Earth Day: A grassroots counter-hegemonic movement?

The human interaction with the land is a very complex and varying one.  As we recently read in Glen Coulthards’ “Place Against Empire: Understanding Indigenous Anti-Colonialism” the relationship to the environment and land is very different to varying cultural groups. For example, the Indigenous people of Canada feel a counter-hegemonic symbiotic relationship with the land and nature. They do not believe in exploiting it for the benefit of human consumption which is exactly what the hegemonic capitalistic economy does.  The hegemonic system is that of individualism and profits where they benefit from the land. It is a one-way relationship between humans and the environment in this system.  Althusser would say that this is a subjugated knowledge from the dominant discourse that was created by the Western elites who look at the market as the indicator of a healthy society rather than the land itself.

Earth Day was originally created in the United States, a strong Western power. It was the first environmental assessment by the State Department during Earth Day 1997. This assessment ignored domestic roots of the global problem of environmental security (“The Environmental Security Trap”- Ken Conca 42). Al Gore wrote the forward to this assessment and said that is was strategic for the United States to address environmental problems to create worldwide stability (42).  Conca criticizes this report by saying “the security frame [calling it ‘environmental security’] distorts the true problem, blurs underlying responsibility, and produces coercive policy response” (42). It blames the impoverished third world countries for the current environmental problems and displaces the blame from the ‘industrialized’ countries making these claims even though “the North remains responsible for two-thirds to three-fourths of all major pollutants […]” and resources from the South feed the excessive consumption of the North (42).

This all ties back to Marxism and specifically Gramscianism thought about class relations and hegemonic power. Environmental issues are very much a struggle at the cultural level.  It is also changed here by grassroots groups and those marginalized peoples that feel the major repercussions of the consequences of unsustainable environmental practices.  They create movements that change the people’s perspective on environmental issues. As Earth Day has spread and become more of a movement by different environmental groups, the local level is starting to be recognized and trying to change the dominant discourse. It is a day that is working to get the communities involved in environmental activism and spreading knowledge throughout. Through more research I will try and figure out if this grassroots change is really happening and to what extent.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply