Does not bear close scrutiny

This is my review of Green Philosophy: How to Think Seriously About the Planet by Roger Scruton.

Green philosophy is clearly a neglected topic, but, articulate and learned though he is, Roger Scruton adds little to the debate. His central thesis is that the current focus on transnational organisations and multinational e.g. EU legislation to solve the problems of the environment is doomed to fail , since it ignores the fact that ordinary people will not be engaged by this, and will evade regulations in which in which they have no stake. This premise seems open to debate.

He rejects the international movements like "Green Peace" which tend to make environmentalism seem like a left-wing cause, and which often take steps that make people feel uncomfortable. Instead, recalling how Odysseus sacrificed much to return to his beloved home or "oikos", Scruton calls for a move to encourage people to take care of their homes, in the broadest sense, and work to maintain them through local associations. He cites the example of his father, who despite being left-wing, was so appalled by the top-down socialist-inspired destruction of the communities of the Manchester "slums" to make way for concrete tower blocks, that he formed a local society to preserve the environment of his new "oikos" of High Wycombe. However, all this seems a very parochial view and a very partial consideration of a complex issue. Even in this narrow field, Scruton does not address issues like "nimbyism" or the problems of maintaining communities which are subject to great change through, say immigration.

Scruton's points could be contained in one essay, leaving space for others on a philosophical "green approach" to, for instance, the development of scarce resources to meeting growing demand worldwide without triggering excessive pollution. He seems to feel that some of these problems are too vast for us to grasp, so the solution is to "start small" on a local scale that we can handle. This appears to be a cosy, complacent approach to major problems which may have implications for concepts like "individuality" so fundamental to western thought.

The main value of this book is to inspire debate, but it only scratches the surface. A series of essays by a range of philosophers, economists and related disciplines might have made for a more useful contribution to this important theme.

⭐⭐⭐ 3 Stars

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