Issue #199

Alive in the sunshine

There’s no way toward a sustainable future without tackling environmentalism’s old stumbling blocks: consumption and jobs. And the way to do that is through a universal basic income.

For as long as the environment has existed, it’s been in crisis. Nature has always been a focus of human thought and action, of course, but it wasn’t until pesticides and pollution started clouding the horizon that something called “the environment” emerged as a matter of public concern. In 1960s and 1970s America, dystopian images provoked anxiety about the costs of unprecedented prosperity: smog thick enough to hide skylines from view, waste seeping into suburban backyards, rivers so polluted they burst into flames, cars lined up at gas stations amid shortages, chemical weapons that could defoliate entire forests. Economists and ecologists alike forecasted doom, warning that humanity was running up against natural limits to growth, extinction crises, and population explosions. But the apocalypse didn’t happen. The threat that the environment seemingly posed to economic growth and human well-being faded from view; relieved to have vanquished the environmental foe, many rushed to declare themselves its friends instead. Four decades later, everyone’s an environmentalist — and yet the environment appears to be in worse shape than ever. Alyssa Battistoni, Jacobin Magazine, Jan.-Feb. 2014.

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