Assistant professor of Environmental Studies Scott Miles is facilitating a discussion based about the essay “The Death of Environmentalism” and the book “Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility,” both by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus. The essay sparked the idea of a discussion about topics covered in the work such as: does environmental education work? Will new technology be the key to cleaning the environment? And does setting limits on policies really help the environment?
The authors argue that current policies in place about limiting emissions are negative and invoke a “can't” attitude. Instead, Shellenberger and Nordhaus say that people need to focus on the politics of possibility, and stop trying to use scare tactics into finding a solution. They also say that the breakthrough on global warming will come will come when more money is invested into finding new technology to solve the solution.
However, this is not a pure solution. Waiting for a new technology to come along gives people the excuse to not think about their personal choices at this point in time, and simply wait for someone to fix it in the future, Miles said.
The essay and the book criticize environmental education, saying it is ineffective and has not truly helped. This topic is one of importance at Western, which is home to Huxley College of the Environment. According to Huxley's Web site, the college's mission is “to pursue programs of environmental education, research, and community service that reflect the broadcast possible view of humans in a physical, biological, social and cultural world.” However, the authors argue that this type of mission and education has not worked, and they criticize the people and the books that lead to this belief, Mills said.
The book and essay bring up many topics that often have controversial answers. Miles said the authors have many good points and have identified the problems clearly.
“I don't agree with all their answers, but their book is a good point to start the discussion,” Miles said.
The discussion will include a summary by Miles of the book and essay.
“People don't have to have read the book to engage in this discussion,” Miles said.
The hope is that we will be able to get a list of possible solutions regarding some of the questions raised in the readings. People can then take this list and apply in their lives and businesses, Miles said.
The discussion is 3 p.m. Friday Jan. 25 in the Communications Facility 120 and is free.