Green movement at 50
The modern age of environmentalism is about half a century old. During that time awareness has grown, our knowledge of the challenges has increased while important practical progress has been made, for example in reducing some kinds of pollution and in the establishment of protected areas. We are, however, still very far from reconciling the demands of people with what our planet can sustainably provide.
Silent Spring remains a landmark for environmentalists. It is rooted in sound science but also has vital moral and emotional dimensions. It exposes the dangers of pesticides and sets out the consequences for nature and people in clear and persuasive terms. And though dangerous chemicals are still in use and still causing harm, its publication helped avert a worse catastrophe.
The full horror of hitting 50 hit me personally this year as I ‘celebrated’ my birthday a couple of weeks ago. I realised that half my life has been spent in the Green Movement.
Fifty years ago, few people cared about pollution, deforestation, whaling or the Ozone later. But even with an increasing awareness of issues concerning the environment, there is still a long way to go.
This week The Independent is looking at the successes and failures of the Green Movement at 50, with a series of blogs and features centred around the question: “Has the environment movement been a success?”
In 1992 the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro designed international legal protocol for the protection of the environment. Twenty years later, British barrister Polly Higgins believes those laws have failed.
Today we build taller towers with better floor to ceiling glass; instead of an insulating value of next to nothing, they have double that, almost nothing. We are still cooking limestone and crushing rock to make concrete, responsible for 5% of all CO2 emissions worldwide. Prince Charles is building faux Georgian tract houses. People are reinventing housing and tearing down Robin Hood Gardens. Cars are everywhere; they are cleaner but marginally more efficient as they got bigger, heavier and air conditioned.
We live in a culture that is dependent on global trade and 90% of goods are transported by ships. As an increasingly important part of our economy, ships have become more efficient, and faster. But like many advances in human technology, whales pay a price. Ship strikes are only one of the many threats whales face, but for some endangered populations, they are, literally, a driving force to extinction.
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