livingissues: untangling some tough issues of the 20th century

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Green: Snapshot

“Green” issues are fashionable. Like denim, they have been for 40 years. They are the defining cause of the dissident Baby Boomer generation (that’s mum and dad to most people under 40). We interrogate some of the iconic green themes.

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Green issues have been with us since the very early 1970s. Friends of the Earth and other groups epitomized the new interest of radical youngsters in the environment and population time-bombs they were reading about.

There had been mainstream pressure for industrial clean-ups and for conservation of habitat for many years. But the new “green” label bundled up all sorts of issues, not all of them consistent with each other. Population control, animal welfare, anti-capitalism, anxieties about technology and globalization –  these were part of the mix.

When global warming hit the headlines in the late 1980s, the movement was given a shot in the arm. But the debate was now much richer, with may people determined to stuck up for old-fashioned economic growth, not least because it enables governments to enforce clean-ups and conservation.

Twenty years on, in 2008, we see worldwide economic growth producing high fuel and food prices, and pressure on habitats. Coupled with concerns that mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions are almost certain to rise dramatically at least for a while, there is renewed discussion about population growth. Is it inevitably destructive? Can it be slowed or halted – and if so how?

Old questions are being asked again. Does the world have a “carrying capacity”? Can man expand it?  How can poor people in the world be given access to their share of food and fuel? If they get their fair share, will that damage the planet? 

We look at these issues.

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