Cultural Roots of the Eco Crisis

In my book DEEP GREEN, published in 2017, I called out North American consumer culture as the culprit of ecosystem degradation and social/economic injustice on this planet. And, I called on my fellow North Americans as being the ones who could lead the change.

Now, from my present-day perspective, with an increased awareness of systemic racism, I realize that what I meant, specifically, was that Anglo-European North American culture is the prime culprit of ecosystem degradation and social/economic misery on this planet. It is the dominance of AngloEuroNorthAmerican culture that has caused our human footprint to be so outsized as to render us capable of destroying entire ecosystems and extinguishing human life on this planet (taking who knows how many other species with us).

Speaking as a person of Anglo-European descent, I say the above not in the spirit of woeful self-flagellation, nor performative penitence. Rather, I say it because WE (the same culture that started it) CAN FIX IT. Our culture has spread all over the world. Now, by our deliberate choice, we can spread a culture of deep eco-awareness and deep compassion, which will come to underlie more and more of our daily choices.

Note, this is nothing personal — in the sense that it’s not about beating up individual AngloEuroNorthAmerican folks. And, it’s not even about beating up AngloEuroNorthAmerican culture. It’s about recognizing where our culture has taken a wrong turn away from connection with nature and with fellow beings, and then each doing our part to help shift that culture back to nature-connectedness. And THAT is where it gets personal in a GOOD way.

Because my book is addressed to AngloEuroNorthAmericans as the ones who need to lead the change, does that mean I am seeking to ignore Black readers, or other people of color who might read my book? No way!

To any Black person or other person of color who has read my book or followed my blog, or has found this post: I am truly honored that you are here, and I hope you will find my writings helpful to you in achieving your personal and planetary goals.

By addressing my book to my fellow AngloEuroNorthAmericans (“AENA” for short?), I am simply acknowledging that MY culture (white North American) started the problem, whereas Black and indigenous cultures were originally sustainable, earth-centered, & regenerative, before the AENA influence colonized them and took hold. And, because of the political, social, and economic oppression wrought by systemic racism, I am in no moral position to tell people of color they need to reduce their eco footprint.

That said, if you are a person of color who has arrived here because you want to find out more about how your seemingly small daily choices as a citizen/consumer can help the planet (while also benefiting you personally), then I am thrilled to welcome you, and will support your quest in any way I can. (And by the way, fellow white people take note: Numerous research studies have shown that there is a significantly higher percentage of Black people and other people of color in the USA who are concerned about the environment, than white people who are. Not surprising when we consider that communities of color tend to be disproportionately affected by pollution and other environmental issues.)

This post is a work-in-progress. I’m still finding my voice to speak up about this thing called systemic racism that needs to be spoken up about, as a first step to rooting it out. And at the same time, noticing how and where stepping up my anti-racist study and practice can intersect with my environmental activism; my efforts to spark a “grassroots green mobilization.”

Update: The very useful term I’ve learned for this synthetic, extractive culture that has spread its damaging influence across the planet, is “colonizer culture.” As in colonialism. And the appropriate corrective effort is to de-colonize. De-colonization movements are gathering momentum all over the world, in every sphere.

Anti-racist study resources: Special thanks to Diversity and Resiliency Institute of El Paso for its Anti-Racism Training webinar. And to Robin DiAngelo for her book White Fragility (a book that has become a bestseller, even edging out a blockbuster pop-fiction title — something that gives me renewed hope for humanity). And to countless bloggers and other writers of African or other indigenous descent who have done the work of shining a light on systemic racism, which white privilege might otherwise allow us AENA folks to avoid ever acknowledging. Two of the writer-activists who have expanded my mind the most are Ta-Nehisi Coates and Ally Henny. All of these resources and thought-leaders have helped me become more aware of systemic racism, and how to address it in the world and in myself.