The failure of environmentalism in schools.

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The failure of environmentalism in schools.

Postby Indrajala » Sun May 13, 2012 5:01 am

It recently occurred to me that perhaps environmentalism completely failed to achieve its goals in education systems over the last few decades.

Growing up in the 90s in Canada we did whole musicals about a green planet and how we should reduce, reuse and recycle ("the three Rs"). We'd even go pick up litter and visited the recycling plant.

Now in 2012 I look at my friends who I went to school with and they're living the same lifestyles as their parents. Consumption is just as high, if not higher, they all own cars and many are buying new houses over bulldozed suburban land.

The whole thing ended up with environmentalism treating pollution as an aesthetic problem. Maybe my peers don't litter and would look down on anyone who would, but their lifestyles are just as energy guzzling and polluting as ever. Cars, big houses, plastics and a lot of red meat. They might bring their own bags for grocery shopping, but fill it with meats and other products which wreak havoc on the environment.

I've spoken to many friends from elsewhere in the world from Europe to Asia and it is much the same. Nothing changed despite education systems trying to install a mindset of environmental awareness in youth. Consumerism won that battle.

Anyone else have thoughts on this?
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Re: The failure of environmentalism in schools.

Postby Thrasymachus » Sun May 13, 2012 7:50 am

Environmentalism is a movement created in highly technological societies after centuries of capitalism and unlocking the energy potential of first wood, then coal, then oil, then the atom. It is essentially saying: "wholly fawk, we are doing everything in," and advocates maybe we should make laughable reforms without stressing our expected levels of comfort. Environmentalism is totally irrelevant, it mostly about feeling good at worst, and destroying the global carrying capacity of the earth to sustain complex life a little bit more slowly, at best.

A much more pervasive movement will be needed, but will never develop. You cannot even convince the average Westerner it is socially acceptable to not be addicted to something or that ethics matters more than money.
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Re: The failure of environmentalism in schools.

Postby kirtu » Sun May 13, 2012 2:39 pm

Huseng wrote:It recently occurred to me that perhaps environmentalism completely failed to achieve its goals in education systems over the last few decades.
....
I've spoken to many friends from elsewhere in the world from Europe to Asia and it is much the same. Nothing changed despite education systems trying to install a mindset of environmental awareness in youth. Consumerism won that battle.

Anyone else have thoughts on this?


Basically you are right as the core reasons for the environmental disaster were not addressed. The entire problem was reduced to aesthetic issue more or less rather than a complicated problem dealing with industrial/economic exploitation of resources and impending environmental collapse.

When I was teaching computer science and web design in hs our final web design project was to create a ten page website showing animals who had become extinct within the past century because of human impact as well as animals in danger of extinction. A couple of students wanted to advance the argument that humans did not significantly create environmental change and species die off but they always abandoned their project as they researched the subject noting that the counterargument just wasn't supported sufficiently esp. when examining actual animal extinction.

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Re: The failure of environmentalism in schools.

Postby Indrajala » Sun May 13, 2012 4:31 pm

Thrasymachus wrote:Environmentalism is a movement created in highly technological societies after centuries of capitalism and unlocking the energy potential of first wood, then coal, then oil, then the atom. It is essentially saying: "wholly fawk, we are doing everything in," and advocates maybe we should make laughable reforms without stressing our expected levels of comfort. Environmentalism is totally irrelevant, it mostly about feeling good at worst, and destroying the global carrying capacity of the earth to sustain complex life a little bit more slowly, at best.

A much more pervasive movement will be needed, but will never develop. You cannot even convince the average Westerner it is socially acceptable to not be addicted to something or that ethics matters more than money.


This is why I've come to think, pessimistically perhaps, that the system will self-terminate in due time and there is nothing that can be done. No amount of green talk will convince people to do what needs to be done. Worse is that Jevon's Parodox would dictate that even with technological efficiency we can expect resource consumption to increase, not decrease. Whatever resources we don't use the up and coming middle classes in Asia will happily scoop up for themselves. This is why even if North America suddenly went majority vegetarian, they would just sell their mountains of animal flesh to Asians who are consuming more meat than they ever did. People would eat up all that pork, beef and chicken in larger quantities.

Politicians cannot do anything because promising people economic growth, which means more pollution, is what gets them elected. If anyone pushed to do what was necessary they would be out of a job. In free societies advertisers have the right to flash their images at people and convince them to buy stuff they don't need. You can't ban advertising (I would also never advocate this). Reduced consumption cannot be forced in present circumstances unless a large majority suddenly got religious about it and did it on their own accord, which won't happen of course.

So, the system is hard wired to consume all of its resources and simply die. There is no reform possible to save it from collapse. All the Arctic glaciers could melt and sea levels could rise several meters in a few years, and still the system would continue along its present course.
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Re: The failure of environmentalism in schools.

Postby Indrajala » Sun May 13, 2012 4:37 pm

kirtu wrote:Basically you are right as the core reasons for the environmental disaster were not addressed. The entire problem was reduced to aesthetic issue more or less rather than a complicated problem dealing with industrial/economic exploitation of resources and impending environmental collapse.


And nothing is changing or has changed.

