The Environmentalism of the Poor
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The Environmentalism of the Poor

A Study of Ecological Conflicts and Valuation

Joan Martinez-Alier

The Environmentalism of the Poor has the explicit intention of helping to establish two emerging fields of study – political ecology and ecological economics – whilst also investigating the relations between them.
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Chapter 1: Currents of Environmentalism

Joan Martinez-Alier


This is a book about the growth of the environmental movement, an explosion of activism that recalls the beginning of the socialist movement and the First International, almost a century and a half ago. This time, in the networks society (as Manuel Castells calls it), there is no executive committee. The environmental movement grows in reaction to economic growth. Not all environmentalists are against economic growth. Some might even be favourable to it because of the technological promises it carries. Indeed, not all environmentalists think and act alike. I separate here three main intertwined clusters in the environmental movement: the ‘cult of wilderness’, the ‘gospel of eco-efficiency’ and the ‘environmentalism of the poor’, which are as channels of a single river, branches of a big tree, or varieties of the same crop (Guha and Martinez-Alier, 1999, 2000). They have a lot in common, and all three are opposed by anti-environmentalists or despised or neglected by them. An explanation of the main clusters of environmentalism is now provided, which will stress the differences among them. One distinctive trait of each of them, emphasized here, is its relation to different environmental sciences. Their relations to feminism, or to state power, or religion, or business interests, or other social movements, are not less important as defining features. THE CULT OF WILDERNESS Chronologically, and also in terms of self-awareness and organization, the first current is the defence of immaculate Nature, the love of old-growth forests and wild rivers, the ‘cult...

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