Welcome to today, welcome to reality. This is the new ethic.
The next environmental movement should seek to do two things; dissolve the illusions surrounding civilization and nature, and to realistically view the state of the world so one can behave appropriately.
The enemy illusion is the idea that civilization and nature are separate realms of existence. Environmental degradation and pollution have persisted because of this illusion, so this veil must be ripped asunder. It is easy to pillage ecosystems because people don’t see it as hurting themselves. They see it as striking out against the other. Slavoj ZIzek in the Examined Life says, “Part of our daily perception of reality is that this disappears from our world. When you go to the toilet, shit disappears. You flush it. Of course rationally you know it’s there in canalization and so on, but at a certain level of your most elementary experience, it disappears from your world. But the problem is that trash doesn’t disappear.”
There is no civilization, and there is no nature. There is only the world, and the state of affairs contained within. The world humans have made is constructed out of building blocks nature provided, and the natural has been entirely pervaded by the hands of men. When trees are cut, the whole of the world loses air. When chemicals are spilled, acid rains over the whole world. Humans themselves are the product of nature. They arose out of evolution to do what all life is meant to do, to continue. In this sense, humans must realize that their degrading actions affect the entire population, including themselves. This leads to the second maxim; and to realistically view the state of the world so one can behave appropriately.
The world today is undoubtedly capitalist. As unfortunate as it is, the environmentalist must react to this fact. They must realize that the capitalist wants to make money. They must make it more profitable to be green than to pollute. This is the only way to change anything with society the way it is. However, it is not only the responsibility of the economy or government to improve the economy. The individual has to effect change by himself.
The individual can effect change in three ways: by pestering the aforementioned businesses and government, but also by changing their habits and attitudes. The individual should recycle, but they should not only recycle. For example, whenever one is going to use a computer they need to realize that many computers are terrible for the environment. They need to weigh the benefits and costs of such an action.
The third thing that the individual should recognize is that all ethical judgments regarding the environment are more complicated than they appear. Aldo Leopold said, “The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.” Thinking of the land as a complex system is beyond the scope of anyone’s thinking capability. So perhaps this is the limit of the individual. The individual isn’t capable of reversing ecological damage by himself. All humans need to put their heads together and think it out.