Environmental issues – not so ‘out there’

Earlier I was doing reading for a subject for my Masters. It was about the various forms of environmentalism as they had existed in the past, and in the then-present (1996). Among the last things in the given reading was a table of environmental ideas divided up by how wacky they were considered to be.

The ‘mainstream’ ideas were dull, and are now pretty much universally adopted, as were most of the ‘acceptable’ views. Those titled ‘mildly controversial’ were ideas that now, at least for me, are no longer remotely controversial. But what I was really amused by were the lists labelled ‘Still too way out’ and ‘abandoned’. While some of them may have been fruitcake territory at the time of writing, at least some are on the way back in. And it’s interesting, to say the least, to see what was considered crazy in 1996, but is now just accepted:

Severely frugal lifestyles

Okay, so this will never be popular per se, but I do think that with the GFC, people suddenly found value in frugality again. Maybe not enough to be considered severely frugal, but enough to stop seeking gratuitous, visible consumption. For example, a couple of weeks ago I was at a clothing swap at Carriageworks, in Newtown. It was pretty cool; the idea is you swap your old clothes for other peoples’, and no money changes hands – severely frugal, but also heavily environment-friendly. I would say there were at least a couple thousand people there, so maybe not so far out.


I laughed aloud when I saw veganism was considered seriously out there. Really? From a stat I read the other day, around 10% of Australians are now vegetarian and 1% are vegan. When one percent of the population is something, it’s no longer cutting edge or extreme. It may not be COMMON, but it’s clearly not ‘lunatic fringe out there’ any more, particularly since the development of Iku, a vegan foodchain. And do you know that Burgerlicious has not one, but two vegan burgers, and that their other two vegetarian burgers can be made vegan? I love those guys.


I personally feel macrobiotics is at least a little loopy. But maybe that’s just because I don’t understand it. The fact remains that there’s a whole macrofoods industry now, and takeout places that label macrofoods. In fact, Iku has a macroburger. It’s good.

Communal living

Well – still not popular, at least not in the way they mean. On the other hand, sharehouses are communal living, of sorts, and I don’t see those going out of style any time soon. If anything, they’re becoming more and more practical as housing gets more expensive.


Yeah, still not popular. But I also don’t think it deserves to be on a list of extreme, out there, abandoned ideas. I think most people don’t support it because they don’t think it’s viable. That doesn’t mean it’s a lunatic fringe idea – more like a principle to aim for: a world where we don’t necessarily have to go to war! I think there are a lot of people in Australia who are all over that.

Wage parity

I am disturbed that this is even on the list of controversial ideas. So disturbed.

Autonomous houses/Self-sufficiency

If anything, I think this particular wing is gaining more interest. Maybe not autonomous houses, but there are Australian suburbs now that are environmentally self-sufficient, and more low-impact communities in general. Has anyone heard of the EarthShip? They design houses with zero environmental imprint, run courses, sell plans for how to build them, and have a number of books as well as material on the internet. I’m not saying it’s mainstream, but it’s also not an abandoned idea, even if it’s considered a bit wacky. For my money, when the zombie apocalypse or climate change comes, self-sufficiency will be a great idea.

‘Small is necessary and the best possible ecological solution’

I don’t know about necessary, but I do know that a lot of people are very interested in local food, which to me defines the ‘small is beautiful’ movement. Marrickville Council also runs workshops fortnightly on no dig gardening, composting and worm farms, which says to me a lot of people are interested in leaving small footprints.

Recreational drugs

Why is this even ON this list? I don’t know what it has to do with environmentalism, but let’s face the fact that recreational drugs are never going out. Ever. People are too bored.

‘Mineral resources are scarce and about to run out’

Actually, I think we got a big serve of this just recently with the mining profits tax. What else is that about, other than our resources are not renewable, are limited, and should be shared?

The apocalypse is imminent

I told you – zombies.

China leads the way

Actually, I think you’ll find that now it does.

Georgia Claire

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