Too often those of us that consider ourselves to be part of the progressive movement, are too easily satisfied by feeling good. Feeling good is part being right, meaning that we feel we are speaking the truth, and part feeling that we are on the correct moral side of an argument.
But progress is a description that includes movement, and surely is really measured in terms of the ability to be effective in moving forward. Feeling good is a stationary state of affairs, the more fundamental question is how do we move forward? If we know the truth and we know the correct moral side of an argument, how do we then move forward to making that a reality? The true measure of a progressive should be the efficacy of the effort to progress.
The greatest challenge to progress is diversion, meaning either the inefficacy of the effort due to complications, or erosion of the effort as a result of unintended consequences. The surest way to minimise complications and unintended consequences is to work hard to discern the most basic, natural components of the matter at hand. Following the contours of reality and behaviour that have been handed to us by nature, allows us to leverage our inheritance to minimise the weakness of our conscious minds.
In addressing ourselves to our environmental problems, we can easily recognise that the vast bulk of these problems stem from our economic activity. And our economy is simply an output of our society, so if we really wish to address the environmental problems we must start with social solutions. Talking about our environmental problems with a firm grasp of the truths behind them, and firmly situated on the good moral side of the argument, is only a starting position. To actually affect progress, to bring about change, we have to move forward from that position, and then the question arises as to what the most effective actions will be. Following the logic of environment-economy-society, the most effective actions will be to make changes to our society, to increase the basic personal security of the individuals that make up our society, and through that process allow the natural consequences to flow into our economy, and therefrom to reduce our impact on our environment.
True progressives, truly “deep green” people, will focus on the changes we can make to the structure and organisation of human society, paying careful attention to the natural contours of our humanity bequeathed to us by our evolution. This hard truth, that environmentalists must address themselves to social issues in order to make progress on the environment, is already well recognised by the elders of the environmental movement (e.g. Speth & Porritt) and we must pick up the banner where it has been left to us to make progress in time.