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Green utopias

Green Utopias: Environmental Hope Before and After Nature
Forfatter: Lisa Garforth
Forlag: Polity (Storbritannia)
With a sociological look at the environmental challenges combined with examples drawn from fiction and film, interesting horizons are opened in a new British release.

This article is machine translated by Google from Norwegian

I have read many books on green politics, ideology and economics, with different points of attachment and with varying visions for the future. Green Utopias adds something new, partly because it was written by a sociologist, partly because the author uses literature and film as the source of what she wants to illuminate, which opens up interesting horizons.

Lisa Garforth positions herself at a crossroads between the society we live in and the threat of a future apocalypse. In this span, she identifies a variety of different, more or less utopian discourses, which at times search in completely different directions.

The first chapters present well-known positions. We're moving back to the 1970 years, there Limits to Growth and a handful of other texts set the agenda. For the first time, it was made clear that the globe contains boundaries that we cannot exceed. In connection with this, radical discourses were established about steering social development in a different direction.

Organic modernization. However, through the 1980 and 1990 years, the course changed. Environmental protection became mainstream, and sustainable development emerged as the dominant solution strategy. This overlaps with a central theme in my Green Politics book: The strategy for ecological modernization is taking over, with its story that we can continue as before, with sustained growth and progress, combined with smarter environmental choices and more environmentally friendly technology.

Parallel to this, a different, more transformative discourse stayed alive. Arne Næs and his deep ecological philosophy are central here, with the message that man and nature are woven into a common whole, where both organisms and ecosystems must be seen as part of our moral community. This idea is radical in a completely different way than limits-the discourse, because here we formulate an expectation that our identity and way of life must change.

Over in the world of fiction. Having clarified these discursive currents, Garforth moves into the world of fiction. Where philosophical, professional and political literature often becomes programmatic in her interpretations, she finds a greater degree of closeness to the nuances of everyday life in fiction. We are introduced to novels ranging from the 1970s onwards, which in various ways illuminate the existence of small, self-sufficient societies. The aim of the novels is not to derive fixed recipes, but instead to explore the very desires and possibilities of a different way of life.

In the last chapters of the book, Lisa Garforth turns her gaze in a different direction. In the positions we have reproduced above, serious environmental crises emerged as a risk for the future, and the untouched nature (wilderness) served as the anchor point for utopias of a green, harmonious future society.

This has changed today, because with the term "anthropocene" we are beginning to realize that there is no longer any untouched wilderness to return to. Thus, in a sense, both "nature" and "the future" dissolve. What we are left with is the recognition that the state we are in now is the state we must shape life within, now and forever.

Apocalypse thinking as a force for change. Although most of us will realize that this is true, we have not yet taken it into account. Garforth says that recognition should lead us to open up to discourses other than the ideals of the 1970s offered to us. There is no longer any salvation in a harmonious future, from now on, the challenge lies in limiting damage and adapting to a complex, demanding reality.

In this, someone tends to place the environmental crises within the framework of a stabilizing management language, where the problems can be met through administrative management and market mechanisms. Others face this position with criticism because it can cause us to become unengaged. The apocalypse should therefore remain part of our thinking; through this we can mobilize power to create change.

These themes are also elaborated on through a selection of novels, an approach that undoubtedly succeeds in offering a broader understanding than a purely philosophical-academic discussion could open.

There is no longer any salvation in a harmonious future.

Political sting gets the book when it looks at how the Kyoto Protocol opened in 1997 to lead climate management into a neoliberal governance regime, with climate quotas and systems for buying and selling. Through this marketing, climate change was in some way removed from the public and recreated as a market object. Garforth illuminates this with a critical eye, but emphasizes that these pragmatic strategies were an effect of the future collapsing into the present, with the result that the visions of a different society had disappeared.

The loss of nature. The book then brings the discussion into a related field: Not only have we lost the dream of a good future, we have also lost nature. First, real changes have meant that there is no longer an independent, non-human world. Empirically, it is no longer possible to talk about nature in the same way we did a few decades ago. Secondly, the environmental crises have opened up to a philosophical-scientific criticism that says that the very concept of "nature" stands in the way of our ability to grasp the reality we are in. We need a new language in order to shape new, better, contemporary solutions.

By opening up to the importance of such perspectives, Lisa Garforth moves into a landscape that is relatively distant from another book reviewed in this newspaper: Sigurd Hverven natural Philosophy. For me, it has been of great value to read these two books in parallel, because in wrestling with and interacting with each other creates a thought-provoking whole. I am completing a new book on green political thinking this spring, where the space between Hverven and Garforth's books will be used constructively.

Successful. I'm experiencing Green Utopias like a very successful book. It uses varied professional tools to tell us something genuinely about the world we live in, including how different positions seek to define how we should orient ourselves. Although the text does not have a political basis, it is undoubtedly important for our political thinking.

The book is rounded off with a point of how the environmental crises in much of today's public debate appear as something that can be managed through adjustments and small adjustments – while we live with an uncomfortable feeling that we are far from doing enough to prevent a future apocalypse. In this span, we seek to learn to live in a changed, unpredictable and potentially dangerous world.

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Svein Hammer
Hammer is a dr.polit. in sociology and regular reviewer in Ny Tid.

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