On the Green Scene
TO industry, the Green movement is a bunch of raving antigrowth zealots. To environmentalists, it is an underlying philosophy on which to base principled action. To politicians, it is a small but feisty party, an increasingly loud coalition of interest groups, or both.That the Green movement is many things to many people is made clear in The Green Reader, a book of excerpts from both published and unpublished works on Green social, political, and philosophical thought (edited by Andrew Dobson, Mercury House, 280 pp., $24.95). Although this is more of a primer than a deep analysis of Green philosophy and politics, the selections are thought-provoking. Topics include social organization, religion, population control, environmental "monkeywrenching," and the distribution of wealth. And the book doesn't shy away from the complexities and contradictions of this movement. While Democrats and Republicans alike tout the curative effects of economic growth, the Green world view is built on different foundations. Greens contend that we must make tough choices now or we will be forced to make them when population growth, wealth disparities, resource depletion, and environmental destruction converge. "... infinite growth in a finite system is impossible," writes political science professor Andrew Dobson. The key, Greens say, is to create a "sustainable" society. While much of the book is occupied with environmental matters, the most intriguing points covered are political, including provocative essays on population and freedom. One essayist argues that "further erosion of our environmental 'life-support systems' will curtail peoplesfreedom of choice' far more dramatically than exercising proper restraint today." Others get more specific, contending that perhaps the most pressing need today is for restrictions on the "freedom to breed." Not all Greens agree on what steps to take, or even what "sustainability" is. In a chapter on political strategies, some writers advocate "environment-friendly" consumerism; others maintain that "humanity as a whole is going to have to consume not just better but less." Some work within the existing political system as an organized party or an interest group; others favor succeeding from the system and forming Green communes. Some advocate evolutionary change through environmental laws and education; others prefer confrontational campaigns of civil disobedience. Leading the pack of confrontationalists is Earth First!, whose members have received national attention for sitting in front of bulldozers and camping out in front of giant old-growth trees slated to be cut.
The Earth First! Reader: Ten Years of Radical Environmentalism (edited by John Davis, Gibbs Smith, 272 pp., $14.95) is an engrossing look at this organization. Comprising essays culled from the Earth First! Journal, the book dramatically recounts several campaigns by both Earth First! and its sister organization the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, whose innocuous name belies its penchant for vigilante enforcement of international agreements on the high seas and in foreign harbors. Earth First! is oriented toward action, not rumination. But the pages of the Earth First! Journal still host a lively philosophical debate. An expansive identification with all living things lies at the root of the Green philosophy. These books offer an understanding of the depth of this philosophy.