8. Environmentalism
After data have been collected, and concern has been voiced, the central question for environmentalists is 'So what? What is likely to be done to remedy environmental problems like the "destruction" of the countryside?'
One school of thought believes that if only people know about what is going on then remedial action will naturally follow.  However, conservationists need to realise that scientific evidence, rational arguments and compromise do not win political arguments. In other words, sheer volumes of data - of facts and figures - are unlikely to be very persuasive in themselves. For, as the contemporary environmental debate has shown, people have an almost infinite capacity either to ignore or to heed selectively the 'facts of the matter'. Having first made up our minds, frequently from an irrational base, about what we want, we all tend to look for 'facts and figures' to support our position, from which we will be dislodged only very gradually if at all.
Thus, we argue, and perceive the arguments of others, not in an objective and unbiassed way. We have presuppositions, or even vested-interest positions that colour our perception of the facts. These are frequently economically based, as in the case of the pro-business lobby, which has such an effective anti-conservation voice in the corridors of power, but they are also shaped by a host of non-economic factors. These will be socially and culturally derived, and imparted to us via our education and socialisation. Anyone who wants to influence us or change our minds will have to understand and take account of these presuppositions and vested interests. It will be no good bombarding us with 'facts' which we are anyway predisposed to dismiss. A wiser strategy would be to shake the foundations of our beliefs by undermining the assumptions on which they are based. And this is how we should approach differences with other people. As Bertrand Russell put it:
"When an intelligent man expresses a view which seems to us obviously absurd, we should not attempt to prove that it is somehow not true but we should try to understand how it ever came to seem true. This exercise of historical and psychological imagination at once enlarges the scope of our thinking, and helps us to realise how foolish many of our own cherished prejudices will seem to an age which has a different temper of mind".
We should listen to what others say, and reflect not necessarily upon the 'truth' of their arguments, but on why they make them and believe in them, i.e. from what material or ideological vested interest position they speak, and what broader assumptions and philosophy serve this interest. And if we wish to influence their thinking, we shall have to study the history of how their thinking came to be as it is - for we cannot effect a process of change without first knowing how changes came about in the past.  It is irrelevant to ask whether concepts, categories and relationships are 'true' or 'false'. We have to ask, rather, what it is that produces them and what is it that they serve to produce?
If we seek for the future the kind of real social and environmental changes which much of the standard environmentalist literature calls for, then we must develop an historical perspective on how we and others have arrived at our present set of attitudes.   The shift has to be accompanied by widespread attitudinal changes,  and we should understand what material changes will be needed to help foster a new set.   People differ according to the prescription that should be followed to resolve the environmental dilemma.
The emergence of technocentric thought is traced to the development of rationalism and the scientific revolution of the 16th century onwards, and attention is focussed on attitudes of dominance over nature which stemmed from them. The contrasting ecocentric ideology, of equality between man and nature, or subordination of the former to the latter, is then traced to its romantic and scientific roots - the latter based particularly on Malthus and Darwin.  Both groups will  recognise the existence of the same environmental roblems and desire to solve them.