Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Unsustainable sustainability?

In a post contemplating the dynamics of a paradigmatic political shift from contemporary left vs. right to localist vs. globalist, Steve Sailer remarks that the buzz phrase "sustainable", while favored by crunchy hipsters more than those identifying as politically conservative, reflects a deeply conservative impulse. An article in Slate illustrates awareness of this shifting, and it's probably less inchoate than it feels:
As I look across Europe I don't know what to call the wave of discontent, as most of the parties on the outlying right or left have more in common with one another right now than they do with anyone in the center. Generally speaking they are anti-European, anti-globalization, and anti-immigration. Their leaders, in the words of a French friend, want to "withdraw from the world." They don't like their multiethnic capital cities or their open borders, and they don't care for multinational companies or multilateral institutions.
I won't try to add anything more to that other than to say that I've bounced between labeling myself as an "empirical paleoconservative" and a "localist" for several years now, and that it is the federalist aspects of libertarianism that appeal most to me.

The primary reason I bring this all up, though, is because of a perceived drop off in the use of terms like "sustainable". I remember hearing it and other phrases like it, such as "green policies" and "environmentalism", more when I was in high school and in college than I do now. Maybe it's a shift in personal environment (heh), and the economic malaise probably has something to do with it as well, as it's no secret that relatively abstract concerns like those dealing with the state of the physical environment are the first ones pushed to the back burner when money starts getting tight.

Using Google's Ngram viewer, the frequency of "sustainable", "green policies", and "environmentalism", respectively, in English language books published from 1950 through 2008:

The last few recessional years aren't included as 2008 is the most recent year for which there are data, so the decline happened before we collectively realized that we were considerably poorer than we thought we were. The dips aren't quite nosedives and might just be decadal blips in what turns out to be a long-run cycle towards growing environmental emphasis at the societal level. The previous focus on global warming (red) that has since morphed into the more all encompassing climate change (blue) hasn't abated, for instance:

 Over the long-long run, demographics may relegate such faggy concerns to history's dustbin.


Lexus Liberal said...

Get with the program, environmental sustainability is late 90s now the key terms are "green initiatives" and "eco friendly". Plugging these terms into Google Ngram Viewer will prove that environmentalism is still growing exponentially.

Audacious Epigone said...

Touche! Their frequencies are quite a bit lower than the keywords I used, even at the high end, but they're not showing any sign of slowing down.

sykes.1 said...

"environmentalism is still growing exponentially"

Truly scary. I taught environmental engineering and science for 37 years. Repeatedly over those years, I had to warn my students that environmentalism was part of the Romantic reaction against the Enlightenment. It is a New Age superstition, both anti-rational and anti-science. Moreover, it is an aggressive, intolerant, totalitarian ideology. The most successful green party with the most progressive and detailed program and accomplishments was the NASDAP.