Democracy and ecological crisis: the case of the climate

Today’s ecological crisis has long been identified as also a democratic one. Lynn White Jr.’s famous essay (“The historical roots of our ecological crisis,” Science 155 1203-07.) is often used to rail against anthropocentrism, but White starts out by arguing that:

Our ecological crisis is the product of an emerging, entirely novel, democratic culture. The issue is whether a democratized world can survive its own implications. Presumably we cannot unless we rethink our axioms.

For my part, it seems clear that democracy is not “entirely novel” since it has no essential format and has been around in various cultures for some time. But White was talking about a “democratized world”. Clearly then, something either remains ambiguous for White (since this was written during the Cold War and hence worldwide democracy was very far from existing, or even guaranteed) or White had something else in mind. The latter is more likely to be closer to the truth, since the article is about a particular way of constructing moral and political obligations within a new view of the world – an ecological one.

These quick thoughts are just a lead in to the set of publications from the Center for Humans and Nature that were recently released. Here they are:

Can democracy in crisis deal with the climate crisis?

In the wake of superstorm Sandy and an election process that all but ignored climate change, HumansandNature.org looks ahead.  As Obama begins his second term, our Scholars and Contributors initiate a critical discussion, reflecting on if—and how—the “last, best hope on earth” can tackle one of the most significant challenges the world faces. We invite you to join the conversation and share your thoughts on how we can reshape the democratic process and meet the climate crisis.

Senior Scholars Ben Barber and Carol Gould take the lead on this series.  Click here to read their essays.

Four other Contributors are also kicking off the conversation:

Bill McKibben: Currencies of Movement Are the Key

Robyn Eckersley: The Tyranny of the Minority

Tim Hayward: Why Taking the Climate Challenge Seriously Means Taking Democracy More Seriously

John Dryzek: Deliberative Democracy and Climate Change

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