Within environmental political theory, one reason why it has failed to gain much traction is because the dominant-Western views nature as a resource to be exploited. In addition, current economic models sit upon a foundation that expects infinite growth and prosperity; this of course disregards long-term population growth and ecological damage.
While a lot of early environmental theory has its roots in religious and spiritual traditions, it has only gained traction within the last century in light of industrialization and our modern environmental crises, which were before inconceivable (and still are inconceivable to many minds). Even so, the role of environmental political theory in our public discourse is useful because it synthesizes the traditional questions of
- “How should we live in community with one another?” (Political Theory)
- “How can we do this in a just/righteous way for each party?” (Justice)
- “How should we allocate and organize resources?” (Economic Theory)
- “What rights and obligations do we hold to one another?” (Theory of Rights)
- “Should ‘Nature’ be treated as a part of ‘community’?”
- “Are we a part of Nature or are we removed? How does this affect the way in which we organize ourselves?”
- “How does the way in which we organize resources affect the environment and how do those effects affect our notion of personal rights?”
(And the list questions go on and on and on forming a great web that stirs sighs in anyone trying to unravel it all.)
Yet as we are having to revise our theoretical approaches to man-as-creature-in-nature there is a new element rearing its head: man-in-the-internet-age. Or, to put it more precisely: we are in dire need of political theory that confronts man-as-creature-in-nature-in-the-internet-age.
I understand that this is all very cursory and sloppy, but upon doing some more research about Wikileaks, which seems to make headlines every week, I have realized that there is very little concrete, academic political theory addressing it. Though there have always been theories regarding one’s privacy (or not) in community, the rights of the state when engaging foreign nations, public rights on private networks, freedom of speech, and so on, we are standing witness to a changing world. Globalization and the communication revolution, which continues to whir all around us, are dramatically changing the paradigm of old and is raising serious questions about how we organize ourselves in the new world.