoms of catastrophe are reaching a critical mass worthy of resurrected alarm. With regards to the former, environmental journalist Alex Steffen (2006) notes that the failure of previous environmentalist rhetoric fell largely on deaf ears due to the lack of traction that was attained from the very nature of the rhetoric in question.

It was structured entirely on asceticism an a repudiation of the very forces which permit comfort in the first place: “They called for tightening belts and curbing appetites, turning down the thermostat and living lower on the food chain. They rejected technology, business, and prosperity in favor of returning to a simpler way of life. No wonder the movement got so little traction. Asking people in the world’s wealthiest, most advanced societies to turn their backs on the very forces that drove such abundance is naive at best. ” (Steffen, 2006)

It is from this context that the concept of bright green environmentalism also referred to by Sopuck as ‘modern environmentalism’ has emerged, which is rapidly gaining currency as a new platform for pursuing the goals of environmentalist movements in general. Emma McCreary (2007) concisely describes bright green environmentalism as the reconciliation between the guilt of modern living and the desire for sustainability. Radical changes in economics and politics are made possible through the use of technology. As Ross Robertson (2007) notes:

“…it is less about the problems and limitations we need to overcome than the “tools, models, and ideas” that already exist for overcoming them. It forgoes the bleakness of protest and dissent for the energizing confidence of constructive solutions. ” Simply put, deep green and post-modern environmentalists contend that because humanity’s needs and wants are in direct opposition to ecological harmony, the role they should be adopting is the development of policies that encourage stewardship, conservation, protection and resource management and the application of careful restrictions upon economic development and capitalization of resources.

Bright green and modern environmentalists on the other hand, disregard the notion of a moral and spiritual obligation to the planet and instead favor the use of technology to remediate environmental impacts and repair ‘broken systems’ of industry and commerce. The Western Canadian Environmental Technology Forum (2003) illustrates this belief in their view of technology is as an ‘enabler’ that allows industry to advance but without undue expense on planetary welfare.

The generally developmentally and technologically pessimistic post-modern environmentalists tend to favor policy instruments designed to regulate institutions attributed to be the source of environmental problems. For example, journalist Simon Jackson (2008) notes that recent events have framed environmental concerns largely through the lens of carbon pricing and other mechanisms designed to curtail emissions, rather than attempting to engage imagination in developing solutions that go beyond regulation.


Sopuck, R. (2006, February 16) “An Environmental Strategy for Stephen Harper. ” Calgary Herald. Retrieved October 14, 2008 from: http://www. fcpp. org/main/publication_detail. php? PubID=1297 Environment Support. Hues of Green in Environmentalists. N. d. Retrieved October 13, 2008 from: http://www. environment-support. org/organizations/articles/eco-article5-1. html Steffen, A. (2006, May) “The Next Green Revolution. ” Wired Magazine, 14. 05. Retrieved October 13, 2008 from: http://www. wired. com/wired/archive/14. 05/green. html McReary, E. (2007, December 2) “Bright Green: The New Environmentalism. ” Tao of Prosperity. Retrieved October 13, 2008 from: http://www. taoofprosperity. com/2007/bright-green-the-new-environmentalism/