Tania Charles SHS AMC

Is environmentalism a form of western elitism?

Over time, the world has become more and more aware of the need to protect the planet. Saving our environment is now a priority. But it is also a huge challenge since our ways of life completely depend on bad habits that have a direct influence on the environment. Therefore, we have tried to create alternatives and laws that would make everyone feel more concerned. Yet, this would not be enough if it was applied to one country only. That is why the most influential states decided to make a treaty which was to be adopted by as many countries as possible. This is called the Kyoto protocol and it aims at forcing everyone into reducing their gas emissions and creating new mechanisms respecting the environment. However, their is still one key country that has refused to sign the protocol, namely the United States. If the most influential state refuses to make efforts, how can we expect anyone to? Then, is not environmentalism a way of claiming some Western supremacy?

From the moment environment issues became a priority, well developed states such as France, Great Britain or The United States have put pressure on countries such as India or China. Because these countries are developing quickly, their economic transition necessarily has consequences on the planet. Moreover, India and China are the two most populated countries in the world. And more people obviously means more production, more consumption and more waste. However, western states’ attitudes can be seen as going too far. One cannot force others into making efforts if they do nothing in return. Furthermore, the USA is one of the places in the world where consumption is the highest even though the population is quite low for a considerably wide country. And what is worse is that Western well developed economies also tend to send their polluting industries in places such as India or China. That way, production is cheaper but it is above all an excellent way of circumventing the laws, of avoiding environment-friendly mechanisms at home or paying taxes while not respecting anti-pollution laws. Take for instance our textile industries. They have often been denounced for the toxic elements they empty in India’s rivers. Thus, it is obviously wrong to accuse developing countries of caring more about reducing their poverty rates rather than preserving the planet: we have our part of responsibility in it. Especially if on the other side, this criticism comes from states whose single obsession seems to be curbing public expenditures. And last but not least, one must not forget that when Western countries were in their great development phase, back in the 19th century, they polluted the planet more than ever. So, we can hope that once their economies are stabilized, developing countries will find their own ways of regulating their emissions properly.

Although, if we look on the bright side, we may consider that this Western attitude –making everyone feel more committed to the protection of the lanet –is based on a good intention. True we should take our responsibilities more seriously because it does not help if one expect things to work out naturally. Still, if the west came up with solutions to heal the planet and applies them locally, then developing regions would certainly try and set them too. So, it might look a little preposterous to give moral lessons when Western countries themselves are far from being perfect but if we find solutions to associate an increasing economy and greater care for the environment, then it is right to hype it and attempt to influence the East. However, if we want to heighten this political and economic clout, we have to be as fully committed as possible to the preservation of the planet or else we will only be considered as pretentious and elitist countries and no one will listen. Maybe the best example we have today is to be found in Scandinavian countries such as Sweden. There, people can make dramatic economies thanks to new ways of heating their homes and sorting garbage. They found out a new type of cheaper and eco-friendly fuel for cars made from waste. These are probably solutions for the future of everybody and it could help countries to develop their economies.

Eventually, we can probably say that environmentalism today really is a form of Western elitism because there are not enough efforts made to look for solutions in Europe or Northern America. Yet, there is noticeable progress in some places such as Sweden. Everyday, people make out new plans to change our ways of interacting with our planet. And it is only when serious solutions are applied to our Western economies that we can dare giving lessons to the rest of the world. Saving our environment should be a priority for everyone of us.