This week’s readings exposed dichotomies within the environmentalism movement, highlighting both historical trends and present day perspectives. These dichotomies are revealed through discrepancies of race, gender, social and economic class, and ethnicity. Through this week’s literary analysis, I have determined that there are two major discourses in environmentalism that are flawed and have resulted in incoherent socio-environmental progress. Firstly, there is a dichotomy between preservation of wild landscapes and preservation of public health. This can be seen in the traditionally white lead movements for the protection of endangered species, national parks, and other wild or natural landscapes. Secondly, there is a dichotomy of nature versus society, as seen in the segregation of parks in urban environments and the lack of environmental education and consciousness amongst American society.
To address these discrepancies in the environmental movement, we must begin to recognize the relationship between nature and society as a spectrum. Preservation, conservation, protection, or however you spin it, should not be focused on landscapes or people. We are immersed in our landscapes, directly dependent on the health of our planet for the functioning of healthy societies. This is discussed in both Gottlieb and Di Chiro’s writings about urban public health issues related to air, water and soil quality. When these environmental elements that we interact with daily are compromised and polluted, disease and dysfunction emerges in our communities. I was particularly engaged by Di Chiro’s description of toxin dumping as “poisoning” of a community’s environment. The language used created a personal dialogue, suggesting that the pollution of one’s air and water is a personal deliberate act, disregarding the wellbeing of fellow humans.
Though many people advocate for deep ecology perspectives, valuing the innate presence of nature, the environmental movement is most effective when anthropogenic discourses are implemented. People respond to personal stories, showing empathy towards individuals impacted by resource extraction, industrial practices, and the dumping of waste. However, this empathy cannot be conveyed without proper education of the public. The second dichotomy of nature versus society has resulted in inadequate environmental education of American society. We have become disjointed from our surroundings, spending most of our time sheltered in temperature controlled buildings living life through a screen. We have become disjointed from our everyday resources, not knowing the source of our food, our gadgets, or our clothes.
Without this knowledge, individuals are blind to the problem at hand: that we are living an unsustainable lifestyle and that the planet is ill, off-balance, and out of whack. Thus, efforts should be made to educate the public and break down the dichotomous barriers between nature and society. I believe in the phrase that knowledge is power… and that we need to bring that knowledge to all people. In this way, we can address the issues of environmental racism and injustice. We must not neglect our environments and our global communities.