PHILOSOPHY: Some Tough Questions for Environmentalism

Environmentalism has many of the elements of a religious worldview with many devotees promoting an ideology instead of pursuing a science. It's time to counter this with a new philosophy of nature, say Dr. Jeff Foss, UVIC department of philosophy.

It?s not politically correct to question the basic ideas underlying many strains of environmentalism. We all want to love and respect the earth. But are we stumbling over ideology, bad science and other agendas? What?s the difference between Nature & Creation; between the earth sciences & environmentalism? If much environmentalism is at bottom political, what would a new philosophy of nature look like? 

You must keep two things distinct: a critique of the ideology of environmentalism is not the same project as scepticism regarding anthropogenic global warming (AGW).  Climate scientists need not be environmentalists in the sense discussed in our session: an ideology and metaphysics of nature based in a new age spirituality.  Climate scientists may have no use for Gaia worship.  On the other hand, ideological environmentalism bears little resemblance to a legitimate science and much closer resemblance to a superstition or religious sect.  This distinction must be kept in mind.  Dr Foss spent far less time on the global warmist alarmism and much more on the call for a sharper analysis of such terms as ‘nature’ and ‘environment’, an analysis that would see humans as part of nature and not the villains in an enviro-morality play.  We don’t need more smug news reports that pit hippies against capitalists or animal rights heroes against Alberta cattle ranchers.

The Best Book on the subject right now: Beyond Environmentalism by Dr Jeffrey Foss, University of Victoria

This one-of-a-kind book provides thoughtful insight into the current relationship between humankind and the environment Beyond Environmentalism is the first book of its kind to present a timely and relevant analysis of environmentalism. The author’s decades of experience as a philosopher of science allow him to critically comprehend scientific issues and to develop and explain sound, ethical policies in response to them. The result is a volume that builds a philosophy of nature and helps the reader assess humankind’s relationship with and impact on the world around us.

This innovative book discusses the inconsistencies, both scientific and philosophical, of popular environmentalism and sheds new perspectives on the issues, causes, and debates that embrace society today. The goal is not to settle environmental issues once and for all, but rather to provide the basis for more reasoned, scientific, and productive debates. The need for a new philosophy of nature is explored through methodological discussion of several topics, including: The rise and fall of scientific proof;  nature in religion, romance, and human values; humankind’s responsibility to the environment; the value of freedom; kinship among species

Numerous case studies throughout the book delve into global warming, the “sixth extinction,” the precautionary principle, pollution, and other popular issues within environmentalism. Feature boxes guide the reader through complex topics such as eco-sabotage, the Gaia hypothesis, and the urban heat-island effect, while vivid illustrations demonstrate scientific data, theories, and philosophical arguments in a reader-friendly manner.

With its balanced approach to provocative issues, Beyond Environmentalism serves as an excellent, thought-provoking supplement for courses on environmental studies at the undergraduate and graduate levels. It is also an interesting and accessible read for anyone with a general interest in environmental issues.

POSTSCRIPT: Since this session the entire edifice of AGM has come crumbling down as the myth of the ‘scientific consensus’ has been exposed. Hopefully there will now be some breathing room to develop environmentally responsible policies without the eschatological panic and bullying we have been getting from ideologues.