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Social Movements

Social Movements

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Published by: jmtrombley on Dec 16, 2009
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12/15/2012

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Jeremy TrombleyEnvironmental AnthropologyFinal Paper 
Grounding Environmentalism Through Place-Based Social Movements
As I write this
,
the World's leaders are gathering in Copenhagen
,
Denmark to negotiate asolution to one of the biggest problems to face humanity
.
They are not seeking an end to themany social ills that plague our world such as war 
,
poverty
,
hunger and disease
,
though manyof those will play a role; they are trying to find ways to address the most far reaching and potentially devastating environmental problem we have seen
,
Global Climate Change
.
Rarelyhas the world been at once so united and so torn apart by an issue
.
Wealthy countries are tryingto find a way to continue the behavior that has brought us here in the first place – burning fossilfuels to foster economic growth – and poorer countries want to push ahead with growing their own economies because they feel left behind
.
There is an inequality of relations that many people claim constitutes an environmental debt owed to poor nations
.
The question is
,
how canthe wealthy nations pay that debt while maintaining their own prosperity?Along with the World leaders have gathered millions of protestors
,
both withinCopenhagen and around the world
.
These groups are demanding a real solution
,
not a band aidor green-washed fix like the cap and trade system that's being offered in the US
.
Many of themclaim that the carbon reductions promised don't amount to enough to reverse the severe effectsof climate change
.
Some of these activists represent marginalized groups from around theworld – those that have ben left out of the prosperity of the world system
,
who will be mostPage 1
 
affected by the effects of climate change
,
and who will likely bear most of the costs of anysolutions
.
These groups seek to have their voices heard among all of the talk 
.
They want toensure that their ways of life will be preserved
,
and that the World leaders will not forget aboutthem as they so often have in the past
.
Climate change is the first environmental issue that affects all of humanity on a globalscale
,
and the nations of the world are coming together to find a global solution
.
However 
,
allof the solutions being proposed fall into a Western Modernist framework 
,
emphasizinggovernment regulation
,
technological advances and market based approaches – the same kindof thinking and behavior that brought us here in the first place
.
The question is
,
can the samekind of thinking ever give us a real solution? Perhaps we need to be looking for alternatives tothe Modernist solutions
.
Such alternatives are beginning to emerge in the margins of worldsystem; alternatives which may provide more effective
,
and more equitable solutions to theenvironmental threat than the people in Copenhagen could ever hope to achieve
.
 Many scholars claim that we are currently in a stage of Late Modernity
,
where
,
despitethe efforts of critical analysis and the rising voices of subaltern groups
,
the dominant nations of the world are attempting to continue the Modernist project (Giddens 1991)
.
This system
,
basedon a disembedded desire for endless progress and endless growth
,
is responsible for many of the environmental and social problems that we face
.
It is important
,
therefore
,
to situateModernity in its historical conditions in order to understand where it came from
,
how we got toour current position in the world system and what we can do to fix the problems with which weare faced
.
 Page 2
 
Modernity emerged in Europe in the 17
th
and 18
th
centuries
,
but it's roots extend back tothe 15
th
century in the beginning of the Age of Exploration
,
the growth of the nation-state andthe colonization of the New World (Escobar 2004)
.
Those who benefitted most from thisexpansion were those who could disconnect themselves from social and ecological ties
;
thosewho could travel to distant regions
,
exploit the resources and people there and return to Europe
,
the global center 
,
to trade the fruits of those resources
.
Buckminster Fuller called them theGreat Pirates
,
and many of them were just that (Fuller 1982)
.
Sir Francis Drake
,
for example
,
is regarded either as a pirate who robbed and pillaged the seas or as a national hero who brought great wealth to the British empire
.
These individuals became the new global elite
,
supplanting the aristocracy that had ruled before them
,
often through violent revolutions thatclaimed to be in the name of “the people
.
Once taking power 
,
however 
,
they oftendemonstrated their commitment to the people by suppressing further revolutionary tendencies
.
 It was from this crucible that Modernity emerged as a philosophical
,
social and culturalsystem
.
Philosophically
,
it positioned Man as the center of all knowledge and rationality as thefoundation for knowing
.
Sociologically
,
it was disembedded from local context as relations of distance overtook face-to-face relationships
.
Culturally
,
it valued expert knowledge and promoted individualism
,
freedom and equality utilizing a language of rights (Escobar 2004)
.
The exploitative relations which gave rise to this system were retroactively naturalized by projecting an image of all Others as inferior and in need of guidance from technocratic experts
.
Furthermore
,
these same exploitative relations
,
previously defined by distance
,
were thenintrojected into relations of proximity by abstracting and disembedding people and thePage 3

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