chapter  5
24 Pages

Apocalypse

For at least 3,000 years, a fluctuating proportion of the world’s population has believed that the end of the world is imminent. Scholars dispute its origins, but it seems likely that the distinctive construction of apocalyptic narratives that inflects much environmentalism today began around 1200 BCE, in the thought of the Iranian prophet Zoroaster, or Zarathustra. Notions of the world’s gradual decline were widespread in ancient civilisations, but Zoroaster bequeathed to Jewish, Christian and later secular models of history a sense of urgency about the demise of the world. From the Zealots of Roman Judaea to the Branch Davidians who perished in Waco, Texas in 1993, Judaeo-Christian believers have fought and died in fear and hope of impending apocalypse, whilst Nazis, communists, Native American Ghost Dance cults, Muslim Mahdists and the Japanese adherents of the Aum Shinrikyo sect have adopted and adapted apocalyptic rhetoric, again with catastrophic results as prophecies of crisis and conflict inexorably fulfil themselves. Yet arguably very similar rhetorical strategies have provided the green movement with some of its most striking successes. With this in mind, it is crucial that we consider the past and future role of

the apocalyptic narrative in environmental and radical ecological discourse.