Environmentalism and the Future of Progressive Politics

Robert Paehlke, Author Yale University Press $50 (320p) ISBN 978-0-300-04021-0
Paehlke, professor of political science and environmental and resource studies at Trent University in Ontario, here develops a program for a new political ideology. He shows how environmentalism, which has its roots in the conservation movement that began in the mid-19th century, has evolved into a system of values with the potential to become a powerful force in world politics. Pollution, the population explosion and the energy crisis--caused by dependence on fossil fuels--have brought the world to the edge of environmental disaster, but Paehlke sees a positive side to the predicament, for it forces a revolution in social values and the development of new technologies that can be linked with positive political action. He believes that the politics of environmentalism are neither ``left'' nor ``right,'' but cut across the entire political spectrum, involving all segments of the population. He even feels that environmentalism can find a certain accommodation with the neoconservatism that dominates contemporary Anglo-American political thinking. More important, he seeks to show how environmentalism--with a broad-based program for political action that includes, among other things, international cooperation on oil prices, emphasis on technologies that have minimal impact on the environment and the strengthening of environmental protection policies--can be instrumental in the restoration of moderate progressive politics. No prophet of doom and gloom, Paehlke takes an optimistic view and presents a specific plan of action. Especially intriguing are his thoughts on the environmental advantages of high-density urban living. A few of his ideas and proposals may seem overly idealistic, and skeptics will probably not be convinced by some of the reasoning he uses to show that environmentalism can solve the problems of budget deficits, inflation and the nuclear arms race. But given the desperate state to which humans have brought the world, there can be little doubt that environmentalism is a political ideology whose time has come. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1989
Release date: 09/01/1989
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