The Deep Green critical worldview

Obviously much is wrong. The levels of inequality — within nations and between nations — is nothing short of obscene. Our touted “democracy” is pretty thin (most people don’t participate much beyond casting a vote every two or four years). Militarism is rampant and sucks up resources that could otherwise go toward social needs. Power elitism dominates the polities and economies. Urbanization and centralization have decimated local community life. Multiple ecological crises loom.

Socialism critiqued capitalism, but capitalism is simply the latest manifestation of a society that exhibits all of the above problematic characteristics.

During the twentieth century re-thinkings and deeper analyses forged a new Green post-socialist, post-civilizational worldview . . .

* * * *

For reasons that are not entirely clear, a transformation of lifeways started in various locations about ten thousand years ago. Gary Snyder called the original human lifeways (duration of millions of years) the “Old Ways,” so I’ll refer to the “modern,” since the Neolithic Revolution, as the “New Ways.” The latter had characteristics (aggression, expansionism) that fostered its spread. Eventually it encroached upon and overran all tribal cultures and societies practicing the Old Ways.

There were three inflection points in the process:
. transition to sedentary life dependent upon self-production of food via more-intensive agriculture in place after place starting about ten thousand years ago
. transition to statist-developmentalist-imperialist civilizations (first in the Fertile Crescent, India, China) starting about five thousand years ago
. transition from agricultural-based to industrial-based mass societies starting about four hundred years ago

[Some advocate that we include, as a first inflection point, the transition into “behavioral modernity” about fifty thousand years ago, but there is debate about whether or not there was, at that time, a “Leap Forward” or just a cultural efflorescence based on a prior gradual accumulation of traits and capabilities.]

A consequence of the development of the human-built structural and institutional environment has been increasing divorce and alienation from nature such that we now live within what Barry Commoner called “the Technosphere.”

For millennia there was an idea that this process should be viewed as “progressive development.” The re-thinking of the last forty or fifty years concludes that, overall, people are no happier after All That.

No happier and, meanwhile, All That has brought us to the precipice of a major crisis of unsustainability.

* * * *

The Deep Green perspective advocates that we stop going in that problematic direction. Chastened by crisis and reflection, let’s find ways to settle back into simpler, more localized, more nature-centric, fully sustainable post-development lifeways.


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Steven Welzer

The editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a movement activist for many years (he was an original co-editor of DSA’s “Ecosocialist Review”).