Environmentalism and the Future of Progressive Politics Summary

Robert C. Paehlke

Environmentalism and the Future of Progressive Politics

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The postindustrial world must be less wasteful and more in harmony with nature: That is Paehlke’s central theme. Environmentalism, he boldly proclaims, “has the potential to become the first original ideological perspective to develop since the middle of the nineteenth century.” A persuasive argument is made for environmentalism as a successor to the ideologies of capitalism and socialism--a coherent, multidimensional third path based on respect for the earth as a common resource.

Less pessimistic than many academicians, the author nevertheless acknowledges a sense of urgency in viewing ecology--scorned by activists in the 1960’s as a diversion from the more important civil rights and antiwar crusades--as the cornerstone of contemporary political debate. Environmental disasters and near-disasters have shown the folly of arrogant disregard for the vulnerability of the planet. In Paehlke’s opinion, concern for the sanctity of nature is the ethical starting point for a “conserver society.”

ENVIRONMENTALISM AND THE FUTURE OF PROGRESSIVE POLITICS heralds the rise of a movement embracing concerns ranging from preservation of wildlife habitat and energy resources to prevention of nuclear war. That these issues are interconnected is obvious to Paehlke, who further asserts the kinship of environmentalism with democracy, decentralization, feminism, globalism, and technological innovation. Reviewing the findings of specialists in his field, the author displays familiarity with developments in the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Third World. Despite the apparent ascendancy of neoconservatism, Paehlke believes that the time is ripe for a progressive revival based on environmentalism. The force of his arguments seems incontrovertible. One must do what one can, he concludes, quoting Albert Camus. Paehlke’s book is highly recommended as a blueprint for survival.