The man you see above is Stewart Brand, a man of many talents, interests, circles and followings. Some of you may have seen him talking at length and with much passion on the subject of nuclear power over at TED, battling it out on the stage with equally intelligent minds who don’t quite hold the same love for atom-splitting. Alongside these appearances, he is a highly regarded environmentalist and President of the Long Now Foundation, a group which aims to seed longterm responsibility in all things sustainable and cultural, I’m assuming in an attempt to align our global conscious in the right direction. Personally I like him; he holds good values and is a smart man, and I too share his like of nuclear power despite its negative press.
Well now Mr. Brand can add yet another qualification, if you can call it that, to his growing list - spiritual leader of the newest in green movements, ‘neo-environmentalism’. This fashionable but youthful ideal mirrors many aspects of the neoliberal movements of times past, where radical solutions to sweeping problems and optimism in every corner reign supreme. In effect, this fad hopes to replace the ageing and withered currently held belief that science and data will eventually turn society around and set it back on the path in which we survive far into the future.
It isn’t hard to see that this science-lead approach has had its fair share of hard times, with many die-hard scientists and professional circles now coming out in almost complete despair at the chances of peer-reviewed evidence ever pulling the wool from our eyes. With so many things going wrong in modern times, from climate change to food crises, the public are consistently battered from all sides by doom and gloom news, and there’s no doubt the majority is starting to simply switch off and crawl into their denial shell. Those that power on through and keep on the science debate are fighting a monumental war, even if once-proclaimed deniers such as Koch finally come out and agree with what many of us have known for decades. Even though I still firmly believe that this approach is one of the best we have in our arsenal against stupidity and ignorance, it would seem that now is the perfect time for something a bit fresher.
Neo-environmentalism manages to tap this resource by looking at it down the lens of economics and business. Everybody knows that politicians and economists are [far too] powerful in their abilities to influence all levels of governance, technology, funding and society, and by choosing to take their viewpoint more practically, you instantly win over a large group of people.
Within this, the role of technology, Western ideals and rapid advancement alongside growth take a much more important seat next to sustainability, rather than the more, shall we say, realistic view of the current movement, which sees tempered growth, inclusion of the environment in economic measurement and persistent projection and mitigation of oncoming disasters. Of course, both of these can easily blur together, and often do even now, but this new form seems to want to take things slightly more to the extreme business side of things, for better or worse.