It is safe to say that the politics of fear, that doomed project of national rejuvenation through fear and emergency, is in the past. But past in what sense? The answer depends on the response to another question: what are the alternatives offered by the Left that could provide an equally overarching and commanding framework to replace the war on terror? Environmentalism is one of the few movements on the left that presents itself in the same totalizing political terms that the war on terror did on the right. Yet the politics of fear is a broad, deeply rooted political phenomenon, of which environmentalism is as much a part as the war on terror. If anything, the politics of fear can renew itself by shedding its association with the discredited war on terror and by attaching itself to the seemingly wholesome and pacific environmentalism standing in the wings. What environmentalism shares with the war on terror is the idea that we ought to organize our political life around the quest for security and that we can even recover a sense of moral purpose through the response to (environmental) emergencies. Here too the aim seems to be to scare us into submission, rather than open up new possibilities.

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