I think maybe there is disbelief as well. In the 90s it was the ozone layer, now it is climate change. Still, people carry on business as usual without these things visibly affecting them. It might take significant sea level rises to prompt actual conviction in people that the shit is hitting the fan.
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Re: The failure of environmentalism in schools.

Postby kirtu » Sun May 13, 2012 4:52 pm

Huseng wrote:
kirtu wrote:Basically you are right as the core reasons for the environmental disaster were not addressed. The entire problem was reduced to aesthetic issue more or less rather than a complicated problem dealing with industrial/economic exploitation of resources and impending environmental collapse.


And nothing is changing or has changed.


Some of the kids I taught have changed as a result of seeing that climate change has doomed species within their lifetime to extinction and is causing a northward migration at an unprecedented rate.

I think maybe there is disbelief as well.


Some of the disbelief comes from revised data. Lovelock recently said that he had overestimated the rate of climate change and there is some evidence now that Himalayan glaciers are not melting at the rate once thought with some glaciers allegedly claimed now to be unaffected (a significant shift from a position where all glaciers were affected).

However this is in no way good news. The overwhelming trend is still in the direction of global climate change and mass extinction of animals.

People just need to understand that data analysis will change but the issues are the data trends. So it will take longer to fry the planet. The planet will still fry over time if we continue to do next to nothing.

In the 90s it was the ozone layer, now it is climate change.


But that's because we didn't understand climate change sufficiently. The Ozone layer depletion is climate change.

Still, people carry on business as usual without these things visibly affecting them. It might take significant sea level rises to prompt actual conviction in people that the shit is hitting the fan.


People can explain anything away and justify anything. In part this is because of ignorance and selfishness but in part it is because people are impoverished financially and all their time is taken for survival (albeit in different ways) worldwide. Another aspect is that people are ignorant of science and mathematics and do not have the tools to evaluate claims advanced by scientists.

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Re: The failure of environmentalism in schools.

Postby KeithBC » Wed May 16, 2012 7:03 pm

I think it is a double-whammy. Not only did environmentalism fail to adequately convey the required message, but its efforts are being actively opposed by corporate interests with deep pockets.

I am not a conspiracy nut and frown on most conspiracy theories, but in this case, I believe there is a conspiracy among multinational corporations and the pro-globalization forces that have dominated politics in the western world for the last 30 years or so to activelt oppose environmentalism and, in particular, efforts to stop global warming.

We see it in the form of front organizations with names designed to sound like legitimate research agencies, funded by the petroleum industry. They hire a PhD or two who are willing to speak their party line and lie if necessary, and then claim them as evidence that "Scientists Oppose Global Warming Theory".

How can honest volunteer efforts effectively oppose such a campaign?

In the words of my neighbour, "We're f****d."

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Re: The failure of environmentalism in schools.

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 17, 2012 12:55 am

KeithBC wrote:In the words of my neighbour, "We're f****d."



WWF just released their "Living Planet Report" which indicates we are indeed going downhill.

"The report is clear that we're still going downhill, that our ecological footprint, the pressure we put on the earth's resources, continues to rise so we're now using 50% more resources that the earth can replenish and biodiversity continues to decline," said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International.


http://edition.cnn.com/2012/05/15/world ... index.html

Nevertheless look into the economy section of a lot media outlets and what we should be avoiding is what is actually being done. China devouring more and more coal to grow its economy. Indonesia hacking down its forests. The Alberta tar sands being developed with little opposition. Consumer spending and consumption being encouraged to kick start economies.

The whole system is setup so that if we did what needed to be done we'd fail economically. If we do what we're doing now, we're ecologically doomed.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

My sister recently announced she was looking into an SUV because they "need a little more more space" (two parents and one toddler). When I suggested something less fuel hungry for the sake of the environment she dismissed it.

But then even if we in the first world all used less petroleum, the up and coming middle classes in India and China would happily make use of it.

So, damned if you do, damned if you don't.

As it stands anyway we're already past the point of no return. There is methane rising from cracks in Arctic ice and even pools of it bubbling around the Arctic circle.

Nevertheless, you present these facts to people and they still carry on business as usual expecting it won't -really- affect them. Judgement Day is coming.
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Re: The failure of environmentalism in schools.

Postby KeithBC » Thu May 17, 2012 2:26 am

Huseng wrote:The whole system is setup so that if we did what needed to be done we'd fail economically. If we do what we're doing now, we're ecologically doomed.

Why do we accept that? We willingly choose to let the wellbeing of the economy trump all other considerations, even when we know that it harms us. In fact, it's only the short-term wellbeing of the economy that we seem to care about. We all know (or ought ot) that unsustainability is unsustainable, meaning that an economic collapse is inevitable, yet we carry on regardless.

The best thing that could happen would be a controlled economic decline, which might prevent the inevitable collapse. And, at the same time, would mitigate the environmental damage we are doing. Why is that considered unthinkable?

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Re: The failure of environmentalism in schools.

Postby justsit » Thu May 17, 2012 2:43 am

KeithBC wrote:.The best thing that could happen would be a controlled economic decline, which might prevent the inevitable collapse. And, at the same time, would mitigate the environmental damage we are doing. Why is that considered unthinkable?


Because humans are greedy and deluded? :shrug:
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