Like France’s parks, all of Nature needs our constant care, our undivided attention, our costly instruments, our hundreds of thousands of scientists, our huge institutions, our careful funding. But though we have Nature, and we have nurture, we don’t know what it would mean for Nature itself to be nurtured.7
The word “environmentalism” thus designates this turning point in history when the unwanted consequences are suddenly considered to be such a monstrosity that the only logical step appears to be to abstain and repent: “We should not have committed so many crimes; now we should be good and limit ourselves.” Or at least this is what people felt and thought before the breakthrough, at the time when there was still an “environment.”
But what is the breakthrough itself then? If I am right, the breakthrough involves no longer seeing a contradiction between the spirit of emancipation and its catastrophic outcomes, but accepting it as the normal duty of continuing to care for unwanted consequences, even if this means going further and further down into the imbroglios. Environmentalists say: “From now on we should limit ourselves.”
Postenvironmentalists exclaim: “From now on, we should stop flagellating ourselves and take up explicitly and seriously what we have been doing all along at an ever-increasing scale, namely, intervening, acting, wanting, caring.” For environmentalists, the return of unexpected consequences appears as a scandal (which it is for the modernist myth of mastery). For postenvironmentalists, the other, unintended consequences are part and parcel of any action.
[Boldface mine, BB.]