This is an important book and I hope it will be widely read by people who claim that they think about social development and what tomorrow might look like. Through Will’s book we get both an inside/personal perspective and an outside perspective at the same time. It is very seldom authors can bring themselves in and out of the story in a way that helps the narrative instead of putting themselves first. My guess is that Will’s passion to understand the situation is larger than his ego (something that I hardly ever see in journalists writing books, and Will even discusses his dual, or even triple, nature as a human being, journalist and activist).
I many ways I would have liked to see a more “academic” book where the links between the McCarthy era and the current era was discussed in more detail, but maybe that is a future book after the current witch-hunt is over? In the same way as many organizations behind the tobacco lobby have re-emerged as climate skeptics it would be interesting to see more concrete examples of patterns and political links rather than mainly anecdotal discussions.
One interesting thing that seldom is discussed is that much of this new radical thinking described in the book and that is now starting to challenge the mainstream was developed during the 80’s when the neoliberal/neoconservative agenda with Regan/Thatcherism as figure heads dominated much of the public discussion. Building on deep-ecology, developed by Naess and other thinkers, groups begun to take action against oppression against life and nature.
The fact that a new agenda was formed outside existing organizations and that almost no organizations that today "represent" animals and nature relate to "a deep green agenda" should be discussed more. In fact most animal rights groups, environmental groups, feminist groups, etc are only partly inspired by the post-industrial thinking, and most of the large organization today are more focused on a simplistic perspective and this simplicity seem to grow increasingly stronger.
Today most mainstream groups mainly focus on incremental improvements in existing systems, but even more problematic is that they use and develop tools that are fundamentally destructive like offsetting, ecosystem services, ranking of “best companies” in fundamentally unsustainable sectors, etc.
These groups often try to put a monetary price on things that clearly should be kept outside a speculative economy. Such tools can, in the best case, be used to challenge the current systems, but is often promoted as solutions without any understanding of the broader implications.
The willingness since the 80’s among elected politicians to hand over almost everything to large for-profit companies and surrender any vision about the future have frustrated many. Now almost 30 years later there is still no new narrative and many policy makers are even more lost today than they where back in the 80’s. The fact that GDP and the financial sector are still in the center of the public debate is both sad and surprising. GDP/financial sector are old tools that can be used for good, but they easily turn destructive without a a broader context and direction.
Maybe this sense of loss, when it comes to a vision of the future, is the underlying factor that radical environmental and animal right activists are labeled terrorists? These activists represent something that has value and is worth fighting for (beyond a financial return) and that can guide the creation of a society that a growing number of people want to help realize.
In the same way as religious fanatics represent values from a time we have left behind (hopefully) the environmental and animal right groups represent both a radical departure from the current industrial economy, and a natural ethical continuation of a sphere of ethics/empathy that not only include all different living human beings, but also other living beings, nature and future generations.
The book is interesting as it describes how our current society reacts with strong emotions regarding those with values that cannot be bought and are difficult to discipline with ordinary tools. People that do not consume their way to happiness and that challenge the very basic assumptions that most institutions are built on (the right to treat animals in any way we want, to see nature as something that we should tame/use as we like, that more consumption is good, etc) are a major threat.
The fact that the labeling of groups fighting for an expansion of the ethical sphere is so little discussed is strange as it should have lawyers and journalists crawling all over it as it is about freedom of speech as well as the right to publish sensitive information and protect sources.
The lack of discussion, especially among academics and investigative journalists when it comes to the right to create a world based on values that is taking the current trend of expanding the ethical sphere, is something that should be explored further.
Beside being a really well written and interesting book, Will also has a webpage that is well worth visiting: http://www.greenisthenewred.com/