Why we need a “Bright Green” culture
Despite the environmental and social chaos that many face worldwide, there are some reasons to be hopeful. The climate strikes, originally organised in desperation by children, are being increasingly joined by unions and adults. Worldwide grassroots opposition to both government inaction and blockading new infrastructure grows more and more.
Here in the UK, both the Labour and Green parties are developing robust policies for tackling the climate crisis and other environmental problems. This is made even more significant by the increase in support for environmental action by trade unions across UK nations. Despite the criminal inaction of the current government, it seems that public opinion and perception is shifting.
Put short, there is perhaps the biggest population of self-described “environmentalists” than ever before in history. And a number of them are starting to walk the walk.
Turning more people green
So why at this key juncture should we start writing about environmental culture in its many and varied forms? That is a question I want to attempt to answer below.
Environmental problems and their related politics, economics, and philosophies are daunting to say the least. And writings about them have proliferated, as publishers recognise the public hunger to understand our current crises. Someone looking to read more about fast fashion, or the Green New Deal would be spoilt for choice, and likely confused about where to begin.
In response to this proliferation of new green cultural forms, we hope to provide some guidance about where one can start learning about environmental issues, whether it be plastics, pesticides or pollutants.
By providing this guidance we hope that many will come to learn and become more active in environmental activism and work.
Engaging the arts
Environmentalism has also been historically dominated by those who focus on technical and scientific knowledge at the cost of all other forms of understanding. This has alienated many from a non-scientific background, who feel they cannot contribute to the protection of the environment.
Increasingly we are seeing a rejection of this dynamic towards new forms of environmental engagement by artists, historians and other cultural actors. Understanding that our environmental crisis requires systemic change means welcoming this cross-background production of work.
So, the other reason we need to write about and engage with environmental culture is to provide another space for those from a non-scientific background to engage with activism and thought. To further allow all to become active in the movement, and help existing contributions grow.
Helping to build a left-green cultural hegemony
The idea of cultural hegemony, of the promotion of accepted ways of thinking about the world, has key relevance to the task of those engaged in environmental culture.
Ideas like sustainable development and green growth have dominated discourses and understandings of our problems, to some’s joy and other’s sadness. Those engaged in questions of environmental justice have been agitating for years to challenge these concepts as applied and abused. Many demand a reorientation away from consumer solutions, towards environmental justice and towards system change as the underlying cultural concept behind environmental movements.
These ideas themselves are heavily contested. But the left has made some effort across the world to shift the perception of our crises. In rejecting the economic orthodoxy that has ruled since the second half of the 20th Century, there is increasing support for a return to common ownership and the public as a beneficial space. Challenges have been made to a political and economic system which desires profit and growth at the cost of healthcare, the planet, and equality.
However, many have become complacent in assuming that being green and desiring the protection of the environment is solely progressive territory. Not only does environmentalism have its own history of racism and erasure, but it remains a cloak for many who express nationalistic and socially regressive views.
Environmental culture cannot be politically or socially neutral. It must reckon with and acknowledge the past failures of the environmental movement, and the erasure of frontline activists from marginalised and global south communities. It must also acknowledge the cultural link between environmental problems and capitalism, colonialism, and patriarchy.
Thus, not only do we engage with green culture to gain and educate allies, but to fight for the promotion of intersectional, left wing, green thought. We write on these issues so that the hegemonic ideas of our day are based on a respect for people and nature and the recognition and righting of historic injustice.
As a result, there will be more on the site around environmental arts and culture. This will come through a number of forms; reviews, interviews, reading lists and more. Our forms are not limited, and our email is open for suggestions and for people interested in writing on these topics.
Whether you would like to write one piece, many, or just tell us what you are interested in, we would love to hear from you.
You can apply to become a regular contributor for our Culture Section here.