Trickle-Down Environmentalism versus Ecosystemic Empathy
A Meditation on the Occasion of the World Social Forum
28 & 29 January 2003
Porto Alegre, Brazil
“No, the waters and the mountains do not belong to the mens. But how do we tell that to Bush and Blair?”
I’m at the Fórum Social Mundial and have no answer for the Brazilian musician who earnestly poses that question after admiring the Alice Walker quotation on my t-shirt. How indeed, I wonder, when even the people who are talking back to Bush and Blair do not understand that basic fact.
These days, most progressive environmentalists endorse what might be called the ‘trickle-down’ theory of environmental justice. Just as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have asserted that the self-interested choices of rich people ultimately help all of the other economic classes, today’s global justice advocates assert that the self-interested choices of “the people” will ultimately help all of the other species on earth. Both theories amount to little more than wishful thinking.