Foster, John The Sustainability Mirage, 2008 Earthscan ISBN 978-1-84407-535-5 pbk, 170pp £15 REVIEW follows
REVIEW of The Sustainability Mirage by John Foster
Illusion and Reality in the Coming War on Climate Change
This thoughtful, original study gives insight into the dominant orthodoxies about climate change and sustainable development. Foster argues that present approaches trap societies into inaction.
Although sustainable development thinking is now accepted across political parties, its deal between present and future will always collapse under pressure of the ‘now’ because the needs of the present always win out. This leads to moveable targets and action that falls short of what is really needed. It is a mirage of warm words, politicians’ promises, international pledges and distant targets: all these constitute “the politics of never getting there.”
Challenging glib environmentalisms of our day Foster encourages us to engage with a deeper experience. Thus we must acknowledge the ultimate meaning of our individual lives to grasp the nature of the gathering threat to the earth. The planet does not negotiate. We have to adopt an active stance in the present, rising to the carbon challenge now, not trying to micro-manage the longer term.
Three different motivations for sustainability that do focus on the present are: Harmony with Nature, Climate Justice, and Quality of Life. Yet all of these can be subject to the mirage effect, confusing motivation and sustainability in ways too accidental, too contingent for us to be able to rely on them in the coming crisis. He proposes an alternative account encompassing all three. He defines this as deep sustainability, based on sensitivity towards the glorious profusion of wider life.
The U.N. climate conference in December in Copenhagen may be the last chance to agree large enough cuts in carbon emission to protect earthly life. We need to employ all our human resources to stop the destructive carbon emissions, and change our lifestyles that are laying waste to the planet. Foster asks that we each commit to “whatever it takes”, cooperating across the nations to protect the earth.
by Frances Morgan