For dark green environmentalists, there is no short cut to power and influence through compromise. They believe that green values can only be incorporated into a policy making system which emerges after a paradigm shift. Many do not have confidence in the sort of gradual reform espoused by light green environmentalists. In an open letter to the environment movement some years ago, Murray Bookchin (pictured) exhorted:
The fear of “isolation”, of “futility”, of “ineffectiveness” yields a new kind of isolation, futility and ineffectiveness, namely, a complete surrender of one’s most basic ideals and goals. “Power” is gained at the cost of losing the only power we really have had that can change this insane society - our moral integrity, our ideals, and our principles. This may be a festive occasion for careerists who have used the ecological issue to advance their stardom and personal fortunes; it would become the obituary of a movement that has, latent within itself, the ideals of a new world in which masses become individuals and natural resources become nature, both to be respected for their uniqueness and spirituality.
Indeed the power of environmentalists in the existing socio-economic system, particularly the power they have to grant green credentials, seems particularly ephemeral. It waxes and wains according to how important a green image is to the government or to industry. In times of recession, economic priorities will seem to be dominant, then this bargaining power is significantly reduced.
Taking part in the power politics and deal making with government has the effect of entrenching environmental groups, in the minds of politicians, as yet another lobby group which is protecting its own interests and needs to be balanced against other lobby groups. In such a context, the bargaining power of the environmentalists as a lobby group is of utmost importance. The willingness to compromise and do trade offs in return for influence and favourable decisions promotes such a view which is anathema to dark greens who believe politicians should protect the environment because it is the right thing to do.
For the dark greens deal making raises fundamental ethical questions. For them an environmental organisation does not have the right, no matter how many people it might represent, to prioritise the environment and agree to trade-offs that inevitably lead to some environmental sacrifices. Here differences in paradigms become paramount. Within the dominant paradigm, the environment is a resource and those who subscribe to it believe it is acceptable to compromise in order to save the most valuable areas. For deep ecologists, the environment has intrinsic value and so trade-offs have no place.
For the US environmentalists who opposed Earth Day 1990, the alignment of some environmentalists with corporate and government interests meant that Earth Day tended to gloss over the deeper issues, such as the way social institutions and the economic system have contributed to environmental problems. They argued:
The polluters would have us believe that we are all just common travellers on ‘Spaceship Earth,’ when in fact a few of them are at the controls and the rest of us are choking on their exhaust.