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It’s the Nature of History

None of us are oblivious to the state of our environment. Unless you are some sort of Holocaust-denying, apocalypse-believing mad woman, it’s generally accepted that global warming is a thing. That’s not to say that our treatment of the environment is justifiable. Nor is it to say that it is not a grave issue in itself. Rather, concern for the environment existed even before Al Gore, and his grandparents for that matter. Indeed, policies that went beyond the agreed goal to ‘not fuck any more shit up’ have existed, seemingly, for quite a while now.

The environmental movement is hardly new. Concern for the future of the climate and forest creatures didn’t manifest from an LSD vision in the 1960s. Environmentalism was in fact a product of the very ‘man’ that hippies so despised.

Between 1890 and the Great Depression (1930s–1940s for those of you playing at home), people began to see the world as no longer an inexhaustible supplier of resources. In the 1890s, as part of Britain’s colonial project in North America, India and South Africa, Britain sent scientists and physicians to recently colonised islands to study the deforestation and climate change already occurring. The environment was looked at with colonising in mind, with preserving it necessary in order to continue ruling. Debate surrounding deforestation was even seen under Charles II in England in 1669 and Louis XIV of France.

Putting the history of Western greed and civilisation aside for a moment, there have existed philosophies and spiritual beliefs that see the land not as something we just exist on, but rather something we have a privilege to co-exist with. In ancient Greece, Herodotus “believed works like bridges and canals demonstrated an overarching human pride that might call forth punishment from the Gods”. This is not dissimilar to the spiritual bond Māori feel with Papatūānuku and the air as taonga derived from Ranginui.

Over time, each era has put its own imprint on environmentalism. Although in New Zealand, many would identify our environmental quest with the Green Party and the knock-on effect of Earth Day/anti-nuclear sentiment in the United States, some themes have continued.  I suppose what I’m saying is that if even Louis XIV cared about the trees, and his country LITERALLY REVOLTED against him, BP should probably get that oil out of the Gulf of Mexico already.

 

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