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Environmental Values

Poverty, Puritanism and Environmental Conflict

Andrew Brennan

Environmental Values 7(1998): 305-331. doi: 10.3197/096327198129341609

The paper proposes two ideas: (1) The wilderness preservation movement has failed to identify key elements involved in situations of environmental conflict. (2) The same movement seems unaware of its location within a tradition which is both elitist and Puritan.

Holmes Rolston's recent work on the apparent conflict between feeding people and saving nature appears to exemplify the two points. With respect to point (1), Rolston's treatment fails to address the institutional and structural features which set the agenda for individual human lives. The human ecology of environmental destruction cannot ignore the role of corporate actors such as banks, national governments, transnational corporations, trade unions and so on. These agents interact with each other in various ways and also have an internal structure - perhaps akin to Arthur Koestler's conception of the holarchy - which enables people working within them to avoid taking responsibility for policies that have damaging environmental consequences. As far as thesis (2) is concerned, Rolston's work shares common features with Arne Naess's deep ecology and Aldo Leopold's land ethic. All of these writers draw, perhaps unconsciously, on a tradition of sporting elitism associated with the Great White Hunter. One variety of this tradition combines elitism with a form of Puritanism

KEYWORDS: environmental conflict, puritanism, poverty, elitism, human ecology, Rolston

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles:

A Humean Argument for the Land Ethic? Y.S. Lo

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