Dilemmas in Green Philosophy

We are now facing a crossroads not only in our biological and socioeconomic crisis regarding the environment, but also the erosion of traditional philosophical and religious values. Clive Ponting, in his book A Green History of the World gives a comprehensive overview of the environment and the collapse of our "great" civilisations.

Pollution has a long history. The creation of wastes has been one of the distinguishing characteristics of every human society. For thousands of years the chief struggle was over sanitary arrangements and the main challenge was to obtain unpolluted water supplies. These problems became every more acute as human numbers and urban life increased, but widespread industrial production and the use of new technologies introduced new pollutants and brought new risks to human health and the environment. Contamination was at first essentially localized-- gnerally confined to a city, river, waste dump or mine. By the late twentieth century pollution had increased to an unprecedented scale-- affecting industrial regions, oceans, entire continents and even global regulatory mechanisms. Human understanding of the consequences of waste creation and disposal has always tended to lag well behind the release of pollutants into the environment. In earlier societies it is possible to find evidence of many of the features which characterise the response to contemporary pollution: fatalistic acceptance of polllution as an inevitable consequence of human activities; authorities balking at prevention or control measures; lack of foresight and technical understanding; the problem of allocating responsibility; a preference for short-term local fixes rather than long-term solutions and a failure of individuals or companies to take responsibility for their actions. Attempts to control pollution are as old as the problem itself but the response has usually been belated and inadequate with a poor record of co-operation and enforcement.(346)

At first cars and buses were welcomed as less polluuting than th ehorses that fouled city streets during the nineteenth century. ..The large-scale effects of vehicle pollution were first noticed in the United States, the first country with high levels of car ownership.

Hopefully the road to the future may look more like this:

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