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A Second Ecological Revolution?


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color:#333333″>I noted that as a historian, I’m always on the lookout for subtle signs that indicate deep changes in social outlook. When that conversation shifted from local weather to the global biosphere, I felt I was witnessing “the opening shot of the second ecological revolution.”

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color:#333333″>The second ecological revolution, I argued, would grow out of a recognition of the links of the macro-environment: “that cutting rain forests in Costa Rica or burning coal in Gdansk may contribute to crop failures in Iowa and tree death in the Black Forest.” Its prime characteristic would be “its commitment to international solutions.”

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color:#333333″>Twenty-five years ago it was already evident that damage to the global environment threatened the basic conditions on which life depends and posed a clear and present danger that required a global response. Why, I asked, aren’t governments and politicians racing to meet this looming threat? Why, we might ask today, are we still unable to “get our act together” and make the necessary changes in time?

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color:#333333″>The first ecological revolution, I noted, began as a popular movement. It didn’t wait for leadership from politicians. In fact, it imposed its own agenda on governments and economies, an agenda that ultimately limited the ability of politicians and corporate officials to pursue their interests at the expense of the environment. The second ecological revolution would similarly have to “impose its agenda on governments and businesses,” saying that preserving the conditions for human life is simply more important than increasing national power or private wealth. And it would have to act globally with worldwide demonstrations, boycotts, and direct action campaigns against polluting countries and corporations.

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color:#333333″>When, I asked, would such an agreement become timely – “how many crop failures, heat waves and environmental disasters from now?” The question remains pertinent today: Twenty-five years later the US government is still unwilling to make such a binding agreement.